He is one of the most famous characters in literature and mythology, and also one of the most endearing. We know everything about her, or think we know everything: her parents, her devotion to Oedipus, her heartbreak in the face of her brothers, her refusal to see the corpse of one of them left to rot, her death, which propels her to the rank of symbol, of mythological martyr. But, in a way, it is only thanks to the others (Oedipus, Jocasta, Eteocles and Polynice, Creon) that we know that she lived. In this novel, Henry Bauchau, he chooses to show her alive, suffering, loving too and it is all the merit of this book to take up the ancient figure of Antigone to paint a magnificent portrait of a heroine.
When Antigone begins , we are in Athens: Oedipus has just died and Antigone is preparing to return to Thebes to settle there, after ten years of wandering and begging. Still young, however, she is no longer the teenager who chooses to guide her father on the roads: ” I discover in my reflection a shadow of sadness, a secret weariness which does not appear in my features but which, almost invisible, is already inscribed in my gaze. There are too many things that I experienced too soon and a renewal of being that I did not experience. »
But if she returns to Thebes, it is also because war threatens, and because this war must oppose her two brothers, Eteocles and Polynices, and because Antigone hopes, against all the evidence, to still succeed in reasoning with them, despite the warnings of Clios: “ These children whom you consoled have become powerful men, robbers dressed as kings. Killers who call my Antigone, to drag her into their miserable disaster. »
In Thebes, Antigone discovers that she is not necessarily welcome, that suspicion has set in everywhere, that Creon is plotting. She reunites with Ismene, who doesn’t know if she should rejoice in her return or lament her too long absence: “ I loved Oedipus too, I was even his favorite but you took up all the space by becoming his sacred daughter. Me, during this time in spite of your abandonment, I had to live and make a place for myself in this dangerous city that you had deserted. During these ten years, I had to manage on my own with Creon, with Eteocles while taking care of Polynices, and it wasn’t always easy. ” But it is out of love that Ismene ends up warning him: ” Don’t think I’m making up. I will come back, I will come back to attack you. You will never again be peaceful in your good feelings. Because in Thebes, which is preparing for the siege of Polynice, good feelings are not in order, it is not good to trust, to love one’s brothers, to want their reconciliation, and to love Haemon. Henry Bauchau describes a heroine living, suffering, constantly trying to reconcile her brothers who hate each other for loving each other too much; and, as we know, it fails, Etéocle and Polynice die, one is entitled to honours, the other to outrages.
And Antigone refuses and shouts it: “ Yes, I Antigone, the beggar of the blind king, I discover myself rebel to my fatherland, definitively rebel to Thebes, to its virile law, to its foolish wars and to its proud cult of death. “Leaves, we also know, to pay all the consequences.
In a novel that gives pride of place to the marvelous and the mysterious, Henry Bauchau’s Antigone is defined by his immense compassion, by his fabulous power over men, to which only Creon remains insensitive, but also, and perhaps above all , by her cry: the cry of a beggar on the roads and in the streets of Thebes, the cry of the one who refuses the outrage done to her brother, the cry of the one who, while passionately loving life, chooses death and refuses that the blood be shed for her, cry of a woman, of a character that we thought we knew and that, through the magic of this novel, we really discover, that we learn to love for what she is. Thus Henry Bauchau, revisiting a myth, makes it close to us, to the point of reminding us that Antigone is our contemporary and the contemporary of all ages and all eras, myth, symbol.