The failure of the time of Marcel Thiers (1897-1977)

The Anticause Laboratory was established by Leslie Gervy in the attic of Ostend, on the Belgian coast. This scientist and researcher formulated a simple principle: if the light we receive from the stars presents us with an aspect dating back to their distant past, according to the laws of velocity and space-time, we must, receiving the light emitted by the Earth into space. for centuries to be able to access images of History. The researcher created a “rear view telescope”, which manages to find and then reflect in the observatory information, the accuracy of which allows you to immerse yourself in the heart of past events projected in the panorama.

When one spring evening at a restaurant in this seaside resort, the narrator Gustave Dewey, a casual merchant from Charleroi, meets Leslie Hervey and his friend Jules Oxidan, he knows that his fate and the fate of the world is about to change. And no wonder Diege has just violated his own principles, suddenly and dangerously playing a large sum on the stock market, as well as deciding at the station at the end of the day to go straight to sea, rather than get in the car of his usual routine.

On the evening of their meeting, Oxidan and Gervy reveal the philosophy of the Diege project:
Moral freedom, does it exist? Is it possible to sin without remorse? Man is chained to everything, and above all to the consequences of their actions. This, first of all, makes it impossible for us to imagine the hope of being free: it is that every cause is followed by a consequence. […] Have you ever been annoyed by this gearbox universe? […] You have never dreamed of a world where we win the lottery without a ticket, where the day after the 5th will not necessarily be the 6th, where children will be born without a father. […] ? Hervie and I have declared war on the Cause. We have established a dream of a humanity that will no longer know the consequences. […] The dream of freedom is to free a person from the law of the past.

Diege is then asked to take part in financing these superhuman ambitions. We tell him about a strange car that costs a lot of maintenance, and that he is invited to come and find out the next day. Unbelieving himself, he immediately risks another part of his fortune for fun. He then learns from Oxidan that Hervie is suffering from the persecution of Waterloo because of family obsessions: Leslie’s great-grandfather, Captain Douglas Gervie, is the man who passed information to Wellington that led to the departure of the British and, consequently, the victory of the French. All his life, Leslie, working as a historian, made him believe that the battle would have been lost with or without information provided by his ancestor. But he secretly knows that this is not the case, and he wants to correct the facts for the sake of family pride and greatness.

We have no idea about the state of the world in which these characters live. It seems that they are developing in a situation very close to ours, with the same geography. Instead of developing, for example, alternative geopolitical history, this alternative history focuses on the philosophical, scientific, and narrative aspects of the relationship between time, history, and memory.

Throughout the novel, we observe the experience of revolutionary technology and the rebirth of the hero-narrator, freed from the everyday plot to be useful in the corridors of time. Overwhelmed by this experience, Dieger did not immediately realize that by participating in it, he risks betraying his own heritage: ” Because instinctively my Walloon sympathies obviously went to the French. His enthusiasm grew when he discovered this technique, calibrated to focus on the vision of June 18, 1815. Together, the three friends enjoyed an incredible spectacle: they relived the battle, the relocation of troops, the discussion of headquarters, the capture and repulsion of symbolic sites, Mont Saint-Jean, Papelotte, the Belle Alliance … and above all the mistake of assessing the Prussian movements as a spy at a key moment, as well as the analysis of his descendant:

Undoubtedly, he should have noticed that the column heading for the Paris Forest had stopped. Undoubtedly, the head of this column was hidden from him in the woods south of the stream. […] Then, as soon as he was convinced of the orientation chosen by Ziten, he turned around. If he had just glanced at Ohain for the last time, he would have seen another column hurrying down Papelotte … […]
If my great-grandfather had been right, if he had accurately stated that Ziten, by correcting his mistake for a moment, was going to intervene, the English would have had nine chances of winning one; while the retreat, which he decided because of his inaccurate report, had no chance of success. This is true, and it is contrary to the truth we told my grandfather, my father and I […].

The main characters, however, are only spectators and can not interfere in the event, as Hervie would like. Could a captain’s signal be sent to warn him of a mistake? June 18 is approaching this year, and the scientist’s intuition pushes him to repeat the experience at a time of historical alignment. That day, they are feeling the effects of the malfunction: ” The car broke down “. As never before the captain, like ghosts, shout his name: Hervie, Hervie, Hervie! “, And this is strong enough that due to the spatio-temporal mystery of the soldier’s attention is kept and attracted to the Prussian movements, which he missed! He then returns to Wellington with the correct information. ” There is no longer any doubt: the fate of the Waterloo crossroads has just chosen a new path at our signal […] admits Dieger. Then they witness a spectacle they have never seen: the detention of the British, joint attacks with the Prussians, the defeat and departure of the French …

A strong whirlwind sweeps away the three manipulators of History. Dieger wakes up alone in this attic, where the installations have disappeared. We learn that Leslie Hervey no longer exists, can no longer exist, because in a changed story, Captain Douglas Hervey died on the battlefield, attacking the French…

Therefore, his death on this day suppressed the existence of his descendants and the descendants of Leslie. The principle of reason undoubtedly took revenge on his destroyer. Leslie never existed, everything he invented, everything he built, also ceased to exist. […] I witnessed the most amazing suicide: a suicide that was not limited to interrupting life, but that suppressed it from the beginning. […] I was reserved as a witness and put, aware of the great change, on this other opportunity, which became a new reality.

The world in which Dieger wakes up, ours, represents only a few historiographical changes, the names of places, statues and slightly changed destinies, as in Jules Oxidan, who holds another job. Moreover, he does not remember anything when he is told a story, but comes out of it upset, as if deeply moved by the demonstration of another possibility of his existence. From the prison cell where he is imprisoned for his debts (which seem to have haunted him from one world to another!) And his incoherent statements, Diege, trusting us with this whole story, challenges us to the notion of truth. and freedom.

Chess time can be similar to the practice of “defeating the loser”. By eliminating the conditions of his existence, Leslie Hervey lost his life, he historically abolished himself, winning the bet to get rid of the chain of reasons. Diege, as a transferor, establishes a connection between two possible worlds, possibly located side by side in parallel and permeable universes, and, above all, alive in the imagination. Napoleonic Uchrony, which with great intensity raises the question of the mystery of the multiplicity of possibilities and will that causes destiny.

Born in Charleroi and later raised to study law in Liege, Marcel Tire was quickly recognized for the quality of his poetry: “Toi qui pâlis au nom de Vancouver”, 1924, his first collection, the most famous or “Statue de la fatigue”, 1934, three-year prize for poetry, and his essay: “Think big. Some ideas about the French Alliance, 1921 and even later “Letter to the Young Walloons”, 1960.

His political conscience forced him to spend his whole life defending and illustrating the French language and Wallonia, until he became a senator of the Walloon Association.

In 1945 he published his first novel, Échec au temps, and a year later he was admitted to the Royal Academy of French Language and Literature in Belgium, of which he was its permanent secretary from 1960 to 1972. To honor him, the city of Liege has established the annual Marcel Tire Literary Prize for poetry and novels.

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