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Philippe Lançon: Life After Charlie Hebdo

In Disturbance, the French writer and journalist describes his slow reconstruction after being severely wounded in the terrorist attack against newspaper Charlie Hebdo. A deeply moving account the author will present in the U.S. from January 23-31.

On January 7, 2015, two men armed with assault rifles entered the offices of satirical weekly newspaper Charlie Hebdo and opened fire on the journalists and cartoonists sat in an editorial meeting. Twelve people were killed and another eleven were woun-ded, four seriously. Cultural critic for French daily Libération and columnist at Charlie since 2004, Philippe Lançon was shot in the hands and disfigured by a bullet that pierced his jaw. Published in France in April 2018, Disturbance begins on January 6, 2015 and ends on November 13 the same year, the day of the terrorist attack against the Bataclan concert hall in Paris. Lançon heard the news while walking through New York City with his American partner Gabriela. With overwhelming bravery and honesty, he recounts the eight months that changed his entire being.

“The attack infiltrated the hearts that it bit, but it can’t be tamed,” writes Lançon. “It radiates around victims in concentric circles and, in atmos-pheres that are often pathetic, multiplies them.” The night before the massacre, the journalist attended a performance of Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night in a theater in the Paris region. On the morning of January 7, after doing some gymnastics and listening to Michel Houellebecq give a radio interview about his novel Submission, which depicts France governed by an Islamist party, he cycled to the Charlie Hebdo head offices. A few hours later, he was rushed to the Pitié-Salpêtrière public hospital where he underwent multiple operations. He was unable to speak or eat for several interminable weeks and battled against moments of total despair, supported by his loved ones and a team of overworked but profoundly humane nurses.

The book’s original French title, Le Lambeau (“The Flap”), is a surgical term for a piece of flesh used to cover the bones. Lançon offers a day-by-day account of his reconstruction, sparing no details of the “mental and surgical struggle” that required all his strength. In the style of the Proustian narrator, he weaves his memories from his hospital room, his only home for some time, bringing his past self face to face with the man he is becoming. Disturbance is an intimate odyssey steeped in collective history, a major work sure to leave a lasting impression on anyone who reads it.


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Disturbance by Philippe Lançon, translated by Steven Rendall, Europa Editions, 2019. 480 pages, 28 dollars.

=> Philippe Lançon will present his book in Baltimore on January 23, in Washington D.C. on January 25, in New Haven on January 28, and in New York from from January 29-31. See the full schedule.

  • Dommage de ne pas le voir a San Francisco. J’ai grandi a Paris dans le quartier de la rue Choron dans le 9e arrondissement. Apres l’ecole j allais rue Choron avec des copains pour regarder la vitrine d’Hara Kiri. Je voyais souvent le professeur Choron fumer sa clope dehors et les autres dessinateurs. Cela m’a tres touche apres l’attentat de Charlie. Envoyez-lui mes profond regards.
    Je suis ne dans l’Hotel Dieu a 300 metres de Notre-Dame de Paris. Un autre tres gros chagrin.

  • Malheureusement les islamistes et les indigénistes ont gagné. La plupart des médias français et américains sont “Je ne suis pas Charlie” ou pire et même le macronisme représente une victoire des anti Charlie. Aujourd’hui, Houria Bouteldja et Rockaya Diallo continuent leurs agissements en toute impunité, tandis que Riss et Zineb El Rhazaoui sont obligés de vivre sous la protection de la police. Le scénario du pire devient chaque jour un peu plus réalité.

  • Bonjour Gilbert Sonet,
    Moi aussi j’habite San Francisco. Pouvons-nous nous rencontrer quelquepart pour prendre un café ensemble et parler de la France d’aujourd’hui ?
    En attendat, tous mes bons vœux pour la nouvelle année.

  • La preuve que la leçon de Charlie Hebdo n’a pas été retenue : alors que cette adolescente Mila subit des menaces de mort de la part de musulmans radicalisés, la classe politique et la plupart des médias français font preuve d’une lâcheté hallucinante. Collabos un jour, collabos toujours.

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