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Desert Solitaire (Anglais) Poche – 12 janvier 1985


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Extrait

Chapter 1

THE FIRST MORNING

This is the most beautiful place on earth.

There are many such places. Every man, every woman, carries in heart and mind the image of the ideal place, the fight place, the one true home, known or unknown, actual or visionary. A houseboat in Kashmir, a view down Atlantic Avenue in Brooklyn, a gray gothic farmhouse two stories high at the end of a red dog road in the Allegheny Mountains, a cabin on the shore of a blue lake in spruce and fir country, a greasy alley near the Hoboken waterfront, or even, possibly, for those of a less demanding sensibility, the world to be seen from a comfortable apartment high in the tender, velvety smog of Manhattan, Chicago, Paris, Tokyo, Rio or Rome -- there's no limit to the human capacity for the homing sentiment. Theologians, sky pilots, astronauts have even felt the appeal of home calling to them from up above, in the cold black outback of intersteller space.

For myself I'll take Moab, Utah. I don't mean the town itself, of course, but the country which surrounds it -- the canyonlands. The slickrock desert. The red dust and the burnt cliffs and the lonely sky -- all that which lies beyond the end of the roads.

The choice became apparent to me this morning when I stepped out of a Park Service housetrailer -- my caravan -- to watch for the first time in my life the sun come up over the hoodoo stone of Arches National Monument.

I wasn't able to see much of it last night. After driving all day from Albuquerque -- 450 miles -- I reached Moab after dark in cold, windy, clouded weather. At park headquarters north of town I met the superintendent and the chief ranger, the only permanent employees, except for one maintenance man, in this particular unit of America's national park system. After coffee they gave me a key to the housetrailer and directions on how to reach it; I am required to live and work not at headquarters but at this one-man station some twenty miles back in the interior, on my own. The way I wanted it, naturally, or I'd never have asked for the Job.

Leaving the headquarters area and the lights of Moab, I drove twelve miles farther north on the highway until I came to a dirt road on the right, where a small wooden sign pointed the way: Arches National Monument Eight Miles. I left the pavement, turned cast into the howling wilderness. Wind roaring out of the northwest, black clouds across the stars -- all I could see were clumps of brush and scattered junipers along the roadside. Then another modest signboard:

WARNING: QUICKSAND DO NOT CROSS WASH WHEN WATER IS RUNNING

The wash looked perfectly dry in my headlights. I drove down, across, up the other side and on into the night. Glimpses of weird humps of pale rock on either side, like petrified elephants, dinosaurs, stone-age hobgoblins. Now and then something alive scurried across the road: kangaroo mice, a jackrabbit, an animal that looked like a cross between a raccoon and a squirrel -- the ringtail cat. Farther on a pair of mule deer started from the brush and bounded obliquely through the beams of my lights, raising puffs of dust which the wind, moving faster than my pickup truck, ought and carried ahead of me out of sight into the dark. The road, narrow and rocky, twisted sharply left and right, dipped in and out of tight ravines, climbing by degrees toward a summit which I would see only in the light of the coming day.

Snow was swirling through the air when I crossed the unfenced line and passed the boundary marker of the park. A quarter-mile beyond I found the ranger station -- a wide place in the road, an informational display under a lean-to shelter, and fifty yards away the little tin government housetrailer where I would be living for the next six months.

A cold night, a cold wind, the snow falling like confetti. In the lights of the truck I unlocked the housetrailer, got out bedroll and baggage and moved in. By flashlight I found the bed, unrolled my sleeping bag, pulled off my boots and crawled in and went to sleep at once. The last I knew was the shaking of the trailer in the wind and the sound, from inside, of hungry mice scampering around with the good news that their long lean lonesome winter was over -- their friend and provider had finally arrived.

This morning I awake before sunrise, stick my head out of the sack, peer through a frosty window at a scene dim and vague with flowing mists, dark fantastic shapes looming beyond. An unlikely landscape.

I get up, moving about in long underwear and socks, stooping carefully under the low ceiling and lower doorways of the housetrailer, a machine for living built so efficiently and compactly there's hardly room for a man to breathe. An iron lung it is, with windows and venetian blinds.

The mice are silent, watching me from their hiding places, but the wind is still blowing and outside the ground is covered with snow. Cold as a tomb, a jail, a cave; I lie down on the dusty floor, on the cold linoleum sprinkled with mouse turds, and light the pilot on the butane heater. Once this thing gets going the place warms up fast, in a dense unhealthy way, with a layer of heat under the ceiling where my head is and nothing but frigid air from the knees down. But we've got all the indispensable conveniences: gas cookstove, gas refrigerator, hot water heater, sink with running water (if the pipes aren't frozen), storage cabinets and shelves, everything within ann's reach of everything else. The gas comes from two steel bottles in a shed outside; the water comes by gravity flow from a tank buried in a hill close by. Quite luxurious for the wilds. There's even a shower stall and a flush toilet with a dead rat in the bowl. Pretty soft. My poor mother raised five children without any of these luxuries and might be doing without them yet if it hadn't been for Hitler, war and general prosperity.

Time to get dressed, get out and have a look at the lay of the land, fix a breakfast. I try to pull on my boots but they're stiff as iron from the cold. I light a burner on the stove and hold the boots upside down above the flame until they are malleable enough to force my feet into. I put on a coat and step outside. Into the center of the world, God's navel, Abbey's country, the red wasteland.

The, sun is not yet in sight but signs of the advent are plain to see. Lavender clouds sail like a fleet of ships across the pale green dawn; each cloud, planed flat on the wind, has a base of fiery gold. Southeast, twenty miles by line of sight, stand the peaks of the Sierra La Sal, twelve to thirteen thousand feet above sea level, all covered with snow and rosy in the morning sunlight. The air is dry and clear as well as cold; the last fogbanks left over from last night's storm are scudding away like ghosts, fading into nothing before the wind and the sunrise.

The view is open and perfect in all directions except to the west where the ground rises and the skyline is only a few hundred yards away. Looking toward the mountains I can see the dark gorge of the Colorado River five or six miles away, carved through the sandstone mesa, though nothing of the river itself down inside the gorge. Southward, on the far side of the fiver, lies the Moab valley between thousand-foot walls of rock, with the town of Moab somewhere on the valley floor, too small to be seen from here. Beyond the Moab valley is more canyon and tableland stretching away to the Blue Mountains fifty miles south. On the north and northwest I see the Roan Cliffs and the Book Cliffs, the two-level face of the Uinta Plateau. Along the foot of those cliffs, maybe thirty miles off, invisible from where I stand, runs U.S. 6-50, a major east-west artery of commerce, traffic and rubbish, and the main line of the Denver-Rio Grande Railroad. To the east, under the spreading sunrise, are more mesas, more canyons, league on league of red cliff and arid tablelands, extending through purple haze over the bulging curve of the planet to the ranges of Colorado -- a sea of desert.

Within this vast perimeter, in the middle ground and foreground of the picture, a rather personal demesne, are the 33,000 acres of Arches National Monument of which I am now sole inhabitant, usufructuary, observer and custodian.

What are the Arches? From my place in front of the housetrailer I can see several of the hundred or more of them which have been discovered in the park. These are natural arches, holes in the rock, windows in stone, no two alike, as varied in form as in dimension. They range in size from holes just big enough to walk through to openings large enough to contain the dome of the Capitol building in Washington, D.G. Some resemble jug handles or flying buttresses, others natural bridges but with this technical distinction: a natural bridge spans a watercourse -- a natural arch does not. The arches were formed through hundreds of thousands of years by the weathering of the huge sandstone walls, or fins, in which they are found. Not the work of a cosmic hand, nor sculptured by sand-beating winds, as many people prefer to believe, the arches came into being and continue to come into being through the modest wedging action of rainwater, melting snow, frost, and ice, aided by gravity. In color they shade from off-white through buff, pink, brown and red, tones which also change With the time of day and the moods of the light, the weather, the sky.

Standing there, gaping at this monstrous and inhuman spectacle of rock and cloud and sky and space, I feel a ridiculous greed and possessiveness come over me. I want to know it all, possess it all, embrace the entire scene intimately, deeply, totally, as a man desires a beautiful woman. An insane wish? Perhaps not -- at least there's nothing else, no one human, to dispute possession with me.

The snow-covered ground glimmers with a dull blue light, reflecting the sky and the approaching sunrise. Leading away from me the narrow dirt road, an alluring and primitive track into no where, meanders down the slope and toward the heart of the labyrinth of naked stone. Near the first group of arches, looming over a bend in the road, is a balanced rock about fifty feet high, mounted on a pedestal of equal height; it looks like a head from Easter Island, a stone god or a petrified ogre.

Like a god, like an ogre? The personification of the natural is exactly the tendency I wish to suppress in myself, to eliminate for good. I am here not only to evade for a while the clamor and filth and confusion of the cultural apparatus but also to confront, immediately and directly if it's possible, the bare bones of existence, the elemental and fundamental, the bedrock which sustains us. I want to be able to look at and into a juniper tree, a piece of quartz, a vulture, a spider, and see it as it is in itself, devoid of all humanly ascribed qualities, anti-Kantian, even the categories of scientific description. To meet God or Medusa face to face, even if it means risking everything human in myself. I dream of a hard and brutal mysticism in which the naked self merges with a nonhuman world and yet somehow survives still intact, individual, separate. Paradox and bedrock.

Well -- the sun will be up in a few minutes and I haven't even begun to make coffee. I take more baggage from my pickup, the grub box and cooking gear, go back in the trailer and start breakfast. Simply breathing, in a place like this, arouses the appetite. The orange juice is frozen, the milk slushy with ice. Still chilly enough inside the trailer to turn my breath to vapor, When the first rays of the sun strike the cliffs I fill a mug with steaming coffee and sit in the doorway facing the sunrise, hungry for the warmth.

Suddenly it comes, the flaming globe, blazing on the pinnacles and minarets and balanced rocks, on the canyon walls and through the windows in the sandstone fins. We greet each other, sun and I, across the black void of ninety-three million miles. The snow glitters between us, acres of diamonds almost painful to look at. Within an hour all the snow exposed to the sunlight will be gone and the rock will be damp and steaming. Within minutes, even as I watch, melting snow begins to drip from the branches of a juniper nearby; drops of water streak slowly down the side of the trailerhouse.

I am not alone after all. Three ravens are wheeling near the balanced rock, squawking at each other and at the dawn. I'm sure they're as delighted by the return of the sun as I am and I wish I knew the language, I'd sooner exchange ideas with the birds on earth than learn to carry on intergalactic communications with some obscure race of humanoids on a satellite planet from the world of Betelgeuse. First things first. The ravens cry out in husky voices, blue-black wings flapping against the' golden sky. Over my shoulder comes the sizzle and smell of frying bacon.

That's the way it was this morning.

Copyright © 1968 by Edward Abbey --Ce texte fait référence à l'édition Broché .

Revue de presse

The New Yorker An American Masterpiece. A Forceful Encounter with a Man of Character and Courage.

The New York Times Book Review Like a ride on a bucking bronco...rough, tough, combative. The author is a rebel and an eloquent loner. His is a passionately felt, deeply poetic book...set down in a lean, racing prose, in a close-knit style of power and beauty. --Ce texte fait référence à l'édition Broché .


Détails sur le produit

  • Poche: 352 pages
  • Editeur : Ballantine Books; Édition : Reprint (12 janvier 1985)
  • Langue : Anglais
  • ISBN-10: 0345326490
  • ISBN-13: 978-0345326492
  • Dimensions du produit: 10,7 x 2,3 x 17,4 cm
  • Moyenne des commentaires client : 4.5 étoiles sur 5  Voir tous les commentaires (2 commentaires client)
  • Classement des meilleures ventes d'Amazon: 25.060 en Livres anglais et étrangers (Voir les 100 premiers en Livres anglais et étrangers)
  • Table des matières complète
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Format: Poche Achat vérifié
Au travers d'une écriture au vitriol, qui constitue la signature de cet auteur rebelle (lire aussi "Le gang de la clef à molette"), Edward Abbey nous conte son expérience d'espaces sauvages de l'Ouest Américain, dont certains sont malheureusement perdus à jamais. Une ode à la Nature sauvage, dans un mélange d'humour, de cynisme, et de contemplation, qui se lit comme un véritable roman.
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Par Pascal WENDLING sur 18 septembre 2011
Format: Poche
Ouvrage superbe qui est certainement une référence
de vécu d'un passionné de nature.
Pour les personnes ayant le goût de l'aventure
et des grands espaces.
A lire et à relire.
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Amazon.com: 315 commentaires
159 internautes sur 170 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
A genuine and enduring classic about the American Desert 15 novembre 2002
Par Robert Moore - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format: Poche
Edward Abbey's DESERT SOLITAIRE belongs on the shortest of several short lists of 20th century classics, whether we are talking of classic literature of the American West, nature writing, or environmentalism.
Why is this such a brilliant book? It isn't the originality of ideas. Other writers-Aldo Leopold, Wallace Stegner, Bernard DeVoto, Mary Austin-had already articulated many of Abbey's central ideas either about nature or about Western policy. Bernard DeVoto was an innovator; Abbey is not. Nor is Abbey's anger and fury at exploiters and defilers unique: DeVoto was just as irate and just as incapable of pulling his punches. Nor is it Abbey's overall vision that makes his book so compelling. Again, both DeVoto and Stegner-and especially DeVoto-evidenced a broader and more systematic understanding of the broader issues confronting the West. None of this is accidental. DeVoto exerted a major influence on Stegner, and Stegner taught Abbey in the Stanford University Creative Writing Program.
What makes DESERT SOLITAIRE so marvelous is the almost tactile love and passion Abbey displays for the Desert Southwest. Over and over Abbey summons up specific places, particular mountains, individual landscapes. Although he can write about the desert in general, he more frequently writes about particular spots in Arches National Park and the surrounding environs that help explain his attachment to the West. He is the literary equivalent, in his more somber, reflective moments, of Eliot Porter and Ansel Adams. As a result, what one recalls upon remembering DESERT SOLITAIRE is not words so much as a collection of images.
Structurally, the book only resembles a memoir of his time working as a park ranger in the Arches National Park. The book makes it seems as if he worked there only one year, when in fact he worked there two. Furthermore, even what appears as a single year fails to account for all the content of the book. He uses, rather, the fiction of a single season as a framework upon which to hang tales, reflections, and rants. This intermixing of narrative with asides gives the book a richness of texture it might not otherwise possess. The narrative of his time as a ranger gives the book much of it structure, but the rants and sidetracking provides it with much of its content.
I hate to write something as trite as this being an absolutely essential book for anyone remotely interested in the subjects it touches upon, but such is the case. Abbey wrote many other nonfiction works and novels. All are interesting, several of them quite good, but DESERT SOLITAIRE is easily his greatest. It truly is a classic.
63 internautes sur 66 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
A Voice Crying in the Wilderness 11 août 2000
Par mrgrieves08 - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format: Broché
Edward Abbey didn't like to be known as a nature writer (he was far too proud of his fiction), but after reading this book I would have to say he is among the best. Before I read this book, I had never even considered traveling to the Southwest, this book changed that, and the way I look at nature forever. Abbey has rightfully been called the Thoreau of the American West, this book more than any other shows us why. In Desert Solitaire Abbey is at his best, doing for the Southwest what Thoreau did for Concord and Walden.
One of the great strenghts of this book is the way Abbey weaves together such a wide array of subject matter, which illustrates the seemingly endless variety of experience, in what is thought by many to be an inhospitable wasteland. In a collection of breif chapters Abbey touches on everthing from the incredible beauty of forgotton canyons, the Southwest's past inhabitants, a feral horse, the Colorado river, the perils of industrial tourism, and the story of a man who may have came to die at the edge of a cliff.
In this book you get a great sampling of everything Abbey has to offer, from his stinging wit and dark humor, rage and sadness concerning the destruction of nature, and finally to hope. Edward Abbey has accomplished on the printed page, what Ansel Adams' photography has done for the Southwest. And yes, both immortalize a time and a place that are being destroyed forever, little by little, day by day, but leaving for us a sad and yet wonderful record of what used to be, and why what is left is worth saving. Desert Solitaire is both a celebration and a lamentation for the disappearing landscapes, and hidden canyons that Abbey chose as his own paradise, and if you read this book it may become yours too. Like Abbey's says get out of your cars and crawl in the sand, and EXPERIENCE what nature has to offer, you might just be surprised at what you find.
87 internautes sur 96 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
"I would rather kill a man than a snake." 3 octobre 2001
Par Wyote - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format: Poche Achat vérifié
"I would rather kill a man than a snake," wrote Edward Abbey, and I suspect he even meant it. That sentence summed up, for me, this book: it is filled with Abbey's love of the wild desert and its inhabitants and his contempt for modernity and its inhabitants. I think Abbey was one of the early voices in modern environmentalism, and this is a classic book in that field. I appreciate his desert and his writing; even if you are not an environmentalist nor a lover of the desert, you may see why people are if you read this. At any rate, his deep naturalist reflections deserve consideration in our fast-food, internet, climate-controlled, sanitized and artificial age.
61 internautes sur 68 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
I try to imagine a ride along the river... 28 juin 2006
Par J. Carroll - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format: Poche
Edward Abbey is a contradiction. A poet when describing the wonders of the desert and the joys of solitude; then he becomes a strident critic of his fellow man if they have the audacity to disagree with him. There is a definite will and intelligence driving the prose, but it is partially spoiled by the rants that Abbey goes on. The book has a split personality; celebrating the wilderness, but using a voice that often becomes so disagreeable that you might want to take asphalt to the park yourself. Finally though the poet wins out and you go along for the ride. I try to think of this book as rafting down the river, enjoying the wonders and trying to avoid the jagged rocks. A little white water is fine; just don't hold me underwater for hours at a time.
27 internautes sur 29 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
Torn Between Two Voices 6 juillet 2003
Par Daphne - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format: Poche
To begin, I loved parts of _Desert Solataire_. Abbey seemed to be warbling between humility, confusion, and utter, unabashed egotism. This is charming, because it is honest, and one can't fault someone for being honest. Also, the man actually did something about his frustration, which is more than can be said for the lot of us.
Moreover, there were sections of the book that shocked me with their incredible, heartbreaking beauty and insight. For example, the chapter "The Moon-Eyed Horse": the writing in that chapter is utterly original and amazing in the complexity it demonstrates regarding both the narrator and the nature of the horse's character - and what it reveals and changes about Abbey.

Abbey is at his best when he gets out of the way and describes how he sees nature, rather than his own mind. Abbey says at one point that when a person goes into the wilderness he or she is at risk of either seeing merely his or her self in it, or just the opposite, seeing nothing but an opposite image of oneself.
This made me wonder about Abbey's exact philosophical position on his own place in nature; furthermore, the passage - in the chapter entitled "Episodes and Visions" - in which Abbey attempts to wax philosophical about civilization and culture was completely lost on me. Maybe it's because I've read too much Heidegger to think that Abbey really understands Heidegger, or maybe it's because I am confused.
I am confused because it seems as if Abbey upholds civilization as superior to culture, and yet does he not admire the American Indian tribal culture that he encounters in the park? How does he even define "culture"? If the U.K. and the United States are merely examples of cultures, then is civilization merely the mark of individuals that Abbey likes? I don't think I'm suffering from a lapse in intelligence; apparently, not a few people have agreed with my bafflement, including the "New York literary establishment," according to Susan Zakin in _Coyotes and Town Dogs_.
But - and it's a big but - there were certainly moments in which I felt his writing shone. And _Desert Solitaire_ was certainly the book that earned him well-deserved accolades. It made me want to drive to Utah and camp out under the stars, with nothing but the ground beneath me and the night around me, as Abbey would say. I felt a place in my bones when Abbey wrote about what he loved. The thing I can't take is diatribe and cliché - or, as writers politely put it, "received text."
Received text unfortunately found its way into _Desert Solitaire_ when Abbey decided to wax egotistical about industrial tourism and his facetious suggestions for a blazing, light bulb ridden sign over the entrance to the park. In those places, the writing's not just irritating, it's not original. Anyone can go off about how stupid mass culture is and how people should change their couch potato, gas guzzling ways, but if you're going to include it in a book, it should fit seamlessly into the design. And those parts, for me, stuck out like a sore thumb.
In spite of all his shortcomings as a "literary" writer, Abbey is endearingly human, and that seems to have been a crucial and necessary part of his character. In the end, I remain torn, and I feel sympathy for those who want to change the world and put themselves at risk for what they believe in. But I also firmly believe that, unless we respect and try to communicate with the person sitting across from us who we are opposed to, nothing will ever get done.
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