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ORIGINAL FRENCH ARTICLE: Deligny, un autre regard sur l’humain

by Nicolas Mathey

Deligny, Another View of That Profound Human Part in Us

Translated Friday 12 January 2018, by Henry Crapo

Fernand Deligny

Ten years after the first edition, a second, enlarged, edition of Fernand Deligny’s works has just appeared, Oeuvres, L’Arachnéen publishers.

Writer, teacher and film-maker, from 1968 onwards, Deligny the "educator" experimented with an entirely novel approach to the care of autistic children.

Photo: Archives: Any Durand. Fernand Deligny says he was “born to write”.

At a time when the field of education is being reduced to a subfield of the neuro-sciences and subjected to the norms of book-keeping efficiency, it is high time to look back into the human depths of certain authors possessed of great inspiration, and, in particular, to Fernand Deligny. Ten years after the first, and renowned, edition of this text (see our edition of 27 November 2007), and following upon the publication of several volumes of texts (sold-out or unedited) of Deligny (l’Arachnéen et autres textes, la Septième Face du Dé, Lettres à un Travailleur Social), the publisher l’Arachnéen is releasing a second edition of the Oeuvres, in a soft-cover and less expensive format. To this editorial effort is added the initiative of French and Brazilian researchers who, since 2016, have organised international study days devoted to the links between Deligny and psychoanalysis, dance, cinema, and social work. This edition, created by Sandra Alvarez de Toledo, sheds light on their motivations.

Fernand Deligny, who died in 1996, is unclassifiable. All at once writer, “educator,” pedagogue and film-maker, he led, since 1968, a totally novel experience in the heart of the Cevennes, dedicated to the care of autistic children. The portrait of Janmari, “his favorite autist” (l’Arachnéen published a superb version of these recollections, Journal de Janmari) appears, moreover, on the cover of the Oeuvres. Born in 1913, a man from the north, Fernand Deligny was a school teacher, then principal educator of the psychiatric hospital in Armentières, where he experienced both the violence and the function of asylum. In 1945, he published Graine de Crapule, which upsets the usual view of delinquent children, "one eye on the sky, one eye on them", children who are “seeds of men”. Unclassifiable Deligny also is in his relation to psychiatry and to social work. Unclassifiable as poet and as inventor of words, such as "asyluming", miscreating", and camcordering".

Deligny said of himself that he was "born to write". The writings of his lifetime are an effervescent dynamiting of categories, calling into question conventions of language. With respect to delinquent or un-adapted children, abnormal or autistic, he offers a new method of approach founded on principles of “letting-be”, attention to space, creation of networks, the mapping of “wander lines”, and of paths that lie “outside language”. Deligny, in his collection of tales published in 1949, Les enfants ont des oreilles [1], replaces the traditional fairy-tale characters with ordinary objects, a paving stone, a pair of rubber boots, a wooden bench, a rooster (weather-vane) on a church steeple. This freeing up of the imagination mirrors his dominant preoccupation: “the social reconciliation of provisionally-excluded children”.

This second edition proposes a previously unpublished text l’Homme sans convictions [2], which questions the possibility even of his own heritage. What does it mean, to become someone, to make a name for oneself? "So I am a marginal myself? Well, marginals exist, and form a world of their own. Am I in solidarity with this? Even with the insane, the delinquents, those left by the way-side, the dissidents, ...” . To work one’s way back to the human being in all his complexity, to resist the normalisation of children and of autists, to liberate imaginations and powers to act, that is the inspiration of Deligny, which this beautiful volume permits to breathe once again.

This related book review by Leon Hilton provides an in-depth analysis of Deligny’s work.

[1Children have Ears

[2Man without Convictions

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