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"Come here, new academician" – La Croix

Become Immortal (2/2). Patrick Grainville will be received Thursday, February 21 under the Dome and admitted as 731e member of the French Academy. For "La Croix", he describes the months leading up to his enthronement.

On March 8, 2018, Patrick Grainville was elected Chair No. 9, 731e Immortal. "I expected to receive unpleasant, contemptuous or sarcastic letters from old comrades, he recognizes. Those sent to me were rather amused. Among the signs that I changed status, signatures that I had never been offered and multiple invitations for different circumstances or assemblies. "

A new series of rituals awaits the petitioner. First, the President of the Republic, protector of the Company, must validate the vote. Emmanuel Macron received the new academician in June at the Elysee to sign the act, while discussing with him style and literature.

French Academy, the long course of Patrick Grainville to become Immortal

Then comes the choice of the coat and the sword. "Florence Delay wanted me to wear the green coat of her father, Jean Delay. I had to try it in Montherlant's apartment that I had known well. In my early days, after I gave him my master's thesis, he had crushed me. "To be a recognized writer," he told me, "you must have the Sorbonne, Le Figaro and the French Academy. "Forty-seven years later, I found, intact, the room where he committed suicide. The broken mirror, the impact of the ball. "

On his sword, the inscription F.G.

Patrick Grainville./Ulf Andersen / Aurimages

Patrick Grainville. / Ulf Andersen / Aurimages

Alas, the dress of Jean Delay did not agree with the measurements of Patrick Grainville. "Lanvin's tailors felt too complicated to take it back to fit my morphology. So we placed an order with Stark & ​​Sons, one of the staplers of academics. "

Then, "the sword committee" must be constituted to finance it, to appeal to patronage and donations. "Its price can be very high, discovers the neo-academician. Fortunately, my sword was offered to me by a person who claims to remain anonymous. It dates from 1913, the year of birth of my father, and was carried by a medical officer, which was alsonot Stepfather… "

It will only have two entries: the date of the election and the original initials which, by chance, are F. G. "G like Grainville, F like Fanny, my wife's first name, like Cliff of Fools, my last book, and "Flamboyant", like my style ", savor Patrick Grainville who adds, however: "My true sword is my pen. Unlike those that are related to the size of establishment, we only report what we write. "

Dany Laferrière in his academician green coat

Comes the moment to tackle the famous speech (that The world or Le Figaroonce, reproduced in extenso), highly anticipated, scrutinized by a magnifying glass, engraved in the marble of the institution. "It requires a long preparation, recognizes the future recipient. It is advisable to delve into the totality of the work of the one whose succession is taken. With Alain Decaux, I had plenty of ore. I read his books, reviewed many of his programs, received advice from his wife and daughter. Dominique Bona, Pierre Nora and Jean-Marie Rouart spontaneously told me about him. Historian, biographer, television and radio man, media pedagogue, he was a protean person, very eclectic, hands-on. Leftist man and practicing Catholic, admirer of Louise Michel and Jesus, social republican, lyrical and modest, anxious for the weak and humiliated, consistent with his faith in evangelical Christianity. For his enthronement, he had invited Princess Grace of Monaco and praised Jaurès. His profoundly humane, spectacular and romantic conception of history, populated by characters, made its way as the discipline emancipated itself from structuralism and Marxism. "

"The installation", a secret preamble

How to write your speech? According to the rules of the Academy, it must not exceed fifty-five minutes, which is the equivalent of 22 sheets. "One must be careful not to slip into impertinence or insolence. Which implies, as far as I'm concerned, to re-read myself a lot. I wrote it in the wake of my election and finished before the summer, with the constant concern of knowing when to stop. I have reworked it many times. I read it aloud, at home, to find the right intonations, to keep quiet, to avoid the pompous sermon. I have come to understand that declaiming such a speech, overshadowed by the history of the institution, facing such a meeting, requires very special skills. "

Among the unknown symbols of the general public, that Patrick Grainville himself did not know, figure "Installation". This word designates a secret ceremony, a type of dress rehearsal, which does not lack solemnity. Thursday, February 14, eight days before his official reception, like all petitioner, Patrick Grainville was placed facing the portrait of Richelieu on his deathbed, to guard against vanity. He was also reminded that he must quote the cardinal in his speech.

Chosen by the newly elected, his two godfathers, Dominique Bona and Jean-Marie Rouart, led him ceremoniously under the Dome. The assembly of dignitaries, his future peers, received him standing. Dominique Bona read his speech; then Patrick Grainville his. The perpetual secretary proclaimed him academician and the 731e Member of the Company was admitted to follow the session of the Dictionary. "The installation, He explains, also allows to verify the good compliance of the new entrant and to train, under the Dome, to find the right pace. "

"The Sword Ceremony"

Three days before the reception takes place "the ceremony of the sword". Monday, February 18, it was handed to him, very officially, by Jean-Marie Rouart, at the House of Polytechnic. "The speeches that day are shorter, lighter. My publisher, too, was invited to say a few words. "

Finally, Thursday, February 21, the big day. With drum rolls, Republican Guard, presence of ministers (or more …), curiosity of literary All-Paris who meets there and tenderness nervous family and friends. In the presence of the press that will report the next day, the atmosphere of the day, the relevance and density of the subject. This is obviously the opportunity to indulge in a piece of bravery and refine his talent to mark the spirits. On the eve of this baptism of fire and to swap his mortal condition against that of Immortal, Patrick Grainville retells his irony to confess: "I feel a little apprehensive. The eminently solemn character of this reception is a little petrifying. " He will come forward, escorted by his two godfathers. He will also be given a dictionary word that corresponds to the progress of the work. "All I know is that he will start with the letter V." Wave? Virtue? Vice? Patrick Grainville declines, in petto, some other possible terms which he admits, laughing, that some would be inappropriate in this place and this circumstance … It will be: Victoire.

The natural returns to gallop

Then again, after the speech of Dominique Bona, in charge of the praise of the recipient, after shaking hands, congratulating himself, and responding to the journalists who beat the pavement in the courtyard of the Institute, all this little world will go to the House of Latin America. It is customary for the new Immortal to treat the theory of close and curious people, duly invited, bristol in hand, who hurry to the little ovens and champagne flutes, without forgetting to congratulate the one who does not touch the ground.

The natural returns to gallop. "Friends, clothes, speech, banquet … it's like a wedding", amuses him who will have to face, saber in the clear, this historic moment which makes him enter in the legend of the Republic of the Letters. With this cultivated goblin, cheerful company, the noble assembly of minds should not be bored.



The green coat and the sword

From Year IV to Year IX, on several occasions, members of the Institute expressed the desire to have a distinctive sign.

The green coat

By order of the Consulate (May 13, 1801): coat, vest or jacket, breeches or pants in dark blue or black cloth, embellished with dark green silk olive leaf embroidery, French hat.

The women elected (since 1980) to the Academy have a great freedom, the decree of 1801 having not planned female attire.

The sword

The sword is at the origin the sign of the belonging of the academicians to the House of the king; its port is generalized from the Restoration. The handle of the sword bears the symbols representing the life and work of the future academician. His sword, emblem of his personality, is usually offered by his friends and admirers through a subscription (Sword Committee), during a ceremony before the official reception.

Jean-Claude Raspiengeas



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