Matches for: “la jétee” …

Philippe Dubois, “La Jetée de Chris Marker ou le cinématogramme de la conscience”

Philippe Dubois presenting on La Jetée

I’m seaching still for the full text of this presentation, published in Théorème 6: Recherches sur Chris Marker (Paris, Presses Sorbonne Nouvelle, 2002), and whose table of contents were published here a while back. Hopefully it might be available still somewhere, as it contains a great selection of texts on Marker. An excerpt follows, and then a link to the presentation (no embed code was available).

“La Jetée” de Chris Marker ou le cinématogramme de la conscience, Philippe Dubois

Philippe Dubois (Université Sorbonne – Paris III) : « La Jetée est donc ce film que Chris Marker réalisa en 1962. C’est un court métrage de “seulement” 29 minutes. (On a souvent fait remarquer que Chris Marker – il a les initiales de court métrage – n’avait quasiment jamais fait de film “normal” en termes de durée : des courts ou des [très] longs. Cela ne veut certes rien dire, sinon que chez lui le temps n’est pas un “standard”, qu’il ne se mesure pas, qu’il est chose infiniment extensible, et vertigineux.) Ce film, court donc, mais qui raconte toute la vie d’un homme en la condensant dans un instant-image paradoxal, ce film-vertige du temps est et reste absolument singulier, autant que mythique. C’est, si l’on veut, le seul film de fiction (et même de science-fiction) dans l’œuvre de Marker. À mes yeux, il se présente, avec une intensité remarquable, à la fois comme un acte théorique, une sorte de film-pensée articulant des modèles conceptuels complexes (du temps, de l’espace, de la représentation, de la vie psychique), et comme une pure œuvre, non une illustration d’un enjeu conceptuel, mais une création d’une force vive encore aujourd’hui irrésistible, sans équivalent, et qui finit par emporter toute théorie. C’est à ce double titre que cette œuvre m’intéresse et me fascine, comme elle a fasciné et intéressé plus d’une génération de théoriciens autant que de créateurs, son propre auteur compris : “La Jetée est le seul de mes films dont j’ai plaisir à apprendre la projection”, aime à dire Chris Marker. »

Philippe Dubois, presentation of paper “La Jetée de Chris Marker ou le cinématogramme de la conscience” – Video

Chris Darke, La Jetée … Still

La Jetée by Chris Darke

Publisher: British Film Institute & Palgrave | Series: BFI Film Classics | Year: 2016



  1. La Jetée … Still
  2. In the Beginning
  3. Window Shopping in 1962
  4. Chris Marker Takes the Stairs
  5. This Is the Story …
  6. The Life and Death of Images



Select Bibliography

Chapter 1 – La Jetée … Still

I don’t remember when I first saw La Jetée (1963) or where. It might have been in a repertory fleapit or a university seminar room. Or did I discover it, this mysterious jewel of a film, dumped on a VHS tape among half-recorded TV shows and out-of-date ads? Imagine: tumbling on fast-forward through colourful junk when, suddenly, this. Press play. Monochrome images – cool, spare, static – which seem to unfold out of each other. Whispering. Sudden heart-swelling gusts of music. Then – did that just happen? How? Rewind. Watch again. Wait for that moment when the film itself looks straight back at you.

The ‘where’ and ‘when’ don’t really matter now. The film has been a part of my life for so long that it seems always to have been there and over the years it has acquired the status of a work apart, and not only for me. When asked to contribute to the decennial Sight & Sound poll of the ‘Greatest Films of All Time’ in 2012, I had no trouble deciding which title would occupy prime position in my list and, in its first appearance, La Jetée came in at number fifty out of a hundred films, tying with Mizoguchi’s Ugetsu Monogatori (1953) – curiously, another film about ghosts and wartime – but was kept from the top slot by Hitchcock’s ‘pre-make’, Vertigo (1958). If such polls amount to anything, then La Jetée can no longer be considered merely a ‘cult classic’, as it has often been called, and should now be recognised as a bona fide master-work, a classic fully fledged and with no need of qualification.

Not that there isn’t something eminently cult-like about the admiration it inspires, the best expression of which must be the tiny one-room bar named in its honour in the Shinjuku district of Tokyo, where people come to drink beneath images from the film and which Marker stated was worth more to him than ‘any number of Oscars’.1 Other tributes are better known: from Terry Gilliam’s 1995 Hollywood ‘remake’ Twelve Monkeys and Mark Romanek’s video for David Bowie’s 1993 single Jump They Say, to the many science-fiction films that have drawn on La Jetée’s spiralling time-travel narrative, among them the Back to the Future series (1985–90), the Terminator films (1984–) and more recently Primer (2004) and Looper (2012), not to mention the 2014 US television series 12 Monkeys (which, if we accept Marker’s claim that La Jetée was itself a remake of Vertigo, makes the TV series a remake of a remake of a …).

In a well-known essay on cult films, Umberto Eco distinguishes between ‘unhinged’ and ‘perfect’ works. The ‘unhinged’ film is easily reduced to quotable fragments ripe for semiotic recycling and cult appreciation. The ‘perfect’ film, on the other hand, resists such intertextual overhauling because it remains in our minds as a whole, ‘in the form of a central idea or emotion’.2 But what about films that are both ‘unhinged’ and ‘perfect’, emotionally and intellectually complete as well as seemingly easy to disassemble?

La Jetée is just such a work. ‘Unhinged’ in its highly unconventional and already fragmented form, it is also peculiarly ‘perfect’ for the same reason. I’d go further. La Jetée is perfect enough in its unhinged-ness to be exhibited in a gallery.

Whitechapel Chris Marker Exhibition

Watching the watchers (installation view of Chris Marker: A Grin Without a Cat, exhibition held at Whitechapel Gallery, 16 April–22 June 2014. Courtesy Whitechapel Gallery, Whitechapel Gallery Archive)

It is one thing to write a book about La Jetée, quite another to dedicate a room to it (and not a bar this time). The room in question was at the Whitechapel Gallery in London where an exhibition of Marker’s work was on show and I found myself returning to it repeatedly between April and June 2014. The challenge of how best to fit a black box into a white cube, of reconciling the viewing conditions of cinema with those of a gallery, found an answer in the room’s layout. Rows of benches facing a screen approximated the experience of being at the movies. The lighting levels, dimmed but not quite dark, and the space left for people to circulate around one side of the seating, allowed gallery- goers to pause, watch for a moment and then move on. I realised I could do something in that room I’d never done before, something that wouldn’t normally be possible among the darkened rows of a cinema or the brightly lit distractions of home viewing. I could watch people watching La Jetée.

Whether I was standing at the entrance or sitting on the benches alongside other viewers, my attention invariably shifted away from the film to the audience. And while there was something slightly recursive to the act of watching people watch a film about a man who watches the mental images projected in his mind’s eye, what did I see in those faces? Rapt attention, no doubt, and the signs of moment-by-moment immersion in the unique experience that the film offers. If my avid observation of the audience sounds a bit odd, I should explain that, as one of the curators of the show, I was bound to be intrigued by the way people reacted. Walking through the other two rooms, among the photographs and multimedia installations, books and collages, I was impressed by the absorbed looks of the visitors. Each room also included a looped projection of a film shown in its entirety: in the first, Marker’s early collaboration with Alain Resnais, Les Statues meurent aussi (Statues Also Die, 1953), and in the third, a restored print of Le Fond de l’air est rouge (A Grin Without a Cat, 1977), Marker’s three-and-a-half-hour documentary fresco about the leftist movements of the 1960s.

But it was in the room between the other two where I did most of my audience-watching. Though the smallest by far, it provided a focus to the show, being the only room dedicated solely to a single film. A little under thirty minutes long, shot in black and white, made up almost entirely of still images and with an evocative combination of voiceover narration, sound effects and music, La Jetée is cinematically hard to classify; something alluded to in the title credits where it is described as ‘un photo-roman’, or ‘a photo- novel’. With haunting economy, it tells the story of a soldier (Davos Hanich), who is held captive in an underground prison camp in post- apocalypse Paris and used as a guinea pig in time-travel experiments. He retains a mental image from his childhood of the face of a woman (Hélène Chatelain) and the death of a man witnessed on the observation pier (‘la jetée’) of Orly airport in Paris. His captors exploit the strength of this image, first to send him back to the past, where he meets the woman again, then into the future to secure the fate of humanity’s survivors. His mission accomplished, the time traveller flees back in time to Orly, where he hopes to be reunited with the woman, but he has been pursued by a guard from the camp who executes him in front of her. The time traveller’s final realisation is that his childhood image was of his own death.

Even though it was made over fifty years ago, La Jetée seems to have escaped the ravages of time, which explains something of its enduring fascination. Film-makers have played extensive variations on its story; artists have lingered over its exploration of the photographic image; and critics have analysed it as a meditation on loss, memory and the nature of cinema. However, in curating the Whitechapel show we found proof that La Jetée did not, in fact, fall fully formed from the sky as an inimitable cinematic masterpiece, but that it had its phases of production, its first drafts and rough sketches and even, as we discovered, its ‘twin’. To unearth such material was significant for two reasons. First, because Marker was deeply averse to giving interviews and rarely spoke about his work, next to nothing is known about the film’s origins or the ideas behind it. Such reticence adds greatly to its enduring mystique as a work that speaks for itself and as a seeming anomaly, the only fiction film in Marker’s extensive cinematic oeuvre. Second, because there is almost nothing in Marker’s own words, the material we assembled afforded a rare insight into the work that went into shaping the film.

I had read in an essay by the film scholar Philippe Dubois that the Royal Belgian Film Archive holds a trove of material relating to La Jetée, including a copy of a different version of the film, an exercise book containing an editing plan and a collection of correspondence between Marker and Jacques Ledoux, the former director of the Film Archive. Ledoux had assisted Marker with his research for La Jetée by arranging screenings of science-fiction films for him, and Marker had in turn donated materials to the Archive, Jacques Ledoux as Chief Experimenter as well as giving his friend an enigmatic credit on the film for the so-called ‘Ledoux Process’ (‘Procédé Ledoux’) and casting him in the role of the Chief Experimenter. So, in April 2013 I travelled to Brussels where, in the Archive’s gabled library, I examined these items with a sense of anticipation that was only heightened by the discovery that the Marker–Ledoux correspondence had mysteriously gone missing. (Dubois treats his readers to some extracts. Marker to Ledoux in early 1962: ‘a role as experimental-doctor-in-a-World-War-Three-underground-concentration-camp awaits you, which will fit you like a glove’).3 The copy of the film held by the Archive – La Jetée’s ‘twin’ – was distinguished from its definitive sibling by only the slightest difference in appearance; but when it comes to stillness and movement a difference, however small, can be decisive. What was striking was how and where Marker had chosen not to tell the story in still images. In this version, the opening pre-credits sequence set on the main pier at Orly airport is filmed in motion. The camera pans from left to right in a high-angle shot following the time traveller as he runs towards the woman, the image of whose face haunts him, and so towards the death which, through some quirk of time, he will have seen – and foreseen – as a child. This moving shot lasts only ten seconds but it alters the balance of the film completely.

Jacques Ledoux

Jacques Ledoux as Chief Experimenter

If this version of the film raised questions about the beginning (and beginnings) of La Jetée, the other archival item I had to examine took me even further back in time to its prehistory. Slipping on a pair of white gloves, I opened a large manila envelope and extracted a spiral-bound A4 exercise book with a blue cover and the word ‘Sciences’ embossed in gold. Turning to the inside front page, I saw the film’s title scrawled in thick strokes. The handwriting was familiar. Marker had made his mark with the pen he took his penname from. Over the following twenty-eight pages the structure of the film is arranged in a series of fourteen sequences listed alphabetically from A to Q. Each sequence is laid out across facing pages, with the left- hand page containing images and the right handwritten (though not by Marker) editing instructions. (The exceptions being sequences B, J and K, which are missing from the document but acknowledged in the overall alphabetical sequence.) The images had been cut from contact sheets, pasted vertically onto the page, and each one numbered, their order relating to an early version of the film’s narrative sequence.

This ‘workbook’, as we curators came to call it, was like a secret manual of the film, a unique and fragile assembly (some images falling ungummed from its pages) of the elements that make up the completed work. Particularly interesting is the comparative exchange it sets up with the film, for there are things in the workbook not in the film and things in the film not in the workbook.

La Jetée Archival Treasures

These two archival treasures, La Jetée’s ‘twin’ and the workbook, were the principal displays in the Whitechapel room dedicated to the film. The Archive’s print was only available in the French-language version, with Jean Négroni’s narration translated in English subtitles, and it happened to be the most luminous copy of the film I’d ever seen. Probably because it had rarely, if ever, been projected as a celluloid print, the high-definition digital transfer was pristine, with monochrome tones that glowed like silk. From the workbook, we had facsimiles made of the title page and six sequences (A, M, N, O, P and Q) selected to illustrate either how close they are to the final version of the film or how they differ from it. In an adjoining vitrine, two other printed versions of the film’s images and text were shown, one published in 1964 by the French magazine L’Avant-Scène Cinéma, the other being the 1992 hardback ‘ciné-roman’ designed by Bruce Mau.

La Jetée Workbook - interior

Vitrine La Jetee Whitechapel Exhibition

The workbook: vitrine display (installation view of Chris Marker: A Grin Without a Cat, exhibition held at Whitechapel Gallery, 16 April–22 June 2014. Courtesy Whitechapel Gallery, Whitechapel Gallery Archive); layout for Sequence A

One day, as we arranged the pages with our white gloves, preparing them for their vitrines, I said to a colleague, ‘We’re going to be accused of being fetishists.’ (Fetishism: the act of sanctifying fragments. See Eco’s definition of ‘cult’.) And with good reason.

Two good reasons, in fact, the first being strictly curatorial. These different paper versions of the film – workbook, magazine layout and ‘ciné-roman’ – together proposed a way of taking seriously its description as a ‘photo-roman’, but they also represented an aspect of the way Marker worked. He described himself as a ‘bricoleur’, or a ‘tinkerer’, extracting material from diverse sources to recombine it anew in a different medium, whether as a book, film, cd-rom or some subsequent digital iteration, often reconfiguring that medium in the process. With Marker we move constantly from word to image, page to screen, book to film and back again, sometimes even in the same work. Images are rarely without their accompanying text or spoken commentary. The screen has the attributes of a page, and the page those of a screen. A book’s a film and a film’s a book. If an attention to detail bordering on the fetishistic is needed to even begin to un-braid the dense weave of media, materials and elements that makes up Marker’s work, then so be it.

La Jetée

Chris Marker’s La Jetée is 28 minutes long and almost entirely made up of black- and-white still images. Since its release in 1964, this legendary French film – which Marker described as a ‘photo-novel’ – has haunted generations of viewers and inspired writers, artists and film-makers. Its spiralling time-travel narrative has also influenced many other films, including the Terminator series and Terry Gilliam’s Hollywood ‘remake’ Twelve Monkeys (1995).

But as Marker rarely gave interviews, little is really known about the origins of La Jetée or the ideas behind it. In this groundbreaking study, Chris Darke draws on rare archival material, including previously unpublished correspondence and production documents, to examine the making of the film. He explores how Marker’s only fiction film was influenced both by his early work as a writer and by Alfred Hitchcock’s Vertigo (1958), and considers how La Jetée’s images can be seen to ‘echo’ throughout Marker’s extraordinarily diverse oeuvre.

CHRIS DARKE is a Senior Lecturer in Film at the University of Roehampton, UK, as well as a writer and film critic whose work has appeared in many magazines, including Sight & Sound, Film Comment and Cahiers du cinéma. He is also the author of several books, including Light Readings: Film Criticism and Screen Arts (2000), and the co-curator of the major exhibition, Chris Marker: A Grin Without a Cat, at the Whitechapel Gallery, London, in 2014.

Book Details

Series: BFI Film Classics
Paperback: 96 pages
Publisher: British Film Institute; 1st ed. 2016 edition (July 29, 2016)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1844576426
ISBN-13: 978-1844576425

Chris Darke Publishes La Jetée

Chris Darke is coming out with a new book on La Jetée and has arranged for to publish the first chapter. Many thanks to Chris and to the British Film Institute! It’s an honor to get a sneak peak at this important, extremely perceptive take on Chris Marker’s most famous creation. Please click below to read the chapter. If you wish, you can order your copy at Also now available at

La Jetée by Chris Darke, BFI Classics, Chapter One

Chris Darke, La Jetée. BFI Classics. Published July 2016

Chris Darke Biography

Chris Darke is a writer and film critic. For over twenty years his work has been published in newspapers and magazines including: Sight and Sound, Film Comment, Cahiers du cinéma, Trafic, Frieze, Vertigo, and The Independent. He is the author of four books: Light Readings: Film Criticism and Screen Arts (2000); a monograph on Jean-Luc Godard’s Alphaville (2005); Cannes: Inside the World’s Premier Film Festival (with Kieron Corless, 2007); and a study of La Jetée in the BFI Film Classics series (2016). He has contributed essays to catalogues and edited collections, as well as translating texts by Raymond Bellour, Jean-Pierre Oudart, Pascal Bonitzer, and Marc Augé, among others.

He has also made short arts documentaries for British television: his 1999 film about Chris Marker’s La Jetée was included (at Guillaume’s insistence) on French, UK, and US DVD releases of La Jetée and Sans soleil. He was creative consultant on Grant Gee’s Patience (After Sebald) (2012), a feature-length essay-film about W. G. Sebald’s novel The Rings of Saturn. He co-curated the major exhibition Chris Marker: A Grin without a Cat at the Whitechapel Gallery, London, in 2014, for which he also co-edited the catalogue. He is a Senior Lecturer in Film at Roehampton University, London.


Light Readings: Film Criticism and Screen Arts (London: Wallflower Press, 2000)
Alphaville: French Film Guide (London, IB Tauris, 2005)
Cannes: Inside the World’s Premier Film Festival (with Kieron Corless. London: Faber, 2007)
Chris Marker: A Grin without a Cat (co-editor with Habda Rashid. Whitechapel Gallery, 2014)

Selected essays, articles, reviews, and interviews

Review: Antonioni exhibition at the Cinémathèque Française, Film Comment, July 2015

Uneasy Listening: Berberian Sound Studio (Peter Strickland, UK, 2012), Film Comment, May-June 2013

Interview with Patricio Guzmán on Nostalgia for the Light (Chile, Spain, Germany, France, 2012), Sight & Sound, August 2012

Systems Analyst: All Watched Over by Machines of Loving Grace (Adam Curtis, UK, 2011), Film Comment, July-August 2012

Interview: Adam Curtis, Film Comment, July-August 2012

Antonioni – the afterlife, Sight & Sound (online), March 2011

“Les Enfants et les Cinéphiles” The Moment of Epiphany in The Spirit of the Beehive (Victor Erice, Spain, 1973), Cinema Journal, 49, no. 2, Winter 2010, pp. 152-158.

On the Threshold: on Hunger (Steve McQueen, UK & Ireland, 2008), Criterion Collection, 2010

Three Images of May: Cinema and the Uprising, Vertigo, Vol. 3 Issue 9, Spring-Summer 2008

Review: Yella (Christian Petzold, Germany, 2007), Film Comment, May-June 2008

First Person Singular: on the essay films of Agnès Varda, Film Comment, January-February 2008

Freedom and Dirt: on Vagabond (Agnes Varda, France, 1985), Criterion Collection, 2008

Once More … into the Zone: Chris Marker Looks Back, in Wonder, Vertigo, Vol. 3 Issue 6, Summer 2007

Sweet Bird of Youth: Kes (Ken Loach, UK, 1969), Film Comment, July-August 2007

Films of Ruin and Rapture: In Search of Jean-Daniel Pollet, Film Comment, May-June 2007

Chris Marker: The Invisible Man, Film Comment, May-June 2003

Chris Marker: Eyesight, Film Comment, May-June 2003

Letter from London (on surveillance and cinema), Senses of Cinema, Issue 25, March 2003

You Only Live Twice Set at La Jetée’s Orly Airport

You Only Live Twice: Sex, Death and Transition

By Chase Joynt and Mike Hoolboom

Coach House, 152 pages, $14.95

On the day of French director Chris Marker’s death, two movie artists meet at the Orly Airport. It’s a place of professional interest, since Marker, a favourite New Wave cineaste, set a pivotal scene in his 1962 film, La Jetée, here. The film involves time travel such that in this particular scene the protagonist witnesses his own death, and so for trans writer and media artist Chase Joynt and HIV-positive movie artist Mike Hoolboom, this location is also a place of personal resonance: Both men share a sense of having lived twice. In the series of vignettes that follow, Joynt and Hoolboom enter into a free-flowing correspondence on multifarious topics – love, sex, art, death, the public and the private – that brings to mind Maggie Nelson’s work of autotheory from last year. The reflexive format allows for what John Berger would call a “real likeness”: a portrait from both sides of the camera. An intellectually expansive, emotional gut-punch of a

William Gibson on La Jetée

From: ‘Thrilling and prophetic’: why film-maker Chris Marker’s radical images influenced so many artists –

William Gibson, novelist

I first saw La Jetée in a film history course at the University of British Columbia, in the early 1970s. I imagine that I would have read about it earlier, in passing, in works about science fiction cinema, but I doubt I had much sense of what it might be. And indeed, nothing I had read or seen had prepared me for it. Or perhaps everything had, which is essentially the same thing.

I can’t remember another single work of art ever having had that immediate and powerful an impact, which of course makes the experience quite impossible to describe. As I experienced it, I think, it drove me, as RD Laing had it, out of my wretched mind. I left the lecture hall where it had been screened in an altered state, profoundly alone. I do know that I knew immediately that my sense of what science fiction could be had been permanently altered.

Part of what I find remarkable about this memory today was the temporally hermetic nature of the experience. I saw it, yet was effectively unable to see it again. It would be over a decade before I would happen to see it again, on television, its screening a rare event. Seeing a short foreign film, then, could be the equivalent of seeing a UFO, the experience surviving only as memory. The world of cultural artefacts was only atemporal in theory then, not yet literally and instantly atemporal. Carrying the memory of that screening’s intensity for a decade after has become a touchstone for me. What would have happened had I been able to rewind? Had been able to rent or otherwise access a copy? It was as though I had witnessed a Mystery, and I could only remember that when something finally moved – and I realised that I had been breathlessly watching a sequence of still images – I very nearly screamed.William Gibson

La Jetée Commentaire, Chris Marker


La Jetée

Ceci est l’histoire d’un homme marqué par une image d’enfance.

La scène qui le troubla par sa violence, et dont il ne devait comprendre que beaucoup plus tard la signification, eut lieu sur la grande jetée d’Orly, quelques années avant le debut de la troisième guerre mondiale.

A Orly, le dimanche, les parents mènent leurs enfants voir les avions en partance. De ce dimanche, l’enfant dont nous racontons l’histoire devait revoir longtemps le soleil fixe, le dècor planté au bout de la jetée, et un visage de femme.

Rien ne distingue les souvenirs des autres moments: ce n’est que plus tard qu’ils se font reconnaître, à leurs cicatrices. Ce visage qui devait être la seule image du temps de paix à traverser le temps de guerre, il se demanda longtemps s’il l’avait vraiment vu, ou s’il avait créé ce moment de douceur pour étayer le moment de folie qui allait venir, avec ce bruit soudain, la geste de la femme, ce corps qui bascule, les clameurs des gens sur la jetée, brouillés par la peur. Plus tard, il comprit qu’il avait vu la mort d’un homme.

Et quelque temps après, vint la destruction de Paris.

Beaucoup moururent. Certains se crurent vainqueurs. D’autres durent prisonniers. Les survivants s’établirent dans le réseau des souterrains de Chaillot.

La surface de Paris, et sans doute de la plus grande partie du monde, était inhabitable, pourrie par la radioactivité. Les vainqueurs montaient la garde sur un empire de rats. Les prisonniers étaient soumis è des expériences qui semblaient fort préoccuper ceus qui s’y livraient. Au terme de l’expérience, les uns étaient déçus, les autres étaient morts, ou fous.

C’est pour le conduire à la salle d’expériences qu’on vint chercher un jour, parmi les prisonniers, l’homme dont nous rancontons l’histoire.

Il avait peur. Il avait entendu parler du chefs des travaux. Il pensait se trouver en face de Savant fou, du docteur Frankenstein. Il vit un homme sans passion, qui lui expliqua posément que la race humaine était maintenant condamnée, que l’Espace lui était fermé, que la seule liaison possible avec les moyens de survie passait par le Temps. Un trou dans le Temps, et peut-être y ferait-on passer des vivres, des médicaments, des sources d’énergie.

Tel était le but des expériences : projeter dans le Temps des émissaires, appeler le passé et l’avenit au secours du présent.

Mais l’esprit humain achoppait. Se réveiller dans un autre temps, c’était naître une seconde fois, adulte. Le choc était trop fort. Après avoir ainsi projeté dans differéntes zones du Temps des corps sans vie ou sans conscience, les inventeurs se concentraient maintenant sur des sujets doués d’images mentales très fortes. Capables d’imaginer ou de rêver un autre temps, ils seraient peut-être capables de s’y réintégrer.

La police du camp épiait jusqu’aux rêves. Cet homme fut choisi enter mille, pour sa fixation sur une image du passé.

Au début, rien d’autre que l’arrachement au temps présent, et ses chevalets. On recommence. Le sujet ne meurt pas, ne délire pas. Il souffre. On continue. Au dixième jour d’expérience, des image commencent à sourdre, comme des aveux. Un matin du temps de paix. Une chambre du temps de paix, une vraie chambre. De vrais enfants. De vrais oiseaux. De vrais chats. De vrais tombes. Le seizième jour, il est sur la jetée.

Vide. Quelquefois, il retrouve un jour de bonheur, mais différent, un visage de bonheur, mais différent. Des ruines. Une fille qui pourrait être celle qu’il cherche. Il la croise sur la jetée. D’une voiture, il la voit sourire. D’autres images se présentent, se mêlent, dans un musée qui est peut-être celui de sa mémoire.

Le trentième jour, la rencontre a lieu.

Cette fois, il est sûr de la reconnaître. C’est d’ailleurs la seule chose dont il est sûr, dans ce monde sans date qui le bouleverse d’abord par sa richesse. Autour de lui, des matériaux fabuleux : le verre, le plastique, le tissu-éponge. Lorsqu’il sort de sa fascination, la femme a disparu.

Ceux qui mènent l’expérience reasserrent leur contrôle, le relancent sur la piste. Le temps s’enroule à nouveau, l’instant repasse. Cette fois, il est pràs d’elle, il lui parle. Elle l’accueille sans étonnement. Ils sont sans souvenirs, sans projets. Leur temps se construit simplement autour d’eux, avec pour seuls repères le goût du moment qu’ils vivent, et les signes sur les murs.

Plus tard, ils sont dans un jardin. Il se souvient qu’il existait des jardins. Elle l’interroge sur son collier, le collier du combattant qu’il portait au début de cette guerre qui éclatera un jour. Il invents une explication.

Ils marchent. Ils s’arrêtent devant uns coupe de sequoia couverte de dates historiques. Elle prononce un nom étranger qu’il ne comprend pas *. Comme en rêve, il lui montre un point hors de l’arbre. Il s’entend dire : « Je viens de là… »

… et y retombe, à bout de forces. Puis une autre vague du Temps le soulève. Sans doute lui fait-on une nouvelle piqûre.

Maintenant, elle dort au soleil. Il pense que, dans le monde où il vient de reprendre pied, le temps d’être relancé vers elle, elle est morte.

Réveillée, il lui parle encore. D’une véritétrop fantastique pour être reçue, il garde l’essentiel : un pays lointain, une longue distance à parcourir. Elle l’écoute sans se moquer.

Est-ce le même jour? Il ne sait plus. Ils vont faire comme cela une infinité de promenades semblables, où se creusera entre eux une confiance muette, une confiance à l’état pur. Sans souvenirs, sans projets. Jusqu’au moment où il sent, devant eux, une barrière.

Ainsi se termina la première série d’expériences. C’était le début d’une période d’essais où il la retrouverait à des moments différents. Elle l’accueille simplement. Elle l’appelle son Spectre. Un jour, elle semble avoire peur. Un jour, elle se penche sur lui. Lui ne sait jamais s’il se dirige vers elle, s’il est dirigé, s’il invente ou s’il rêve.

Vers le cinquantième jour, ils se rencontrent dnaans un musée plein de bêtes éternelles.

Maintenant, le tir est parfaitement ajusté. Projeté sur l’instant choisi, il peut y demeurer et s’y mouvoir sans peine. Elle aussi semble apprivoisée. Elle accepte comme un phénomène naturel les passages de ce visiteur qui apparait et diparait, qui existe, parle, rit avec elle, se tait, l’écoute et s’en va.

Lorsqu’il se retrouva dans la salle d’expériences, il sentit que quelque chose avait changé. Le chef du camp était là Aux propos échangés autour de lui, il comprit que, devant le succès des expériences sur le passé, c’était dans l’avenir qu’on entedait maintenant le projeter.n L’excitation d’une telle aventure lui cacha quelque temps l’idée que cette rencontre au Muséum avait la dernière.

L’avenir était mieux défendu que le passé. Au terme d’autres essais encore plus éprouvants pour lui, il finit par entrer en résonance avec le monde futur. Il traversa une planète transformée, Paris reconstruit, dix mille avenues incompréhensibles. D’autres hommes l’attendaient. La rencontre fut brève. Visiblement, ils rejetaient ces scories d’une autre époque. Il recita sa leçon. Puisque l’humanité avait survécu, elle ne pouvait pas refuser à son propre passé les moyens de sa survie. Ce sophisme fut accepté comme un déguisement du Destin. On lui donna une centrale d’énergie suffisante pour remmettre en marche toute l’industrie humaine, et les portes de l’avenir furent refermées.

Peu de temps après son retour, il fut transféré dans une autre partie du camp.

Il savair que ses geôliers ne l’épargneraient pas. Il avait été un instrument entre leurs mains, son image d’enfance avait servi d’appàât pour le mettre en condition, il avait répondu à leur attente et rempli son rôle. l n’attendait plus que d’êtreliquidé, avec quelque part en lui le souvenit d’un temps deux fois vécu. C’est au fond de ces limbes qu’il reçut le message des hommes de l’avenit. Eux aussi voyageaient dans le Temps, et plus facilement. Maintenant ils étaient là et lui proposaient de l’accepter parmi eux. Mais sa requête fut differente : plutôt que cet avenir pacifié, il demandait qu’on lui rende le monde de son enfance et cetter femme qui l’attendait peut-être.

Une fois sur la grande jetée d’Orly, dans ce chaud dimanche d’avane guerre où il allait pouvoir demeurer, il pensa avec un peu de vertige que l’enfant qu’il avait été devait se trouver là aussi, à regarder les avions. Mais il chercha d’abord le visage d’une femme, au bout de la jetée. Il courut vers elle. Et lorsqu’il reconnut l’homme qui ‘avaitl’l suivi depuis le camp souterrain, il comprit qu’on ne s’évadait pas du Temps et que cet instant qu’il lui avait été donneé de voir enfant, et qui n’avait pas cessé de l’obséder, c’était celui de sa propre mort.