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Jean-Christophe Rufin, Immortelle Randonnée. A pilgrim's review

The book: Jean-Christophe Rufin, Immortelle Randonnée : Compostelle malgré moi, Chamonix, éd. Guérin, 2013, 272 p. (My bad translation: Immortal Walk: Compostelle in spite of me).
Another edition, with photos, 2014.

The author: a physician, writer, diplomatic, alpinist, volunteer in many ONGs that aid poor countries. A member of the Academie Française, a very appreciated honor in a country that greatly esteems literature (and not only bestsellers); its members are called “the immortals” (so the book's title is a kind of and educated pun, I guess).

Narrative: He is a pro, and it shows. His prose is fluid, has rhythm, unexpected turns, and he offers many smart and quotable one liners. He is a master of “mini portraits” on people he met in the Camino (see below). And his French is not the almost impossible convoluted prose favored by many writers, or a colloquial slang equally difficult to understand. It is standard French in a good, very elegant version; you can read it easily with a medium knowledge of the language. Thanks, Jean-Christophe.

The motivation: he got tired of the grind of daily life; needed some time for himself. Apparently, giving interviews and lectures, being admired by readers and aspiring writers, receiving distinctions, meeting colleagues of the Academie at the imposing Palais de l'Institut...all this becomes really wearing after a while. We all can understand and share this feeling :)

Camino done: Norte (from Hendaye), then Primitivo with some variants.
Season: Not a minor thing, as you know. It is not mentioned, but apparently it was autumn or spring (so, mild weather, with some cold mornings and nights).

Method: Wild camping, with a hostal or albergue now and then. He walked mostly solo, with his wife in the last stages.
He did it a just another anonymous pilgrim –no press interviews, municipal presidents or local writers waiting for the celebrity doing the Camino. Good for him.

Attitude: He makes fun, even ridicules almost every person he met. Yes, it is funny, but after a while it becomes (from the particular perspective of a pilgrim) a bit annoying. He, too, is very fond of self-deprecating humor –as about his tendency to try “shortcuts” and getting invariably lost. You see, it is his style.
The author fully and enthusiastically embraced the “true pilgrimism”, and has some acerbic comments about “turigrinos”, although he also comments and is well aware of the relativity and contradictions of the idea.

General content: This is not a guide; it is a kind of entertaining talk, frequently with witty, humorous exaggerations about common places and absurd situations. On the other side, he has a very good and subtle descriptions of the way the Camino gradually influences, even changes you, with many paragraphs about feelings that a pilgrim could identify as its own. It is not a “motivational lecture”, evidently, but he deals with the pilgrimage purpose with an open and affectionate mind.
He also has a funny whole chapter about finding and losing love in the Camino (did I say he is French?) :)
I did not especially appreciate his musings about the history and place of catholicism in Europe (they seemed simplistic to me). But it is always a controversial topic, and he offers an honest, respectful view.

In a later edition, he mentioned that he intended to come back to the Camino, this time to la Plata, so we could eventually see him somewhere in those dusty paths.

Conclusion: Overall, a good and entertaining lecture. I enjoyed the reading and recommend it.
I hope the author could find an editorial house for an English translation (and a good translator). Not difficult, considering the current interest in all Camino things

Here it is the book editors webpage (with some video interviews and reviews, only in French)
How much? 19.50 euros.
Also available in Amazon.
Thanks to @Bogong, I noticed a 2016 English translation: The Santiago Pilgrimage. Walking the Immortal Way. London: MacLehose Press, Quercus.
ISBN (HB) 978 0 85705 9987. Available also in Amazon
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