A secular voyage of discovery with a young Joan of Arc

By Sébastien Omont (En attendant Nadeau)

In his latest book 'Johanne', novelist Marc Graciano describes the long journey made by French heroine Joan of Arc in 1429 between Vaucouleurs in the north-east of the country to Chinon in the west when she was aged around 17. Little is known about events during this trip, and the French author uses the journey to conjure up a wonderful secular approach to the world, one that emerges from the meetings the young woman has along the way. This book confirms Graciano as a great writer about journeys and mystery, in a novel which poses the question as to what can still be sacred in a world without god. Sébastien Omont assesses the work.

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Author Marc Graciano's novel 'Johanne' opens by looking at the “childhood” of his heroine, Joan of Arc, condensed into one evening. Around the family table a traveller is recounting tales about saints and animals, stories illuminated with miracles involving the creatures as well as the holy people . The man reels off some unlikely nonsense, but because he is “wonderfully inspired, full of ecstasy for God and a fool for Christ”, there is something in his words which profoundly affects the child.