Seeking to Reform Humanity

Book Review

An attempt to assassinate my inner bourgeois: Yann Kerninon, [Translated from French by Asha Puri], Full Circle, New Delhi, 2011, pages 216, Rs295

“I seek to propose a radical reform of humanity,” says the author on page 73.  “We are bourgeois the moment we are not Christ,” says the same author on page 63. 

Yann Kerninon is a “philosopher,” according to the blurb of his book under review.  He seems to be a confused philosopher.

Kerninon wants to reform humanity.  At the same time he is fully aware of the absurdity of human life and all its activities.  It was a pleasure reading through the first part of his book: “Theoretical Elements.”   The second part, forming the bulk of the book, is a mere repetition of those theoretical elements in different words.  While I read the first part in a couple of hours with a lot of interest and enthusiasm, the second part put me off to such an extent that I have not been able to complete reading the book so far.  I may never complete it after all.   

Kerninon wants to reform humanity, as he asserts it himself. But he is absolutely against all systems, establishments, governments, and whatever else you can label “bourgeois.”  The bourgeois is whatever is vulgar, grotesque and sham [cf. page 31].  He also knows that “being bourgeois is a vital necessity” today! [Page 63.  Emphasis in the original]. 

Kerninon is a confused writer.  He writes out of anger and frustration, as the title of his book very well illustrates.  He is angry with the vulgarity, grotesqueness and sham of the contemporary civilisation.  He wants us all to accept that life is totally absurd. 

Albert Camus, another French writer and Nobel laureate, had defined life as absurd half a century ago.  Sisyphus who rolled the rock up the mountain knowing the futility of his task assigned by a god was the best symbol of absurdity for Camus.  Life is a series of problems to be solved, without any purpose other than the pleasure derived from the solving of each problem.  Surmount each problem and conquer greater heights with intellectual honesty.  That intellectual honesty can make you a saint too, as Camus illustrated in his novel, The Plague.

Camus still remains meaningful for me.  Kerninon failed to sustain my interest.  Kerninon is asking each one of us to be another Christ.  Yet he knows that “The moment we endeavour to feed ourselves, survive, live somewhat in society and put a roof over our heads, we are bourgeois.  In short, being bourgeois is a vital necessity!” [Page 63]

Then why is Kerninon asking us to kill the inner bourgeois?  Why is he attempting to assassinate his inner bourgeois?  Why did he visit India recently to promote the sale of his book? 

I cannot even bring myself to complete reading the book!

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6 Responses to Seeking to Reform Humanity

  1. this book sounds different.. Is It bridging philosophy and Science ?? Reforming Humanity ? It takes yet another centuries of centuries , even then it is a doubt !!

    Good Info sir…..
    I’m Pretty sure of one thing,, I’m not going to waste my money by buying this book !! LOL

    • matheikal says:

      No, Deepak, the book is not trying to bridge philosophy and science. At best it can be said to be bridging philosophy and religion. In fact, the author draws inspiration from Dadaism, a movement in Art, and later literature. The first part is quite gripping for its thrust. Then the book fails because of repetitiveness – and that too angry repetition.

  2. aah! that’s a pity when a book doesn’t even make you want to finish it

    • matheikal says:

      It’s indeed a pity, Sujatha. All the more so because I loved the first part of the book. The second part appears as if the author was constrained to live up to the publisher’s opinions. Kerninon won’t ever be able to “assassinate the inner bourgeois.”

  3. Raghuram Ekambaram says:

    I know you did not expect me to comment on this post of yours, but that is precisely the reason I am offering one.

    This is the first ever review of book I have read that says the book is bad enough for one to feel satisfied not to be able to finsish it ;))))) (can one actually smile/laugh while winking?)


    • matheikal says:

      Raghuram, I’m quoting below a few lines from Kerninon:
      “The real revolution – the revolution still to come – is to incarnate the books one reads and perhaps, embrace the cop and help him, ye, him too, to step out of his role with its lofty principles…”

      I simply wish to see somebody doing it, somebody including Kerninon, in real life. So much pretention. And yet, these people dare to write!

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