David Homel: learning to walk again

A thank you to life. This is how David Homel describes The void under my feet. A 13e a completely different work from anything that the Chicago-born writer has written before, who unveils himself here shamelessly. Like a second plunge into the void – this time shared – and into the heart of the true story of his incredible life backwards.

It took David Homel nearly 35 years – almost as many years as those spent in his adopted city of Montreal – to realize that what he had experienced had to be written down. This story “where you learn to live again and where you learn to walk again”, he sees it first as a self-criticism.

“A critique of why I let myself live like this, during all these years, and of what pushed me outside this definition of self as a weakened and incapable person, living in pain”, explains the one who felt the need, at 68, to tell the story of the accident that will have made him suffer throughout his life.

This pivotal moment in David Homel’s life occurred in 1970, when he was taking part with friends on a road expedition to Tangier from Paris (where the young American had gone to study in order to avoid the compulsory registration). who would have sent him to the Vietnam War). Fallen into a ravine where he woke up to see “his legs strewn all over the place”, it is his long journey to recovery that he recounts with lucidity, humor and a gentle compassion for himself in The void under my feet. Various other landmark periods in his life as well, which even his wife (children’s book author Marie-Louise Gay) and two grown children ignored.

“During all these years, I didn’t know what to do with these events. I didn’t know where to put them or really understood what had happened. “

Work of a lifetime

It was a recent conversation with a psychiatrist friend in Serbia that made him realize the irony of what had happened to him. Having left the United States to avoid war, young Homel found himself … in the bosom of soldiers at a US naval base hospital!

The writer insists: this is not about his life story or his loves. Rather that of this work which he took a lifetime to do on himself.

“I try to forgive myself and even the people who made me junkie,” said the one who has had to relive memories of years of addiction. This book is used to forgive, but above all to thank the people who have helped me in my life. It is a work of recognition and gratitude. Because we do not live alone, we have not accomplished everything that we have accomplished alone. “

For the writer, who spends a lot of time in the weight rooms, it was also by questioning himself about this need to keep in shape that the idea of ​​the empty under my feet.

“I understood that it had to do with aging, with not getting old or at least growing old with strength, fighting, good humor, and losing as little ability as possible. I renewed my being on the physical side, by re-educating my brain and my attitude towards myself. I understood that from the physical side, I was also going to operate on my emotional life. “

At the heart of the story of this life backwards (of the capacities lost in full youth), Homel proposes a redefinition of aging. The void under my feet This takes an astonishing turn by addressing the sexuality of the aging person “which is not a tragedy”, he laughs.

“This book is a new beginning,” says the translator and great friend of Danny Laferrière. I was happy the whole writing and it never happens. I felt like I was discovering something about myself at my age. A truth that had eluded me for decades. “

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