“So here I am, mixed blood, fruit of the love of two mountains” : thus introduced Ysabelle Lacamp, actress, novelist and essayist, who died in Paris, on June 26, at the age of 68. In the beginning, there is the meeting between a European from the Cévennes and a young Korean student. In 1950, when the journalist Max Olivier-Lacamp (1914-1983), who had just become a war correspondent, discovered, while attending a cult, the bewitching timbre of a young soprano, he was devastated. He who became involved in the Resistance very early on (Lacamp is one of his pseudonyms), becoming one of the founders of Agence France-Presse (AFP), before directing its sector covering “Middle Asia from India to Burma, fell in love with Pyong-You Hyun. He married her as soon as his divorce was recorded in 1954, then moved to Paris, where from editor-in-chief of AFP he became a reporter for the Figaro. This is where Ysabelle was born on November 7th.
If the young girl is studying brilliantly, with a degree in Chinese and Korean from the School of Oriental and African Studies in London and O’Langues in Paris, she wants to be an actress, appears in a few films (with Berri, Deray, Hanin, Gatlif , Boisset) as in television series, but there holds stereotypical menial jobs that refer to the clichés of the time about beautiful Eurasian women.
But, soon, his literary commitment freed him from these caricatures. Combining her taste for sagas and historical stories, with a rigor that establishes her credibility, Ysabelle Lacamp continues, from The Dragon’s Kiss (Lattès, 1986), popular successes, with The Sky Girl (Albin Michel, 1988), The Blue Elephant (Albin Michel, 1990), then The distant paradises (LGF, 1993) or Kimono Nights (LGF, 1996), all three co-written with Jean-Michel Galliand.
Soon, the Asian vein responds to the celebration of the paternal terroir. After the election of a sheepfold on a barren land, “where the valleys are no longer laughing and where the earth is harsh”, facing Mont Aigoual, in the Cévennes, it is at the family manor of Monoblet, near Anduze (Gard), that she retires to write. There, she reconnects with the harsh and terrible history of these lands, composing Cévennes, colors of the world (with the photographs of Jean du Boisberranger, Le Rouergue, 2003) after having evoked, in The Man Without a Gun (Seuil, 2002), the Resistance in the heart of these fighting Cévennes that his father had once chosen for his only novel, The Fires of Wrath (Gret, 1969, Renaudot Prize).
Ysabelle Lacamp likes to unite energies. In Lamalou-les-Bains (Hérault), it organizes a day for committed writers. This is where she invited, in 2011, Bruno Doucey and Murielle Szac, for whom she wrote two pleas in memory of those who resisted: the Huguenot Mary Durand. No to religious intolerance (Actes Sud, 2016), then the essential George Sand. No to prejudice (Actes Sud, 2019). And she collaborated for seven years, as literary director, in the adventure of the Roots of Heaven meetings, born in 2009, led by Mychèle Leca and now part of Ajaccian life at the Palais Fesch-Musée des beaux-arts.
In 2018, Ysabelle Lacamp returned to the novel with the superb Shadow among shadows (Bruno Doucey, 2018), which evokes the meeting at the Terezin camp, at the time of the liberation of the deportees, of the poet Robert Desnos, on the verge of death, and a young Czech Jew, Leo Radek. But it is on her Asian vein that Ysabelle Lacamp’s journey ends.
Driven by a generosity that leads her to constantly celebrate, with contagious enthusiasm, the work of others, she highlights “Eleven Korean Poets of Our Time” (It’s time for the world to grow, Bruno Doucey 2021). Preface shortly before the anthology of haikus and tankas evoking Hiroshima, Nagasaki and Fukushima established by Dominique Chipot (I can not believe itBruno Doucey, 2018), Ysabelle Lacamp invites us again, with poetry and sensuality: “Let us be guided by the intensity and brilliance of these haikus. Sometimes, in the night of our blindness, streaks of light…”
Ysabelle Lacamp in a few dates
November 7, 1954 Born in Neuilly-sur-Seine (Hauts-de-Seine)
1986 The Dragon’s Kiss (JCLattes)
2003 Cévennes, colors of the world (The Rouergue)
2012 Mary Durand. No to religious intolerance (South Acts)
2018 Shadow among shadows (Bruno Doucey)
June 26, 2023 Death in Paris