Lila Hervé-Gruyer, the book’s editor at Editions Ulmer wrote the story of how she found the book, which she sent to me translated into English (below). It will be included in the finished book, in French, of course.
How Living on the Earth became Vivre sur la Terre…
The story of this book is magical. For several years, I have dreamed of getting my hands on this mysterious book, but second-hand copies are sold at a high price on the Internet. One day, I came across a website that sold the Spanish version. When I received it, I was moved.
Alicia’s drawings and words resonate very strongly with me. This 19 year old hippie embodies a freedom, a simplicity and a carefree attitude that we miss today. An almost dreamed life, a total commitment. Alicia proposes to live like a flowing river or a growing tree. To live in the middle of nature, in community, out of the consumer society and far from capitalism.
50 years after the first edition of Living on the Earth, the biosphere is enoxerably degrading and anxiety is rising, even faster than the ocean level. Alicia reminds us that ecological movements are not new. Today too often derided, the hippies had the courage to question the very foundations of a capitalist society. It does a lot of good to delve into their legacy, full of struggles and inventiveness. Reading Alicia, the answer is here, almost obvious, in front of our eyes. I am convinced that living on love alone is not naive, but one of the possible solutions to face this ecological crisis. A fair, beautiful, desirable, joyful and fun path.
One day, I bring this treasure to the office, to share with my colleagues. This hippie bible is a literary UFO! A bestseller that has gone around the world, translated into Japanese, Korean, Spanish… And sold more than 350,000 copies for the American version.
We bet with Emmanuelle and Antoine, Ulmer’s managers, that it could work. I contacted Alicia who quickly told me that the book would be published in English to celebrate its 50th birthday! What a happy coincidence, life is well done. Virginie started translating and Alicia agreed to rewrite everything by hand in French, a language she does not speak. Once the translation is finalized, Alicia starts writing, courageously. She spends more than 6 days on some pages. Until she injures her hand and the project comes to a halt.
That’s where Harmonie the aptly named comes in. I was working with this potter-designer-artist on another book. I had shown her Alicia’s book and she too had fallen in love with it. She often asked me about the translation and I was disappointed to tell her that it wasn’t going well… Until I received a handwritten note from Harmonie: her handwriting looked like Alicia’s! So Harmonie started to rewrite the book with a lot of enthusiasm. 248 pages later, Agathe proofreads, Camille prepares the files, it goes to the printer’s.
This is why you can now hold this precious book in your hands. The moving testimony of an emancipated young woman living as close to nature as possible, patiently rewritten to be as close as possible to the original. Because in 2022, we continue to have a great need for Peace and Love.
I wish you all to live closer to the flowers!
Lila, editor of the book.
And here is the note from artist Harmonie Begon, who beautifully hand-lettered Vivre sur la Terre after I had to stop a year ago, due to an injury to my right arm and shoulder.
When Lila told me about your book, I thought it was beautiful. When I got my hands on it, I thought it was sublime.
I have a special affection for notebooks and journals. I fill many of them, with words and drawings, like you.
Writing by hand each of your pages was an intense experience. For I did not only write, I read, I integrated, I almost lived these observations. I have traveled. I felt like leaving my desk a hundred times to cook, tinker, create, camp, repair, build. That’s the beauty of your book, it makes you want to live.
To live for real, to do with what we have. To be inventive, creative, to learn. To be outside. To take the time to do.
“This book is for those who would rather chop wood than work in an office to pay for gas and electricity.”
I find myself in these words, and I like to believe that we can still have this logic of things, that it is not too late.
I believe in the importance of passing on knowledge and skills, the importance of sharing, always, what has been shared with us, because nothing can compare to that feeling, the one that comes when you have accomplished something yourself, when you are capable. When you have been able to do it.
Thank you for your words, your poetry, and your music that lulled my long days of writing.