On the High Wire

I think I saw a notice that this is soon to be reissued, so became aware of its existence. Philippe Petit, translated from French by Paul Auster, muses poetically on his craft, genuflects towards the other greats in the field (Blondin who prepared an omelette on the wire, opened a bottle of champagne, took photographs of the crowd watching him cross the rapids at Niagara Falls; Madame Saqui who created frescoes while on a tightrope; Omankowsky), includes dozens of spectacular photos of people doing the impossible—walking on air on a wire high up without supports, includes historical depictions of high wire acts. He urges the reader on, tries to get us to take up this incredible sport, and his words apply across disciplines: “Eliminate cumbersome exercises. Keep those that transfigure you. Triumph by seeking out the most subtle difficulties. Reach victory through solitude.”

“In waiting to fall in this way, I have sometimes cursed the wire, but it has never made me afraid. I know, however, that one day, standing at the edge of the platform, this anguish will appear. One hideous day it will be waiting for me at the foot of the rope ladder. It will be useless for me to shake myself, to joke about it. The next day it will be in my dressing room as I am putting on my costume, and my hands will be wet with horror. Then it will join me in my sleep. I will be crushed a thousand times, rebounding in slow motion in a circus ring, absolutely weightless. When I wake up, it will be stuck to me, indelible, never to leave me again. And of that, I have a terrible fear.”