It is already four years ago on 7th January 2015 that the terrorist attack on the satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo took place. This tragic event touched the whole nation, there was a huge and peaceful walk the following Sunday in Paris. You may remember the slogan which was everywhere: JE SUIS CHARLIE

Eleven cartoonists, journalists died in the attack, among them were Bernard Maris, Cabu, Wolinksi, Honoré, Tignous, Charb; and four were injured.

Philippe Lançon, journalist, received the worst injuries, the bottom part of his face was completely destroyed and his arms were very damaged. He spent ten months in hospital and undertook seventeen operations. The more complicated ones were to rebuild his face.

While in hospital he carried on writing for Charlie Hebdo and Libération every week, giving an account of what he was going through. He had to write on a slate with a pencil attached to three of his fingers.

He eventually wrote a book about the attack, his time in hospital, the devotion of the medical teams who reconstructed parts of his body, about his friends and relatives who supported him all along and his long fight to rebuild his life. The book called Le Lambeau came out at the beginning of the Autumn, it received a prestigious prize, le prix Femina.

« Je ne souffrais pas, j’étais la souffrance » « Ma mâchoire inférieure ayant disparu, on avait greffé à la place mon péroné droit, accompagné d’une veine et d’un bout de peau de jambe qui, sous le nom de palette, me tenait lieu de menton ».

This piece of skin to reconstruct his chin is called une palette but also un lambeau d’épidermique ( a sheet of epidermis), hence the title of the book.

Here is what Philippe Lançon recalls about the morning before the attack and his plans for that day:

“ Je me suis réveillé dans les plis quotidiens de l’extase ….. j’avais bien dormi et j’allais me lever, boire ce café, faire un peu de gymnastique, me doucher, me parfumer….. après être passé à Charlie…. »

After the horrors of the attack, he is in hospital with a policeman protecting him 24 hours a day:

“ Il me faut donc commencer par avouer que, malgré les souffrances, les angoisses et les cauchemars, les attentes, les déceptions, les visions de mes plaies, l’enchaînement des blocs, la sensation de ne plus avoir aucun avenir en dehors de la chambre, j’ai éprouvé un certain bonheur à résider ici sans téléphone, sans télévision, presque sans radio, sous surveillance policière permanente …….. Le sens du combat s’était simplifié. »

He goes back home for the first time and just for a visit in April 2015:

Le dimanche 19 avril dans l’après-midi, je suis pour la première fois retourné dans mon appartement. C’était une visite simple. Je n’en avais aucune envie. J’avais peur. Il a fallu m’y préparer.

When Philippe comments about the lack of feeling in his reconstructed jaw, around the lips and the chin, his surgeon Chloé replies:

C’est normal, vous êtes un mutilé ! »

Here is what Paris Match writes about this book:

« Récit bouleversant d’un revenant, héros malgré lui d’un drame national qui appartient à tous, « Le lambeau » ne se raconte pas. Il se lit. »

I hope you may feel you want to have a go at reading it.