Los Angeles Review of Books | Mapping the Wander Lines: The Quiet Revelations of Fernand Deligny

By Leon Hilton
Los Angeles Review of Books

FERNAND DELIGNY found many ways of describing himself: primordial communist, nonviolent guerrilla, weaver of networks, cartographer of wandering lines. A visionary but marginalized figure often associated with the alternative and anti-psychiatry movements that emerged in the decades after World War II, Deligny (1913–1996) remains difficult to categorize — an enigmatic sage. Beginning in the 1950s, Deligny conducted a series of collectively run residential programs — he called them “attempts” (or tentatives, in French) — for children and adolescents with autism and other disabilities who would have otherwise spent their lives institutionalized in state-run psychiatric asylums. After settling outside of Monoblet in the shadow of the Cévennes Mountains in southern France, Deligny and his collaborators developed novel methods for living and working with young people determined to be “outside of speech” (hors de parole).

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