We find it after a long road. A narrow ribbon of bitumen that leaks out along the Doubs River, in the almost winter, busy skies of gray and low mist. He chosed to stop there, in a hollow of the Jura Franches-Montagnes, outside the village of Soubey. Out of everything. "I looked for a house the further away possible and I found it. This is the last farm in the last valley," he says without preamble. In work clothes, big sweater, hair in bush, Nicolas Barth is a loner who loves to talk. A kind of hermit prolix with a long history. His life is like a novel of initiation.
He is standing there in his kitchen where crackles a wood oven, pressed to tell his story. Where he comes from and how, after a brilliant law school education in Geneva, he arrived there. "At 21, I was ambitious. I wanted to win a maximum money. License in pocket, I saw my life like a highway, the lawyer's office, the villa, the Bugatti, a large salary at the end of the month. My the way was all mapped out."
Too well laid out. As he begins a linguistics stay in New York, an abyssal void is opening up in him. "At night, I thought to suicide and by day, I had career desires. I was lying from morning to night. It all fell apart at once."
From that point on, his life changed. He cast off, decided to go around the world on his own. "Since I didn't know who I was anymore, I started looking for my dream," he says, leaping from one foot on the other, his eyes gleaming. His dream started in Indonesia, where he spotted a lonely island, where he build a hut under coconut trees like Robinson Crusoe. "I found it between white sand and transparent water. I had my banana tree, I spent my days fishing while reading Homer's Iliad."
But the sand aphids got the better of her heavenly stay. He then embarked for India, decided to join a Buddhist monastery in the Himalayas. No money worries for the disciple of Gandhi, to whom a real estate investment ensures a regular income. He travels around, meditates, makes a pilgrimage around the Annapurna, buys himself a motorcycle, "a Norton who has been my wife for several years...".
Nicolas Barth gets lost in his thoughts. Suddenly he grabs a sheet of paper or a pencil and begins to trace his memories in broad strokes. Pushing the fat mine into the past, he wants to bring out all the details. He evokes encounters, faces, Krishna, "the god of joyful life", goes back in time by rubbing his hair, to his return to Switzerland after his father's death in 1986.
"At that point in my life, I had the dream of being a writer. I wanted to join the Zurich scene, but the success was not overwhelming. I think what I was writing was completely crazy." He laughs as he swallows a large glass of sage infusion. But the journey didn't end there. At the age of 27, he dreamed to be a painter in Amsterdam, then set off across Africa where he bought a horse, learned Arabic, before returning to Basel three years later "to overthrow the system". An anarchist punk with blue hairs, he spray-painted all the walls of the city with burning globes, and became a specialist in ecological activism. Like a desire to return to the earth. It was then, in 1992, that Nicolas Barth joined the shepherds of Froidevaux, trained in biodynamic agriculture and began to live by following the sheep, caravan and gas lamp. "I felt at home in this post-hippie community. I had an extremely simple ideal of life."
But then a new desire came through him: her name is Martina, a "magical, red-haired woman", with whom he marries. "I lived then my most illuminated dream. Together, we bought this farm in 1999 and our two sons were born there," he says. His gaze fogs up, he points to the cows with their calves, which graze just under the window. A rose bush still in flower clings to the doorway, the garden, entirely organic, sleeps under the frost.
"Rural life is very hard. The days are punctuated by the animals who must be fed morning and evening. I'm always up at six o'clock like the great wise men who get up with the sun." The eternal nomad seems to have stopped. Still. Even though he became a sedentary, dreams keep him moving. What's next? "I would like to turn this farm into an ecological hub, where people from all over Europe come to meet and exchange ideas to transform our society, to organize the urban exodus. Yes, it would be my last dream, that of a paradisiacal humanity... But we need a total change, to be able to capture the light within ourselves, to find the courage to dare to hope."
In the corner of the kitchen is an immense wooden Buddha, which he sculpts in his own time. A little like the palace of the Horse Factor, its interior transpires the imagination: ceiling transformed into a blue sky with suns, some flowers painted at the bottom of a wall. Here, an ear drawn, there a tap in the shape of a mouth, sentences written in gold letters... The scattered dishes do not seem to bother a white cat sleeping in a cardboard box. His life is nothing less than a succession of dreams he has realized. And where he ended up living.
At the age of 59, Nicolas Barth is thinking of renting out his land. Finishing the construction of a large hall, for the moment open to the four winds, with the idea of turning it into a "feel-good yoga" center. "I had the chance, a huge chance. I got everything I wanted. I live by a river and I decide everything. Have I found out who I am? Divine energy, just like everyone else."
Patricia Brambilla for Migros Magazine 9.12.2019