Dany Laferriere





Mr. Dany LAFERRIÈRE, having been elected to the French Academy in the place left vacant by the death of Mr. Hector BIANCIOTTI, there came to take meeting Thursday, May 28, 2015, and delivered the following speech:


Ladies and gentlemen of the Academy,

Let me tells you my only encounter with Hector Bianciotti, the one I chair succeeds the number 2 of the French Academy. First a long digression - there will be others in this tale-like speech, but do not worry too much that old storyteller ruse, we will find ourselves with each clearing. This is Legba which allowed me to trace Hector Bianciotti disappeared before our eyes dazed summer 2012. Legba, the god of voodoo pantheon of which we see the silhouette in most of my novels. On the sword I wear today it is present by its Veve, a drawing associated with it. Legba This allows a mortal to pass the visible world to the invisible world, and then return to the visible world. It is the god of writers.

This December 12, 2013 I wanted to be in Haiti on this wounded earth, to hear the news of my election to the most prestigious literary institution in the world. I wanted to be in this country after a terrible war of France colonial slavery was then placed on the door while keeping his tongue. These warriors had nothing against a language that sometimes talked of revolution, often freedom. That day a man crossed Port-au-Prince, perhaps Legba, questioned me about immortality academicians. He seemed disappointed to be told that it is the language that transcends time and not the individual who speaks, but that this language only endure if it is spoken by a relatively large number of people. He left muttering: "Oh, always words ..." It is believed that in Haiti know things about death than other people do not. Death is there more mystical than mysterious.

Here one remembers Hector Bianciotti as a generous, elegant and cultured. Three qualifiers returning as soon as I learned somewhere between the French Academy. "At that chair? "" Hector Bianciotti. "" Ah, I is answered, you are lucky! It'll be easy to speak well. This is a good writer and a courteous man. "I hear these laudatory comments to Port-au-Prince, Brussels, Montreal and especially in Paris. Usually comes to such a ceremony to celebrate the newly elected, but many people are here tonight to hear what I have to say about Hector Bianciotti. I pass the exam?Instead of appearing before you, I would rather see the French writer from Argentina to understand this strange coincidence that brought us together on this chair.

* * *

As in a novel by Proust that he does not often called, preferring Alberto Savinio, but the great shadow extends his work can be seen in the incessant Bianciotti memory exercise where the details accumulate and analyzes are scrambling to cover the sometimes intimate music that connects faces to landscapes. Half a dozen of themes recur almost every book father's farm, the monotonous pampa he drew closer to the classical sounds of the milonga local, a Fellini family, actually closer than Kusturica Fellini, with big shots like the grandmother who show a taste for cinema, always hurried departures, wandering in the big cities, returning with its procession of confused emotions, circular time calling these stunning rehearsals, all this looks like a child who refuses to get off the ride despite growing fear. His insatiable curiosity and keen sense of the details and report a feverish kind concerned. The unpredictable his use of the adjective in a sentence otherwise conventional recalls Borges.

It is this elegant man through and through who gave me an appointment at the Grand Splendid, a hotel that I thought luxurious but turns out "third class, as a benevolent name, but in reality if not the last at most-last order. " You can read this note in the Treaty seasons reminiscent, for the title at least, to one of these glossy magazines and perfumed paper which awards stars to hotels, cities, souvenirs, cloths, the screens, the flies, pink and even omissions. Bianciotti Imagine Hector publishes chronicles and the owner of the Grand Splendid does not make him pay the rent and meals hoping he would write an article that will restore luster to this hotel downgraded. There he is hiding since his disappearance of the Parisian landscape.

I find in the small library, sitting comfortably in a chair covered with plastic "of a chemical red." He interrupted his reading to greet me with a resigned smile. If I meet Hector Bianciotti today is to show him that unless a brighter successor there between us such strong ties that could justify such a choice. If the French team won the World Cup in 1998 is because his clairvoyant coach had favored a certain cohesion among the players in this collection of stars at his disposal. Bianciotti coming from Argentina, one of the great football countries, can not be offended by this comparison. I have a doubt because I just noticed that there is not a single football in all his work.The writer who can now read the thoughts of other splits a slightly relaxed smile as that with which he had welcomed me. Then he slowly settles on the small table Borges book he read about Buddhism when I arrived.

I would enter fully into my argument when I saw pass that figure recognizable by his swollen cheeks and weary look of a man who has weathered many storms. This is Oscar Wilde. The owner of the hotel follows the stairs with a tea set on a large pink cabaret. I look at this man prematurely aged by an unjust trial of manners to return to Bianciotti offering me sweet eyes and pure delicately placed on a bare face. So begins the evening with Mr. Bianciotti. If I have fallen behind in the presentations is that I am in the company of a man who has an infinite time, which is not the case, I will take into account.

It is undeniable that this chair number two that we share a destiny US. Borges, your favorite writer, and this for various reasons, bluntly describes the differences between America and Europe. In surveys he presents two writers poles apart. On one side Valéry, Valéry your beloved, let us say so admired because I do not know if we can love Valery, and on the other, Walt Whitman.For Borges, "Valery symbolizes infinite addresses, but also infinite scruples; Whitman, a vocation almost incoherent but titanic felicity; Valéry personifies gloriously the labyrinths of the mind;Whitman, the interjections of the body. Valery is a symbol of Europe and its delicate twilight;Whitman, the US morning. "If some points in this duel of personalities you seem excessive, I know you share with me this extravagant idea that a well-written text contains its own truth.

I pulled the chair to find number 2 next to great minds like Montesquieu some of Beauvoir Jean-François, Marquis Chastellux. This intellectual, friend of Voltaire, was also a man of a certain bravery that participated in the American War of Independence under the command of Rochambeau. Allow me to dwell a moment on the name of Rochambeau. If the father was the American War of Independence to the side of Washington and is known as the winner of Yorktown, if the father was thus on the safe side, the son was the worst executioner sent to Santo Domingo will become Haiti after the defeat of Napoleon's army in Vertières. It's him, François Donatien Rochambeau, who brought from Cuba dogs for hunting runaway slaves. Oh, dear Hector Bianciotti meet America and Europe was not always as civilized as the face-to-face Valéry and Whitman imagined by Borges. You, you tell, an elliptically course, the miserable condition of these Indians that eventually employ as laborers on their own land. This one has only to see violence so heavily present in the daily lives of small farmers sometimes from Piedmont to imagine the fate of the first inhabitants of this land.

I do not know if you've been lulled, child, as I was in Haiti by the wars of liberation, and if Bolivar counted for you as it has meant to me. If so, know that he spent three months in Haiti, from 24 December 1815 to 31 March 1816. Exhausted and defeated, he sought help from the General Petion, then president of the young Haitian republic. Haiti was the only country in America to understand such passion for freedom. After his stay Petion provides him a boat, men and weapons. In return he asked him to free the slaves of the conquered countries on behalf of Haiti.These stories have fed my imagination, and every time I meet a South American, my first instinct is whether it is aware of this episode. You do peep in your work, preferring the family history to national history - a view that I share with you. Perhaps because life was too hard for those Piedmontese farmers so that they are concerned about any national sentiment. Besides these ideological notions annoy you unless it is the populism of Peron and his wife Eva you shot portraits of a jubilant ferocity.

I wonder if Dumas counted for you, and it lit up your childhood as it did to mine. If I speak of Dumas is because it has also held that chair. Even if it was not for the Dumas Three Musketeersbut his son, the author of La Dame aux Camelias . Anyway Dumas have deep roots in Haiti since it's a "nigger" as the name of the time, which gave birth to General Dumas, the grandfather of our friend Alexandre Dumas son. I must emphasize that the name does not come from Dumas father, the Marquis de La Pailleterie, but the mother, a young slave named Marie Louise Césette Dumas.These Dumas have the bright blood of these musketeers who dared confront our Founder Cardinal Richelieu. Child, I was the side of d'Artagnan, now I fall behind the Cardinal. Time plays us of these towers.

I add that Montesquieu, with its critical and ironic comments on slavery, could easily end up in an American history textbook, since slavery is the basis of prosperity of this continent. This chair is the seat of so many adventures related to the America that I will not be surprised if one day become the American chair of the Academy.

* * *

Ah, childhood, she keeps coming as in many writers, but in your memory it takes an epic dimension. Your descriptions are so terrifying they make me regret my childhood bright beneath a serene grandmother. You fluff in this disturbing work a litany of woes: a dry land, a taciturn and violent father and a mother constantly seeking a place to shelter from the wrath of her husband.She had only to get pregnant because the father was sensitive to the idea of increasing the workforce. In this ceaseless carnival paraded the float of the grandmother. At that veiled look we feel everything this woman mean to you: first resistance to your father, which earned him a being queen in exile. The grandmother, as innocent in his wickedness that pest, saved you from trouble while offering your best character. His many races in the sometimes muddy pampas in search of more hospitable farms where his other son could host it after a dramatic break with your father. I wonder if this larger than life was not a loving attempt to get closer to the South American literature in your eyes too colorful. Because your grandmother could easily find in the novels of Garcia Marquez. Your other characters are required, not by images but by that classic style that makes you a French writer, and this before you have thought of writing a French novel. I must say that differently from other South American countries, Argentina is still putting in the wake of a sober Europe to the imagination restrained by scholarship and analysis. Ah! that childhood, you have heard so much each time adding new details. You described, in different lights, each room, each piece of furniture, every face. The exiles do it to make towards the end, when all is darkened, they can find the way back.

* * *

You guessed right away, dear Hector Bianciotti that the brutal world of the peasantry organized by labor and violence was not yours. And you had to constantly leave. In this you are like so many young people. The scene of departure, except that it is moving, tells us nothing new about the characters. They are around a table. The mother, head down, looking at the father. The father, leaving a large notebook in which he noted everything you need it, you swear to pay your debts.You are there, stunned by so much pettiness. I know it ends up looking like the one we hate, especially toward the end. You finally hit the road, relieved, knowing that you will never return to this remote village where you lived a childhood so sad. You did not know yet that does not leave his childhood. And the trip only makes sense with the return. We know you feel hungry, you have seen, in the pampas, kiss the ground, the trees like animals. And a farm boy, Florencio. Your mother seemed helpless before such a frenzy. These pages about the birth of desire seem to me the best of your work.

These years will be decisive, as they say, as you discover together the literature, girls, boys, poverty, freedom and politics. It betrays his friends and family for money or to avoid prison. All these young people around you in Cordoba and Buenos Aires trafiquent with power. They are both angels and demons. One of them will betray you and save you by allowing you to take the boat to Europe. At what point did you realize that all these hurtful stories, all these failures in love, all these rebuffs, these humiliations were the seeds of a work to come? When have you felt that the harsh conditions in which you live are the source of this elegance that impresses these aristocrats crossed on your way? To this millennium ease haves opposite you with incomparable grace, by all accounts, your poor universe material goods but rich in nuances. With this special gift for writing, it seems that books have flourished at your fingertips ... Your smile faded told me it did not happened. Conquering Paris is easy for anybody if I believe Balzac, let alone a young Argentine came from the depths of the pampas.

In What the night tells to the day you confess something that touched me deeply because I felt you bare that time. Good use of writing you notice with lucidity "violence that continues to inhabit me and discipline currently handling of the pen." This man was affable that you are so steeped in violence. One would think that you were holding your mother this mastery of feelings and this flow of the narrative. This is true but it was calm in appearance as it is the bitterness of the father who irrigate your sentences. You never embroider when it comes to him, you go live. It's his face contorted always looming in the background work.

* * *

The owner, who seems aware of your habits, we just brought the coffee that time. You welcome with that smile behind which you hide so often. She filled our cups and makes you a nod as if to remind you that it is still awaiting this article appreciative customer who will return part elsewhere. I see you, with some pleasure, a slight taste of kitsch that emerged from your first novel The golden deserts as yet severe Maurice Nadeau wanted to edit. Your literature already gave off a strong seduction based on this uneven mix of femininity and masculinity. I imagine you at the time, lying on a couch in a narrow room to stick the stars to your favorite authors. A passion in words, I read because I wanted to visit your personal library, confirms to me that you are one of those rare writers who prefer to read a good book rather than write a bad. I still believe the library is the true home of a writer. The seat of the first emotions of the one who looks at the world through the window. I notice you brought here a few of your favorite books. I guess we travel light when going so far even if it takes the appearance of a small third-rate hotel in the heart of Paris. I'm not fooled by all this theater as not to hear the sound of customers who up the stairs to the bedrooms, or go see this man who looks too much like Alberto Savinio not be.

Suddenly I want to look at the books in me remembering what you say of their authors. On Borges, you told with youthful gaiety, I remember this walk in Paris. You stopped for lunch, and at the end of the meal when we brought the fruit basket, Borges dismissed mangoes to choose the bunch of grapes, "I do not like modern fruit," he made. Adolfo Bioy Casares, a man full of fantasy, you wrote that he "hoped to succeed one day a book of an undefined kind, which would collect thoughts, fragments that would be primarily a friendly book. A book you add that individual travelers would find their trips randomly, in a hotel room. " Here Victoria Ocampo. You wear a special affection for him have shaped the contemporary Argentine literature by bringing together around the magazine on writers such different temperaments and talents if shimmering. In his passionate correspondence with Victoria Ocampo, unveils the Roger Caillois: "You are a savage.Your sweetness itself is a wild animal gently. "This oxymoron fits like a glove, dear Hector Bianciotti. You never let yourself throw your partner as you do not want to embarrass him. Sabato says that it is currently writing a short book. "An autobiographical account? "You ask him. "Oh, you he meets, every work is autobiographical; a Van Gogh tree is the portrait of his soul. "This is my opinion because I feel you as in your novels in your essays. And of course, at the end of the radius, your dear Alberto Savinio with whom you have never stopped talking. About him you murmur, "It is his voice that keeps us right in his inexhaustible fantasy, his erudition, his humor, the art of the paradox that handles like no other, and wisdom , its old, its ancient wisdom, the wisdom of a Greek arrived too late in this world ... "If I have done these many citations it is mainly to hear your music so personal, and this scholarship running on Ridge phrases - all backed by an inner fire constantly fed by painful memories.

* * *

How handsome you are, Hector, I wondered what was your relationship with your face. I speak from the portraits you saw in the media. Only once I have seen your face in motion. It was this issue of Apostrophes when you were Umberto Eco company. You wore a gray suit and a beautiful blue shirt. While wearing (you can feel that you do not often tousled hair), sparkling, shiny, you were in high spirits that night. Umberto Eco observed that writing, whatever the subject, eventually serve as a mirror. And following our report with the mirror we seducer or seduced. I imagine seduces you rather than trying to seduce. You seem quick to love even if reciprocity is not ensured. You, I saw in the television show, a way to reach your face to your partner as if to say that you have nothing else to offer. You love to please, and if you are too broke to buy a bunch of flowers is your energy or your soul you offer.

You have the nostalgia of the house of God. The God of the mother because the father is a disbeliever. You have found in the person of Fr. Benoît Lobet someone to discuss your doubts, himself warned some in reserve. Yet on the issue of faith you are a terrifying gravity. We believed you even fundamentalist, when you are just honest. If you like the ritual because they allow the emotion to cross centuries without losing its strength or freshness. Between the love of the mother and the harsh law of the father seemed obvious choice, but a furtive smile tells me you do not see things so categorical.

* * *

At the heart of your aesthetic, this idea of beauty that dates back to the farm. You have been struck by the photo of a lady dressed in red in the catalog of one of your aunts. There is always in these remote corners of the world where life is meaningful only through work, a being who is passionate about useless. This aunt seemed to live only for the catalogs she received in the mail.During the heavy hours of the afternoon, she flipped. One day, standing near her, you noticed the lady in red. More than the lady herself is the emotion she caused in you that has withstood time.You were there the day your father lashed to this strange way of life by tearing all catalogs before throwing them into the fire. You saw, horrified and unable to move, the flames reach the lady in red. If literature can not save the beauty of the flames, she does not deserve all the sacrifices we made for her. This says much the helplessness of the child against the power. And since you cabrez before any authority.

The other event that has touched you deep is of course the death of your sister. Is it true? Still, the emotion is there, before our eyes. You sister was a seamstress and your writing is approaching this art. Sometimes you embroider until the baroque, but not there. Before death you become sober suddenly tremble as you discover the fragility of this triad that supported family building: the courageous mother, father-thunder and fantasy mate. Remove the fantasy and everything collapses. The father is bleeding to death as meaningless.

Later, the father dies. And, like me, you learn his death by phone. This is the fate of the exiles. You write: "When you told me on the phone the father's death, I had imagined a cemetery in disorder."We think of all road traveled to get away from the father, and now he must take the road in the opposite direction. I have not experienced the hatred of the father, I experienced his absence, and the shock it did to my mother.

Yet you have experienced extreme deprivation periods in your debut in Rome and Paris.Situations so agonizing financially than you were right to let you go, but that taste of elegance always kept you among the living. Returning from a literary conversation in a salon in Paris or Rome, where you have a long discussion of Valéry or Tomasi di Lampedusa Giuseppe, you take the trouble, before bed, wash the only shirt you owned for put to dry in the little room where you stay. Your childhood was so rough that you disgusted manual labor.

* * *

Dear Hector Bianciotti, this rage so buried in you but whose traces are evident in your stories reminds me of Haitian poet Edmond Laforest. He was born in 1876 and died in 1915 in Jeremie, Haiti known in the city of poets. It is a country where one has to justify his life by publishing at least one book of poems. Laforest was to Jeremiah when the Americans landed in July 1915. In protest against such aggression, he drowned in his pool with a dictionary Larousse neck. If Laforest died resisting dandy, you put a lot of style in your life and also in your writing. For anyone else it would be too much, but at home we feel such a deep sincerity that she ends up seducing the reader, and all those who approach you. Honesty even in the artificial attitude - remember me Cocteau sometimes. Like the opera, you love Italy, browsing the museums, but you never forget that behind the old family farm found this little cemetery that your father once described as "cross pens." This brutal metaphor in his way or form has never left you.

Arriving at the hotel I noticed the reception desk of your two titles among the most beautiful:Love is not loved and The Not so slow love . Photographs of stars of telenovela pinned everywhere make me fear that the owner, the woman "obese, inquisitorial and fair" according to a note scribbled in pencil in one of your books, is expected to read romance novels in rose water. This is the kind of misunderstanding amusing. I was told here and there with your humor, your playful spirit, that we see too rarely in your work. In the photos: sometimes stuffy, always serious, you give the impression of a sad man to those who do not know you or have you not known at the right time. In a resounding article by Claude Roy where he qualifies you for "elegant vagabond", he also noticed in your pride so great that it prevents you from yelling - I quote "so great is the pain that grips you."

You tap your energy to two different sources: the aforementioned pride and ambition to master French better than anyone. You hesitate until one day your alter ego Angelo Rinaldi convince you to write in French that novel you carry within you for so long: Without the mercy of Christ. All your subjects are there again present, although This time the narrator is not looking directly at the camera, hiding behind some Marèse Adelaide. The course is no different, except for Strasbourg-Saint-Denis, the Paris street where lives Marèse Adelaide. The goal this time is twofold: a French novel and a great novel. It appeared in 1985, when I published How to make love to a negro without getting tired . These two books, at least by their titles, are clearly not intended for the same audience. But the Association of the Blind of Montreal asks me to read that year Without the mercy of Christ for his audience. It was the first time I launched into such an adventure. It was also the first time my name touched yours. After this speech, we do leave more.

* * *

You come back often, dear Hector Bianciotti, on this first metaphor heard your father's mouth. I recall once again the scene who founded your sensitivity and somehow your spirituality. You are with your father in the garden when it shows the small cemetery designated as the "Cross pen" while adding that it is here, in this life, everything goes and it n ' there is nothing else after. The image is rough but it is also powerful because you lived so long. It is not far from the Villon Ballad of the Hanged, although far from the Prayer to Our Lady .

"The rain has washed us and débués And the sun dried and blackened. Magpies and crows us with hollow eyes, And torn beard and eyebrows. "

Your father has been as close as you are Villon Valéry.

I would like to present a strong man who does not fear death, but cry for love. Its language is closer to your father than you. It is a rough tongue that was once one of the kings of France. His name is Gaston Miron. You are the two faces of the same coin America. You are the one who is gone, he is the one who stayed. Here is his poem Companion of the Americas  :

"Québec my land my land bitter almond My breath homeland in the tuft wind I thee difficult and poignant presence with a large wound to the front space in a living reeds agony face I speak with words Knotty our endurance We thirst of all waters of the world We are hungry all the lands of the world in the auction of freedom debris jam Our position lights come on out to sea The grandmother prayer to our fingers faltering La shiny poverty as irons our ankles. "


By listening to the poet I see your father, your mother weeding this arid land and the cohort of agricultural employees. Moreover he finished saluting them:

"Hi to you my poetry territory Hi men and women Fathers and mothers of the adventure. "

You left them to be able to greet your European way. In the refined language of those who expelled them from Europe. You became a celebrity in Argentina because you are known in France. But you are sad, and it is with this feeling that you wrote your most beautiful pages. Those of the death of your sister or sister of the narrator, is the same, those about the tenderness of your mother, especially those on your father so different from you early and so like you in the end.

* * *

We each have dreamed of this return to finally write a book on this topic. Yours is, in fact, all your work. René Depestre, who lives in Lezignan-Corbieres for years, says his writing table overlooking Jacmel, his birthplace. Émile Ollivier, who spent much of his life in Montreal, Quebec says it is day and Haitian night. It is a strange animal that lives outside its native land. His exile status allows him to weave a literature that is not quite over there, neither quite here, and that's where all his interest. If your themes are Argentine, your style is French. One of the most significant contributions of exile in literature, it is the concept of the return. All the more interesting that it is impossible in reality. The starting point is not returning because the movement is constant. These exile writers have given new meaning to the word travel.

You have learned so much in this life so rich in various adventures, and without seeking to avoid traps as you are fearless. But an unknown feeling awaits around the corner: the nostalgia of the homeland. We never thought that this world so brutal you miss one day. Many South American writers you had opened the way to Paris. You have followed in their footsteps, as if it were a migratory flock. You became the chronicler of their wanderings. Whenever one of them publishes a book, you present it immediately to your readers. Some became friends, because "friendship is a South American passion." Borges, of course, but also Ocampo sisters, Macedonio Fernandez to his death, the Uruguayan Felisberto Hernandez and Juan Carlos Onetti, Clarice Lispector Brazilian, universal Argentine Alberto Manguel, the Mexican Octavio Paz, Ernesto Sabato, the other blind Buenos Aires, the Cuban Severo Sarduy, and anyone, much less known, you have helped to make their first steps in this Paris that requires to succeed in the appetite of a Rastignac. They have not all made the trip, but they all dreamed. Not to sink into depression, if it were possible to avoid it, we need something other than ambition, perhaps this human warmth which is called affection. So here Leonor Fini and his many cats, especially Silvia Baron Supervielle.