My Life is a Novel

Shusha Guppy

Shusha (in the photo with sailor Alain Bombard and myself, at the Villeneuve/Lot Book Fair) is a singer with a very pure voice, born in Persia (she has written her memoires) and I knew her when I was writing Droit d’Asiles en Union Soviétique (« The Right of Asylums in the Soviet Union ») : she dedicated one of her most moving songs to dissident Natalia Gorbanevskaïa who was sent to a mental hospital merely for being one of the six demonstrators against the invasion of Czechoslovakia by the Soviet troops, at Red Square, on the 25th of August 1968. Once more (it has already appeared in my book) I transcribe here the superb words of Shusha’s song, so well interpretated by Joan Baez and, then, by Shusha herself :

Weaver of words, who lives alone, in fear and sorrow,
Where is the world that set you free perhaps to-morrow?
Where is the earth, where is the sky, where is the light
You long for ?
What hope have you where you are now,
Natalia Gorbanevskaïa?

Inside the ward, naked and cruel, where life is stolen
From those who try to stay alife and still be human
Where are the friends, where are the men, who among them
Can defend you?
Where is the child you never see,
Natalia Gorbanevskaïa?

What is there left, behind the door, that never opens?
Are you insane, as they say you are, or just forsaken?
re you still there, do you still care, or are you lost for ever?
I know this song, you’ll never hear,
Natalia Gorbanevskaïa?

Alan Horowitz

Through Christa Fuller I met Alan, co-producer of the Godfather who became then vice-president at MGM for TV. Thanks to him, for fifteen years or more, I have seen Hollywood life from a less usual angle, I dined in Ma maison, met well-known stars (such as one typical dinner with Mitchum and Burton at which we drank an unbelievable number of strawberry daiquiris. Alan and I shared a sense of life and art and he was very faithful with our appointments « at same hour, next year », each time I went to Los Angeles.

Amir Abbas Hoveyda

I met Hoveyda at the Ball of the Petits Lits Blancs, just after the Anniversary Feasts of the celebration of the Persian Empirees , in 1971. We talked half the night long, we danced together, and whatever political grievance one could hold against him, I have the memory of somebody witty, courteous, sad (he felt, indeed, that nobody was listening to him anymore and that the thunderstorm had finally broken), an orchid always on his lapel. So, when Sadek Godzabeh, for a while the secular hand of Imam Khomeiny, invited me to do an interview with him in jail, I refused. I didn’t want to see Hoveyda with guns behind, scared, one foot in the grave.

Eugène Ionesco

Ionesco, the well-known playwright and inventor (with Beckett) of the theatre of the absurd, was the father of my schoolmate at the Lycée Molière Marie-France. I sent him, through her, my first theatre play (and the only one I ever wrote) called Judas. He answered me with a very nice letter encouraging me to write. Then, I saw him at a dinner in the house of the painter Byzanthios and, later, in 1977, he accepted my invitation to write the introduction to my book on Droit d’asiles en Union Soviétique (“The Right of Asylums in the Soviet Union”). I saw again recently the Cantatrice Chauve (“The Bald Primadonna”) and La Leçon (“The Lesson”), masterpieces of the absurd, and love very much his Rhinoceros, a devastating play against totalitarianism.

Micha et Mila Jivantchevitch

I am rarely consumed with remorse, but Micha and Mila give me one of the occasions. Indeed, I lived in their flat, when I was in Belgrade for a book that I was writing for Balland Publishing Cy (which was never published because the collection was withdrawn). It was an extraordinary experience of investigation in a country where one could see the remaining traces of the past Empires which had been part of it through the centuries: Slovenia, so near to Austria, with on its main public square the statue of a great poet… whom we don’t know because he wrote in Slovene. Croatia, where I went with writer of children’s books, Pero Zlatar, on tour in the schools. Montenegro where I was almost in love. Bosnia, with its rapidly changing pattern of population. And, set apart for its Greek roots and its poverty, sparse Macedonia, the country of Alexander the Great. When I was in Belgrade, I slept in the poetic flat, adorned with modern tasteful paintings, of Micha Djivantchevitch (writer and son of a lawyer who knew my father) and his gracious wife, Mila. We exchanged letters, and then, we have been separated by time and space. When war broke out, because of my foolish denial of misfortune and tragedy, of which I would not have thought myself capable, I never sent a single sign or even a cigar, though I thought about it almost daily ! Because, deeply, remembering the anti-Nazi past and the culture shared with Serbians, I felt quite near to the people shelled in their cellars, and whom, in Kosovo, some barbarians force to swallow burning firecrackers to have the mouth blown off in the explosion. Of course one knows it probably happened to the other side, but to the Serbians too . . .

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