“The one who ate dinosaurs”, by Jean-Paul Gavard-Perret, Le littéraire

Dear friends, I responded quite freely in this interview to the questions of Jean-Paul Gavard-Perret for LeLitteraire.com.

What makes you get up in the morning ? Nothing. I live at night. Daytime is disappointing, it makes you feel lonely and inelegant. At nighttime, you know, everything is enveloped in a sort of prestige, even little things. The nocturnal style, soft and silent, eases my mind.

What became of your childhood dreams ? I had nightmares systematically, which my mother would wake me from by slapping me. It seems that I would scream while sitting in bed with my eyes closed. I never dreamed of anything in earnest, aside from a few sincere friendships and, later, a true love. I will let you imagine how disappointed I was.

What have you given up ? Apart from my children, nothing is really close to my heart, but I have this rule of constantly, artificially renewed youth which leads me now.

Where are you from ? I am the descendant of a prestigious, unconquerable line of men, a line which dates back to the caves of the Paleolithic era. We feasted on dinosaurs, slaughtered Englishmen by the hundreds, and soon we will sail beneath new suns beyond the Milky Way.

How have you been blessed ? I am stubborn.

What have you been forced to “ditch” for your work ? I have never changed my way of living. This one has always been mine. Moreover, you should never ditch anything. Make yourself so intolerable that you will be left, so useless you will be fired, and all the useless parts of existence will fall to the ground as if by magic, like a natural molt.

A small pleasure — everyday or otherwise ? A big, ice-cold glass of Coca-Cola, a joint of orange weed, a pirated film on the Internet, the manual operations of a Chinese masseuse, real profiteroles, the spectacle of busy, nasty people trying to please themselves while vomiting between each smile.

What distinguishes you from other artists ? Nothing much. But nothing distinguishes me from my butcher or a dancer at Crazy Horse, either. There is no difference between us Humans. We are all pink crabs without shells, very restless and rather pitiful.

What was the first image that called out to you aesthetically ? As I remember it, “The Shell” by Odilon Redon, on a postcard. I was eight years old. But maybe it was a piece of dog shit that overpowered me as a baby, without me being able to remember that far back.

And the first thing you read ? Every Cloud Has a Silver Lining, in the “Pink Collection,” a sappy little book, at fifteen. I learned to read very late. I have never been precocious in anything. What rotten luck! Americans have a saying about people like me that I cling to: “A late bloomer.”

Why the attraction to “erasure” ? I am very talkative. I speak and I laugh very loudly. I hate myself for being so forward, but it is too late in real life, my body drags me along, my habits decide everything for me, and I have given up by now on any great transformations. I try to restrain myself in my work, to shave something back, to play the reserved card on the canvas, without ever getting there. Everything I erase ends up underlined in another way.

What music do you listen to ? I cannot answer the music question here. Someday, I will write an entire book about music. Three geniuses’ names drawn on the fly to appease you : James Brown, Barbara, Couperin.

What book would you like to reread ? A Lover’s Discourse: Fragments by Roland Barthes. It is such an entertaining book.

What film makes you cry ? I do not cry. When I feel like whining, I flip something over or I fly into a rage. I leave tears to sensitive, tender men and modern little boys. The film that upsets me, I stop, and I speak of it to no one.

When you look at yourself in a mirror, what do you see ? Physically, a complete stranger. I live in a body that is not mine. I think that people imagine that I am a lighthearted person. I have a strong build. Once they know me a little, they realize their mistake. That gets me into fights with a lot of idiots.

To whom have you never dared to write ? It is not a problem of audacity; it is a question of strength. There are times when you shrivel up uncontrollably. That girl scares you too much with her big eyes, her long legs, and her delicacy. That guy will certainly be the snobby shithead he looks like at a distance and will not respond. That girl would have had to give me permission the night before to put my head on her chest in the taxi that we took together, and put me to sleep, without me asking her, but those things never happen. That girl and that guy would have had to respond in order for me to write something sincere to that guy. Everything is worn out. Who dares to write? Silence chills the human system and communicational mundanities fill that void. Why would I commit an indiscretion under those conditions ?

What city or place is mythic for you ? Montélimar. The nougat capital.

What artists do you feel closest to ? I do not really know what to tell you. I do not feel particularly close to any artist. I try to keep my distance as much as possible, and equally, from all artists I appreciate, like a prudent spider.

What would you like to get for your birthday ? A little pair of panties already worn by an elegant, playful, and vulnerable woman.

What do you fight for ? Everything that Cyrano de Bergerac fought for in his time. An invisible world, hushed sentiments, the notion of unselfish gestures.

What does this Lacan quote bring to mind : “Love is giving something that you do not have to someone who does not want it” ? The Love-Cupid question has already wasted too much of my life’s time, with rather weak results. I fell back on money worries and pure work. You can pity me, but whenever I see the lives of those who pity me, I always burst out laughing.

What do you think of this W. Allen quote : “The answer is yes, but what was the question” ? It needs to be modified for France: “The answer is no, but what was the question ?”

What question have I forgotten to ask you ? Too late. Tough luck.