A huge thank you to Mr Jean Rochefort for his kindness and patience.
Jean Rochefort is a huge and famous french actor, winner of the Cesar Award.
If I tell you pen holder, purple ink, downstrokes and upstrokes, what does it mean for you ?
It calls up school memories. The purple ink evokes a taboo since we were only allowed to use black ink ; the red ink represented a kind of playful magic. We had to make downstrokes and upstrokes with evenness, and this meant hours of laborious work to achieve our exercises.
Would you say that this child memory is nice and playful, or rather fastidious ?
Like most of the people who chose fiction as their activity, schooling was painful for me. But since my father thought highly of a nice writing (he himself had a beautiful one) and had a great feeling for it, I was indeed attracted by calligraphy, pen holders and nib pens. So, writing is rather a pleasure for me.
Is writing a thread, a transmission from your father ?
No, may be not, but he’s always impressed me when he was writing impeccable letters, very neat, without any crossing out, even at an old age, and yes, I was indeed sensitive to this.
Do you remember your first pen, and on which occasion you received it ?
No, I don’t remember it. But I recall another thing that I would like to tell you. We are in 1942 or 1943. I really liked pens and one morning, one of my school mates shows me a pen that I find absolutely gorgeous. I was taken by jealousy, most probably, and we start arguing during the courses. He was Jewish, we were in the middle of World War II, and irritated, having run out of arguments, I called him a « dirty Jewish ». Children and adults, we were not all heroes by that time, as History told us, and there was in France a moneyed anti-Semistism. I was 12 or 13; did I realize what I said, I’m not sure, but the next day, the child’s mother came after school and she gave me a hell of a slap right in the middle of the street, something I strongly reproved by that time. But this memory then became in my life the very image of courage and braveness from this woman, as well as her wish to have her child respected regarding his confession. Thinking back on it all, it was an admirable act. And all this for a nice colour pen with I think a golden nib that had literally fascinated me. The courage of this woman has always been in my mind and it later gave rise to my admiration.
Today, what is your relation with writing ?
I keep a strong link with it because I’m still forever fond of it. I enjoy writing to friends, sending them my friendship through writing. I don’t master the modern means of communication, and I don’t really wish to. I keep a taste for a nice envelop, nice writing pad, and I use one of my Rotring pens. I have three of them, with different nib’s sizes. Being a passeist, I also hold a small collection of Sergent Major and other types of nibs as well as a pen holder that I don’t really use anymore, but they are always on my desk.
Were you offered the three pens you use to write ?
No, I bought them myself. I was impressed by a friends’ Rotring pens as they really gave me a great pleasure in writing. I recall the shop, where I tried the three of them. I was immediately seduced by the nib that was giving the thickest and the biggest writing. Since I would not spend a fortune in buying them, I chose to go back home with a large set of possibilities
Do you like one in particular ?
Yes, the one with the thickest writing; I’ve had it for a long time and I am particularly fond of it. I would never write a letter by another mean. I write with the biggest nib and this makes me appear more masculine; I think I owe it a few successes with women.
What ink to you use ?
Waterman ink. My wife recently rebuked me because I wanted to use blue ink and she told me that one should use black ink. Since we have a certain age gap, I immediately obeyed, but I have to watch myself. I should have protested, I really felt like writing with blue ink. I might use purple ink from time to time, hypocritically.
Do you sometimes change the colour of your ink according to the addressee ?
No, or else I should consult my doctor.
What is your nicest recent memory about writing ?
It was a few days ago. A specialist newspaper had asked me to write about the horse world that I enjoy a lot. I beat about the bush for a while, then I forgot. I was chased up again but had no more ink cartridge in my pen. I went to see my daughter who had some and then to my great stupefaction, I wrote two pages very quickly, of which I thought I should not be ashamed. I think I was beating about the bush because I could not use my favourite pen. I don’t mean that I was not inspired just because of this, but yet as soon as I could use it, I wrote the paper in 15 minutes.
Would you say that the pleasure of writing is the same as the one you have in the company of horses ?
They are two different pleasures. In the contact with horses, there is some sensuality, delightfully primal and physiological, while writing is for me a purely cerebral pleasure. The pen, the writing, is intellectual, a pleasure of the mind, a nostalgia that relates me to my childhood, my father’s writing that I envied, and still do.
Are there any moments where writing and cinema meet up ?
I have to write because when I read a script and get an idea, thinking of a scene that is not fully accomplished or dialogues that are not satisfying, my notes in the margin must absolutely remind me of what I thought in case I get another idea later on. I do have to write it down because a memory, an idea, is like a small cloud passing though the cortex and you must write it down on the paper. If I have been interested by a script right from the first reading, I never read it again without writing in the margin my feelings about some possible improvements.
To my knowledge, you have not written any book ?
Indeed, I resist to write my memoirs, since I find them totally useless, even though the editors, who get a fortune from this type of books, increasingly pester the life out of me for that. What I have in mind, rather, is to edit the correspondences I would have with a younger man. A correspondence book, the parallel between a seventy years old homo sapiens and a thirty years old homo sapiens.
What do you think of what the coach Pierre Blanc-Sanhoun wrote about writing : « to write is to lay a wave towards the reconstruction of an identity word that talks about our intentions ».
I would say it is also that, but not only.
He says that it is also a re-investment of the ludic dimension. I have a feeling that playing is important in your life ?
I think it is a real therapy.
If I ask you to write a few words that my children who are 4 and 6 would discover once they get adult, what would you choose ?
Curiosity, enthusiasm, the Others, humour, passion.
Do you keep in a secret drawer a letter, a word or a written message that you sometimes read again and, like the « Madeleine de Proust », rekindles some emotions ?
The only think I’ve been keeping for about 20-25 years now is a letter that I never opened. It is the last letter that my father sent me, in which I know he condemns and blames the affair I had by that time. I never wanted to read it, and the letter is not open yet.