We will no longer hear the laughter and bursts of humor from the man who made Jean Paulhan's quip his own:
Provided that I arrive until there!
We will no longer see the apartment in rue Saint-Lazare where we listened to him for hours, near the old phonograph, a memory of the days of the 78 rpm records, when he wrote songs for Luis Mariano.
The writer, theater man and academician René de Obaldia died Thursday at the age of 103.
Read alsoThe wonderful country of René de Obaldia
He often spoke to us of the horror of this stalag in Silesia where he had spent four years during the war, of Clara Malraux who had accompanied him in his first steps as an author, of his friend the composer Olivier Messiaen whose funeral oration at the Church of the Trinity, the success of his many plays, in short his long life which he had romanticized in his
(Proust Prize and November Prize in 1993).
It was from his mouth that I had first heard of Louis de Gonzague Frick, an eccentric poet who had written
Le Calamiste alizé
and taken the young Robert Desnos under his wing.
The man was exquisite, agelessly polite, but could be extremely biting and caustic.
We remember a literary lunch with the Franco-Lebanese poet Vénus Khoury-Ghata during which he had maliciously, and in a few words, dismissed an unfortunate candidate for the French Academy, who was too flattering, until the ridiculous.
Read alsoRené de Obaldia: “One hundred years!
I'm still amazed!”
René, I who had never spoken familiarly with you, I can still hear your voice, with its soft timbre, the one that always left the same message on my answering machine:
"Dear friend, I would like you to call me back..."
, followed by the inevitable:
"I break your right hand...",
and always punctuated by a laugh or a
In recent years, however, the man had darkened;
he had hung up the pen after the death of his second wife, Diane, in 2012. We still saw him at the sessions of the Academy where he had been elected in 1999, in the chair of Julien Green.
During his reception speech, he had declared, at the age of 81:
“I feel green again!”.
He still frequented a few good restaurants, more rarely a few dinners in town and was always present at the meetings of the jury for the Casanova Prize, at Maxim's.
An inconsolable widower, he often told us, about Diane:
“It was she who had to close my eyes, but there you go…”.
Read alsoRené de Obaldia, always facetious, celebrated his hundredth birthday alone on stage
Poems, novels, tales, memoirs, plays and small pieces baptized "Obaldiableries", the man had touched almost all genres, practicing wonderfully, in the words of Jean-Louis Bory, "literature at the hydrogen".
In 2011, Grasset had brought together in a volume of 1300 pages the entirety of his theatrical work, "with liberating laughter" according to his expression.
A few years after publishing his first novel, Tamerlan des cœurs, Jean Vilar of the TNP (Théâtre national populaire) got him started by
, a "dreamlike comedy", in 1960. It was followed by
Satyre de la Villette
, which caused a scandal, of
Wind in the branches of sassafras
in 1965, which saw the sensational return of the unforgettable Michel Simon, of
Monsieur Klebs and Rozalie
(in 1975, with Michel Bouquet) and of the
with especially the young Fanny Ardant. Previously, he had published
, imaginary memoirs of an old man, and
Fugue à Waterloo
, which won him the Grand Prix for black humour.
Close in spirit to Raymond Queneau and Jacques Audiberti, René de Obaldia practiced poetry with a naturalness and a humor that was sometimes disconcerting.
Evidenced by his collections
("Poems for children and some adults"),
On the belly of widows
(in 1996) or
The captain's mare
, a real hoax and aphoristic breviary, without forgetting the hilarious poetic sketches baptized
Fantasies of young ladies, women make or break looking for a soul mate...
Born October 22, 1918 in Hong Kong to a Panamanian diplomat father and a French mother, René de Obaldia was an officer of the Legion of Honor, Commander of Arts and Letters, officer of the National Order of Merit, but the distinctions of which he was most proud were these: Commander of the Order of Balboa and Grand Cross Manuel Amador Guerrero… Let him have the last word, with this alexandrine which he considered the most beautiful in the French language, this language he loved so much and which he illustrated so well:
"The jelly jay moaned in the jasmine"