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Loris Chavanette: "Let's celebrate during their lifetime the great men who made our imagination"


FIGAROVOX / TRIBUNE - Scientists, actors, singers, statesmen ... to start the year, the historian proposes to start the new year by celebrating those who made France and remain among us.

Loris Chavanette is the author, in particular, of


The Terror on Trial

(CNRS editions, 2017, preface by historian Patrice Gueniffey), thesis prize from the National Assembly 2013 and history prize from the Stéphane Bern-Institut de France Foundation 2018, and from

Danton and Robespierre.

The shock of the Revolution

(Pasts compounds, 2021).

He also established the edition of a selection of Napoleon's letters,


Between eternity, the ocean and the night.


(Books, 2020).

My grandfather, who was a lawyer in Montpellier and a fine scholar, liked to repeat this sentence to me, which we can guess bears the seal of experience:

"You recognize happiness by the noise it makes when it goes away .


Each year that passes proves to us all the veracity of it.

Also, when I look back on this year 2022, the one that awakened the abominable specter of war in Europe, it seems to me that a world, an era has gone.

Death has taken away characters who have written our history and shaped our imagination.

Artists, politicians, scientists, how many have gone through the door through which we will all pass, sooner or later.

A few names immediately come to mind: Queen Elizabeth II, King Pelé, Mickael Gorbachev, as well as those in the arts and sciences, Jean-Luc Godard, Henri Verneuil, Pierre Soulages, Jean Teulé, Paul Veyne, Yves Coppens, the archaeologist who discovered Lucy whom we were taught on school benches as being the ancestor of humanity.

I shudder without astonishment at least.

However, I am aware that apart from the academic palms, the decoration of the Legion of Honor, a chair at the Academy, or, more restricted circle, the Nobel Prize, we have only few occasions to celebrate their living the great names that have marked our history, those that we find in books and whose pronunciation alone enchants us for a moment.

How beautiful and moving would be the ceremony honoring during their lifetime these names rooted in our memory, having become encrusted there to never leave!

All gathered in a symbolic place, whether at the foot of the Eiffel Tower, on the Pont des Arts, which faces the dome of the French Academy, or installed on the grand staircase at the foot of the Sacré-Coeur,

these French women and men who have made the genius of France shine beyond our borders, to the point of embodying it for a moment, whether through a film, a book, a discovery or a fight, would be dubbed by the crowd , so to speak, on the verge of death.

And we, placed below their prestige, would say thank you to them for what they have brought us.

I'm tired of writing posthumous articles to thank the greats of our history.

This is why I would like to thank during their lifetime these great people who have shaped a part of my personal imagination.

Loris Chavanette

The idea is not to hammer the first nail into their coffin (those who would only see that would miss the point), but to pay a tribute that is not precisely posthumous, that is not funereal, nor sad.

There would be joy and laughter, gratitude and good wine, games and gags, maybe music and one of those dances (why not a waltz?) that give you a thrill.

I would dream of seeing Alain Delon and Brigitte Bardot dancing a slow dance together, now, in Montmartre, on the roof of Paris.

We lack so much imagination and spend our time imitating our predecessors instead of innovating!

We no longer know how to say thank you, except during an interview or a television report, at prime time, or worse, a poorly shot television series.

I'm tired of writing posthumous articles to thank the greats of our history, as I did for Charles Aznavour, Jean d'Ormesson or, more recently, Paul Veyne.

Funeral orations always come after the fact, too late.

This is why I would like to thank during their lifetime these great people who have shaped a part of my personal imagination, and I believe I can say that the latter agrees with a more collective imagination.

Impossible to name all the names that come to mind of course, and who have fun overlapping, indulging in little duels of fame, with cork at the end of their foil.

I immediately think of the couple of actors with universal notoriety: Alain Delon / Brigitte Bardot.

They were for decades the two faces of France on the screens, and, of course, I am thinking, citing their names, of the laughing charisma of Jean-Paul Belmondo, or even of the superb creativity of Gérard Depardieu.

But Bardot and Delon are still with us.

Immense is their legacy to our culture, passed on to the world through them.

I'm thinking of the


and especially of

Rocco and his brothers

, the two masterpieces by Visconti that Delon splashed with his undulating beauty, so sensitive in the role of Rocco, with in particular this monologue on the balcony, in the middle of the poor Italians of the south crammed into the industrial capital, Milan, and drinking champagne on a victory night in the ring.

An evening suddenly splashed with nostalgia at the mere mention of the orange trees of his native country.

Bardot, the actress for whom the film

And God Created Woman was invented

, resplendent with indomitability and sensuality, whirling around until it tears out its heart.

A dazzling suave beauty, which will remain a monument of cinema.

What youth, what passion, what a hymn to the female body, proclaimed free for the time of a dance whose frenzy still makes us capsize.

Two French names that the world envies us.

They are still there;

thank you !

To Robert Badinter in particular, I want to say thank you for what France has become, partly thanks to him.

Loris Chavanette

In the category of artists, there would be so many talents to nominate that it is impossible for me, but let us quote nevertheless Catherine Deneuve, Jacques Dutronc, François Cheng, Patrick Modiano, Jean-Marie Rouart, the directors Jean-Jacques Annaud, Claude Lelouch or even Line Renaud, whom I infinitely envy that she was able to attend one night, at the only concert given by Elvis Presley in Paris, backstage with friends after a concert.

In sport, I am thinking of Juste Fontaine with an undefeated record.

In science, to the chemist Jean-Pierre Sauvage, to the biologist Jules Hoffmann, to the populariser Hubert Reeves, or even to the historians Michelle Perrot, Mona Ozouf and Arlette Farge, or to the historians Jacques Revel and Jean Tulard, who all the same created the Napoleonic studies at the Sorbonne.

The list would be long,

But the name of a politician suddenly comes to mind, like an evidence eclipsing all the others.

Even if the Presidents of the Republic of the generation of Chirac and D'Estaing have left, undeniably leaving a void in terms of charm and charisma, there remains a former minister more famous than the others, and how can we forget him here?

This is Robert Badinter, 95 years old in 2023. The Keeper of the Seals who abolished the death penalty in France is a national glory, whose merit and legacy are precisely the war against capital punishment.

I was born in January 1981, when the guillotine was supposed to still work, and Robert Badinter changed my era by sheathing the blade.

To him especially, I want to say thank you for what France has become, partly thanks to him.

Who will pass on to posterity of the public figures that we manufacture today?

Who will tomorrow deserve our praise and promote the art of being French?

Loris Chavanette

Let's not remain unmoved by these statues whose fame blinds us.

Let us honor them on the contrary, for what they have brought us in emotions, laughter, and sometimes tears.

They are not heroes, as wars and periods of major crisis produce.

But they remain a good portion of our common heritage, which means that the French patent is envied all over the world.

Now, who will pass on to posterity of the public figures that we manufacture today?

Who will tomorrow deserve our praise and promote the art of being French?

A people needs prestigious examples to know to whom to refer, just like nations of heroes to continue to perpetuate a centuries-old heritage.

Jean-Marie Rouart had dedicated an ode to the France he loved, entitled

Farewell to departing France!

That was in 2003, and since then, drop by drop, we have witnessed the slow engulfment of our past greatness, under the silky wave.

It makes me curiously think of the end of Alexandre Dumas' most famous novel,

The Three Musketeers


D'Artagnan has achieved his ends: the Gascon freshly landed in the capital at the beginning of the story is finally appointed captain in the ranks of the king's musketeers.

When he acts his designation, he turns to Athos, who is there, and complains to him that his three accomplices are leaving the cape and the sword.

He complains of having no more friends and soon only “bitter memories”.

But Athos forbids him to be sad and gently lectures him by using this language of friendship and experience

: "You are young, you, and your bitter memories have time to change into sweet memories!"


I think what Alexandre Dumas meant by that is that even if the best is behind you, it's still a joy to remember it and to keep the delicate memory alive.

Also, if there is melancholy at the corner in this smile sketched at the corner of the lips, there is above all gratitude for the moments spent.

Isn't the noise that happiness makes as it goes away, even though ephemeral, something comforting?

Source: lefigaro

All news articles on 2023-01-03

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