René de Obaldia was, to the letter, a man of the world: he was born in Hong Kong to a Panamanian father and a Picardy mother. He composed sparkling pieces that enchant us. I have rarely laughed so much as at the tirades of Mr Klebs launched by Michel Bouquet, with the tangy insolence of Satyr of La Villettewith crazy repartee Wind in the branches of sassafras. I read all his plays with the pleasure of rediscovering in them the bittersweet flavors and the black and pink tones dear to Jean Giraudoux, Jean Anouilh and Marcel Aymé – the forefront of magic realism, from which he had taken over the torch. As for them, his theatrical art was an art of words soaked in a spirit bath. A prestidigitation of verb and poetic comical jokes that we found in his novels. I owe one of my last reading enchantments to his Exobiography, and theater to his Sleep in – a story of happy deaths, full of twists and turns.
I remember my emotion when I met him. I feared that the man would tarnish the image of the writer. It is sometimes difficult to tame the reality of a character that we met in his books. From the outset, I was charmed, conquered. He hadn’t written for a few years now. However, he continued to compose. His memories, characters. At home, he did his theater. He quoted the sentence of Jean Cocteau: “Without the devil, God would never have reached the general public. » He pastiche his interpreters. He excelled at imitating Michel Simon (“He told me he would give anything to interpret Wind in the sassafras branches ; he took me very dearly when he accepted. “) Sometimes he also evoked, more and more often perhaps, the painful years of his detention in Silesia, then a prisoner during the Second World War. (“What do you want, the Germans loved me so much they kept me for four years.”) I have often wondered if the extreme lightness of his spirit, his iconoclastic essence, did not stem from despair, from this “overabundance of seriousness” whose humor he defined. In this stalag, where he has “forgot to have and learned to be, only to be”he had received an example: that of an inmate he was never going to forget – “This man read the lines of the palms of breathless prisoners, and presided over them an exquisite future and marvelous surprises. »
We always emerged lighter from these encounters, reinflated with helium, enchanted by his spirit, his alert tone. “You know what they say: at school, I was a dunce. Yes, it is really fashionable to say that one was a dunce. Well, me, forgive me, but I was not a dunce, I was just useless! » We were carried away by his sparkling memory, amazed to have listened to the clear and precise voice of a man who had known, before the war, Lou-Andreas Salomé, Nietzsche’s muse; of a writer who was a friend of Jean Paulhan and Eugène Ionesco, and who, even before the war, took part in the banquet of young admirers of the poet Saint-Pol-Roux, the goldsmith of symbolism. When I got home, I prolonged the pleasure of the interview by diving into the freshness of its Innocentines, poems for children and some adults. I noted his lively and hilarious repartee. And I was still smiling at what he had just told me, in his amused stupefaction when he had heard Michel Simon “lost his memory and, when he wasn’t skipping entire lines, gave some that weren’t in my piece” announce, on the evening of the premiere, at the fall of the curtain and in front of a delirious public: “The play that I had the honor of performing in front of you for the first time… the play… the honor… Shit, I forgot the author’s name. »
“I have decided to live forever. So far, everything is going as planned” ! René de Obaldia could have signed this quote from Alphonse Allais. For his 100th birthday, he had found his formula: “I lived until today, I see no reason why it shouldn’t continue. » At 103 years old, one could believe that death had forgotten him. We then remembered that he had announced his intentions very early on. Still green, although not yet an academician, he had signed one of his novels The century. Then he reiterated his snub to the Camarde by titling one of his pieces The deceased. Finally, in Genousia, he imagined the many ways he would leave this earth. By the spleen? Through the stomach? By a whim of the thrilling? The funny list evoked had not envisaged a death by distraction. Yet it was by forgetting to wake up from his siesta, in his armchair brightened up with a brightly colored shawl, that he walked away, no doubt delighted by the image of the paradise he once had. the interview. That of a green meadow studded with daisies and buttercups.