Maria Casares, the ardent uneasy

Monday January 4, 1960. Maria Casarès, returning from a recording at the Maison de la radio, returns home. For hours, she has felt oppressed, for no reason. Arrived at 148 rue de Vaugirard, going up the stairs to her apartment at 6e floor, she hears the insistent ringing of her telephone. Before opening the door, she has a feeling of what is going to hit her: “Albert is dead! “ Albert Camus, her lover, her double.

Tuesday January 5, Maria Casarès receives a letter from him, posted just before the tragedy, in which he cannot silence his impatience to find her, to hug her today … “A man, a woman who recognized and chosen each other, sworn respect, loyalty and eternal love, despite the heartbreaks at the beginning, the arguments, the doubts, the long and successive periods of professional, family, marital separations, renouncements, temptations exterior, impulses, passades, attractions, real crushes, parallel connections ”, summarizes Anne Plantagenet in a fascinating and very inspired biography.

She goes back through the tumultuous course of the tormented life, of fury and passions, of a Maria Casarès (1922-1996) foreign to all serenity. Brown, wild, animal, she is described as uncompromising, authoritarian, angry. The drama sticks to the skin of this forced exile, dark and tempestuous. Fleeing Franco’s Spain, where her father, Santiago Casares Quiroga, President of the Council, victim of the coup d’etat, hides, Maria arrives in France at the age of 14 with her mother, accompanied by a gigolo who will soon be the lover of both. A good student, she persists in erasing this difference that is referred to her in the face: her Spanish accent, her dark aspect. She fails the bac, takes acting lessons to overcome her complexes, seeks to change her voice. She wants to go on stage, no matter what.

On the threshold of her 18th birthday, she had to audition at the Théâtre des Noctambules when the exodus took place in which her father took her, who had found his family. Direction Bordeaux. From there, he went to London to join the Resistance. Back in Paris, Maria Casares, nerves in ball, panic fear of the public, enters the Conservatory only at the third attempt, victim until then of “defects” which she wants to get rid of to appear.

The turning point in his life came under the Occupation. In October 1942, she was not yet 20, she made her debut at the Mathurins theater. The press is enthusiastic about this revelation. Her compatriots lead her to frequent Picasso, to participate in evenings between artists where she spots, one evening, the magnetic shadow of Camus… without recognizing him. But the furtive impression lodged in his heart. The night of June 6, 1944, ignoring what was going on on the Normandy coast, they spent it together. This night marks the beginning of a mad, indestructible love, beyond all convention, which, by the sum of the constraints, stirs its nature of fire. “She needs cruelty and extravagance, power and infidelity, demand and excess, excess, frenzied selfishness”, notes Anne Plantagenet.

Maria Casarès radiates sadness in Children of Paradise, by Marcel Carné. Robert Bresson, Jean Cocteau offer him great roles, but nothing equals the thrill, the pleasure of the theater. Woman of rupture, she slices clean, in the heart, to punish Camus who writes for her but cannot leave wife and children. Breaks her relationship with her lover before meeting him, much later, by chance, on the Boulevard Saint-Germain. And to recover as on the first day. Their correspondence, solar and tragic, flamboyant and desperate, draws an irrepressible attraction. “When will my jacket and your skirt hang on the same nail?” “, pokes Camus. Despite violent crises and stubborn jealousy, there will be only death to keep them apart.

The magazines forge the legend of Maria Casarès, enclose it in the frozen, caricatural image of a Spaniard conquering Paris. She multiplies the loves of traviole, thinks of getting married, even with those who hit her. She excels in tragedy. His career is dazzling. Comédie-Française, TNP, main courtyard of the Palais des Papes in Avignon, triumphant tours around the world but nothing appeases this woman who, three packs of cigarettes a day, “Drowns in overwork his nostalgia and his anxieties”.

The recognition, the honors, the late return to Spain, nothing extinguishes this inner fire which consumes her, gives her that hard face, a look green with melancholy, a harsh voice with a fiery smile. Albert Camus nicknamed her ” War and peace “.


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