Signs of catastrophe, interview with Éric Vuillard



«The biggest catastrophes announce themselves often in small steps». Ubiquitous evidence that accompanies as much to the rise of Nazisme as to periods of low humanity punctuating the History and constitutes one of key-themes of L’ordine del giorno (Edizioni e/o), interesting novel – Goncourt Prize 2017 – of French writer and film-maker Éric Vuillard.

Vuillard, your book tells about Anschluss from a new, unusual perspective. In which way did you translate your historical research in a story dense of details and psychological follow-up?

«Structure of moderne knowledge is built on distance, while literature is an activity that, on the contrary, maintains a relationship of continuity, it follows closely its characters. To draw a comparison with cinema, zoom involves the abolition of the distance, it’s a close-up sight. All is achieved through various methods, which may be descriptions, narration step by step – or minute-by-minute – while the big history crystallizes into a longer time dimension – day after day, week after week, not minute-by-minute. Until distance is maintained, political world gains immediately, because of same distance, a fund of dignity, a fund of solemnity that elevates it, whereas literature, remaining on the contrary closer, maintains the first impression, a not so standoffish impression».

What could it connect time when it’s set the novel to our time?

«I think that maybe the contact point that could be find between our time and that in which it’s set the novel is represented by separation. Power is always separated, deprived of a dialectic relationship with the people. We can say that constitutive separation of politics now it’s multiplied in various ways».

You wrote that various industrial powers – like, among the others, Siemens, Bayer, BMW, Daimler, Agfa and Shell – have benefited from work of deportees. You highlight: «Those names still exist today. Their assets are immense». Do you think that these industrial powers paid fully the bill of the History?

«Nothing at all, in my opinion».

«We’ll never understand». Could you tell us about influence exerted by information movies and propaganda dating from those years on our historical knowledge?

«There are research areas, like archaeology, that allow us to work with little material and construct forms of truth and knowledge from fragments. We don’t have, instead, a discipline appropriate to defend ourselves from too much, from excess, and the propaganda represents just that excessive knowledge: it’s a repeat of images, sounds and texts designed to produce quite an effect in the public. It’s enough customary to suffer a kind of overabundance in this sense. The problem is the obviously propaganda serves interests of power that makes it, by removing from movies all those elements that don’t contribute for this purpose: so, an important part of truth is not documented».

What do you think about current political propaganda?

«Now it takes place a very particular structure. After the war essentially they were opposed two fundamental narratives while, in these days, we see – despite all its variations and minority positions – only one narrative».

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