Rendezvous with writer Philippe Adam

By Trista di Genova
The China Post

Philippe Adam, a visiting writer and scholar from Paris, will be reading excerpts in French from some of his recent works at Le Pigeonnier, the only French bookstore in Taipei, on Saturday afternoon.

Monsieur Adam is a writer-in-residence in Taiwan, conducting research for his next novel under the auspices of the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Over the past two months, in partnering with the French Institute in Taipei, an association of French teachers in Taiwan and Tamkang University, M. Adam has also taken advantage of his visit to teach creative writing workshops for students and French teachers here.

I caught up with him after one of his bouts of travel around the island — “every two days,” he says — at the creative community that is known as Radio Banciao, in Taipei County, where he is staying.

In person he seemed very drole, a little eccentric. He defended his latest choice of pets — a “Pac-man” frog from South America, regretting the crab had died. As for the irony of a Frenchmen keeping a frog as a pet, he said (in French, which I speak), “It is true, it is a very boring pet, he does nothing, tres ennuyeux,” and offered it to me when he leaves.

When asked about the inspiration for his teaching method, he produced an 18th century tome he’d picked up in a Paris shop specializing in ancient texts. It was Description de l’ile de Formosa by the hoaxter George Psalmanazar, the first description of our fair island — and a purely invented one.

“It was perhaps one of the most successful hoaxes in history,” M. Adam said. “He passed himself off as a native of Formosa, an early form of ethnocentrism. He became the toast of Europe, and spoke before the Royal Society in London. He taught society ladies a Formosan language he invented, and was even challenged by (astronomer Edmund) Halley,” Adam said.

M. Adam has used this early ‘portrait’ of Formosa as a point de depart for inspiring students to invent their own language.

“We, too, can invent things,” he said. “And we don’t just study it in a classroom; we use it.”

Psalmanazar’s trick, he said, is “You must invent (text) from scratch, from your imagination. You can force yourself into a state of free association where you write down whatever comes to your mind — but in French.”

M. Adam praised the Taiwanese students he’d taught, notably the wit of one student’s contribution: Fermez les portes!! les gens ont peur (Close the doors!! people are scared).

“That sounds at the same time humorous but full of anguish,” he remarked. “That’s what I’m looking for in my work.”

In his early work, he throws himself into any given microcosm of society and begins to write through the perspective of a directive first person, where you are the plot; you observe the comedy of life as it unfolds around you, the narrator.

With De Beaux restes (2002) he won critical acclaim in Le Monde and other reviews in the French press for his “documentary-novel” of 18 people in a tango club. However, he didn’t bring a copy of it with him; he didn’t like the way he wrote it, he said; wasn’t even interested in talking about it.

But his last work, Canal Tamagawa, interestingly comes with a CD, a powerful and innovative combination of poetry, spoken word and music, an opera parle with formidable collaborator Fabrice Ravel-Chapuis as composer. The story is based on the death of a poet, the last days of famous Japanese writer Osamu Dazai, who ended his life by throwing himself in the Tamagawa canal in 1948. In this bilingual French-Japanese chef d’oeuvre, Adam’s writing transforms into incandescent prose poetry, a subconscious incantation, a place where the mind makes perfect poetry.
On Saturday, Philippe Adam will read some excerpts from his works
Le syndrome de Paris, France audioguide, and the first pages of a new novel that he began during his stay in Taiwan.

WHAT: “Rencontre avec Philippe Adam” (Meeting with
Philippe Adam)
The author will read excerpts in French from his
acclaimed books “France Audioguide,” “Syndrome de
Paris,” as well as discuss his work in progress, set
in Taipei. Book-signing and buffet afterwards.
WHEN: Saturday Sept. 1st, 4-6 p.m.
WHERE: La librairie Le Pigeonnier
#97 Songjiang Rd., Lane 9, Taipei
(02) 2517-2616

Extrait :
Est-ce que je vais m’en sortir?
J’ai menti à ma mère
J’ai menti à mon père
Et déçu mes amis
J’ai triché
J’ai trompé ceux qui m’aimaient
Il y a face à moi l’avenir
Tendu comme un reproche
Et les fantômes de ceux que je ne verrai plus
Bien vivants

J’ai vécu dans la honte
Et je me suis sali
Ils disent que je ne suis plus le même
J’ai gâché tout l’argent
J’ai menti à tout le monde
Ceux qui m’ont fait confiance
Peuvent le regretter
Leur argent est parti
Au fond des pissotières

Mes premières années
Ont été les dernières
J’ai connu la misère
Des autres
Et de moi-même
J’ai parlé à des femmes hébétées
J’ai été ivre
Avec les hommes ivres