Sunday, December 07, 2008

Francois Caradec (1924-2008)

Death of an ex-Satrap


On November the 13th, 2008 the Regent François Caradec died at the age of 84. He counts as the only member of the Collège de 'Pataphysique who was once elevated to the mighty rang of Provéditeur, the highest level of administration inside the Collège, and one day just decided to give up his title to become a simple Regent again.

He was one of the most prolific members of the OuLiPo and until recently was a heard regularly with his typical parisian 'gouaille' on the French radio show "Des Papous dans la Tête".

He was a world specialist on French litterature from the the turn of the 19th-20th century, the roaring 'Belle Epoque'. He wrote several books about the wacky French humorists of the period, often precursors of latter Dada, and the first comic artists like Christophe Colomb and Rodolphe Töpffer. One famous photobook with Robert Doisneau showed Paris as they lived it ("La compagnie des zincs"). He wrote books on Alphonse Allais, the pétomane, Alfred Jarry, Lautréamont, parisian slang, Raymond Roussel, popular art, parodies,... And on lots of strange subjects, as a guide on mysterious Paris and a dictionary of body language.

He was a grandmaster of literary hoaxes, long before Luther Blissett. His presence in the early years of the Collège was essential.

The first book I read from him was the account of the life and death of his dog, "Nous deux mon chien". Anyone who ever lost a four-footed friend would relate to this beautiful text on love in which he avoided emotionality (which he vehemently hated) and still was able to move this reader deeply.

He had such a long life between books, hoaxes and bistrots, yet his way of writing and talking gave the impression he was still fairly young. Young-hearted, anyway, he certainly was. Paris will never be the same.

Adieu monsieuye Caradec, tu nous manqueras.


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Un chien n'est vraiment plus que lorsque son odeur a disparu de vos vêtements, et que le chien qui passe ne se retourne plus pour vous renifler.
"A dog is really gone when his odor has disappeared from your clothes, and no dog turns his head anymore to sniff you." (from 'Nous deux mon chien', 1983)

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