dimanche 10 septembre 2017

Quand Gide inspirait Norman Mailer

"Please do not understand me too quickly." Norman Mailer a placé cette citation de Gide en tête de son livre Le Parc aux cerfs (1955). Il l'utilisera encore dans le premier article qu'il écrit pour The Village Voice, la revue qu'il vient de fonder avec ses amis Daniel Wolf et Edwin Fancher. Comme James Baldwin ou Truman Capote, Norman Mailer est attentif aux écrits de Gide. Il est aussi un proche de Jean Malaquais, qui l'a influencé considérablement sur le plan intellectuel comme en témoigne leur correspondance établie par Geneviève Nakach (Le Cherche-Midi, 2008).

En 1961, dans The Paris Review, Norman Mailer présente un fragment de texte qu'il qualifie lui-même de début de roman avorté : The First Day’s Interview. Une forme d'interview qu'affectionnait Gide, comme le souligne Mailer, qui aurait aussi pu citer les Interviews imaginaires...

"Sometimes I think my work may be seen eventually as some literary equivalent (obviously much reduced in scale) to Picasso. My vice, my strength, is beginnings. Usually I begin well—it is just that I seem to have little interest in finishing. It seems adequate to start a piece, go far enough to glimpse what the possibilities and limitations might be, and then move on. Which for that matter is close to the discrete temper of our time.

This interview was an experiment. Unfinished one obviously. As an attempt to breach an opening into The Psychology of the Orgy, it has a few charms. It may even be possible to write a good book this way; such a book would be a novel. I can think of nothing very much like it, except perhaps for Gide’s Corydon, but the difference is most particular. In Corydon, Gide stepped aside from his Self, and appeared nominally as André Gide-the-Interviewer speaking to some young talented homosexual artist, a man not unlike the hero of The Immoralist. He thus divided his dialogue between two Gides: a young, conventional, severe, most well-mannered and rather agitated young prig, (the ''I'' of Corydon) and the subject, a saturnine, scientifically articulated, rather sinister (in the proper tone of the period) man of talent.Norman Mailer, a weary, cynical, now philosophically turned hipster of middle years; the interviewer is a young man of a sort the author was never very close to.

In this fragment—The First Day’s Interview—the encounter is less narcissistic. The subject is a Norman Mailer, a weary, cynical, now philosophically turned hipster of middle years; the interviewer is a young man of a sort the author was never very close to. The vector of the dialogue is therefore opposite to Corydon. In that book, Gide appears in a conventional suit and tries to take a trip across the room into himself. He is hoping to seduce his readers. On the contrary, in this piece printed here, the author in full panoply is pretending to travel back to society in order to seduce the brain of the young critic he never was. One might call it a Counter-Diabolism to Gide’s method, and be not at all presumptuous—if one managed, small matter, to finish the book."

(Paris Review 26, Summer-Fall 1961, p. 140-141)

Le texte complet de The First Day's Interview a été repris dans Conversations with Norman Mailer (University Press of Mississippi, 1988), à consulter en ligne ici.

Aucun commentaire: