NARGIS
NARGIS MAGAZINE
Interview by editor-in-chief

FREDERIC BEIGBEDER - CONFESSION OF LITERARY ANARCHIST

36 hours spent in a jail became the reference point for one of his latest books. He did not fail to compare this fact of his biography on the French coquetry manner with the fate of Russian writers who had been in hard labor. He declared his bed as the successor of the Oblomov’s lodge. His portrait is controversial. Anarchist and romantic egoist. Marketer and provocateur, who estimated human happiness at 99 francs and put the limit of human love in 3 years. Writer, best-selling author, and DJ, who leads the audience on the dance floor. The God-lover and the God-seeker in one person ̶ writer Frederic Beigbeder, our interlocutor and the hero of the issue.

You started as a writer, and now you make a movie! Which of these areas of art is preferable for you?

I have no preferences. Both of these areas are very different. But in the beginning there is always a word. Therefore, even working on a script, you are somehow alone during the writing process. Reaching the end of the book, you put it on the shelf, where it continues its life. On the other hand, when you finish the script, this is just the start of a long process. The world of cinema is a crazy world. I only discover this new environment for myself, but I get a lot of pleasure from it.

What prompted you to write about love? Do you really believe that love lasts only three years, as your book says?

I hope that it still does not last only three years! Although today's lifestyle of our society does not help couples stay together forever. We live in a society of consumers, in an environment that cultivates desires, pleasure and hedonism.

Sometimes it seems that modern society has entered on the warpath with love. But most people I like, and I hope that I will meet someone with whom I can spend the rest of my life. I believe that my book is a manifesto of protest of the idea that love is a product with a limited shelf life.

I hope that love will not become such a product, but the direction in which the world is developing frightens me. The Internet, social networks, even mobile phones ̶ everything helps husbands to deceive their wives. The temptation is everywhere. It can be said that the decision to stay with someone forever is a revolutionary step, resistance to the power of this new technological world.

You started in the world of advertising, but then you have grown to the world of writers. How did this happen? And has the writing craft always been an important part of your life?

When I was a little boy, I had a habit of keeping a diary, and writers always fascinated me. Becoming a writer was my dream. This pushed me to the journalistic path, and try myself later as a copywriter.

It took many years to stop copying and start writing. Writing is like a serious illness, because you have to write down everything that happens to you. Instead of feeling the pulse of life, directly enjoying life, writers perceive life as if they had left their mortal bodies with the intention of exploring life around them.

I also continuously analyze everything that happens around me, but I do it, of course, with a considerable amount of irony. Most writers suffer from this - they are all slightly insane…

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A few years ago you appeared in The Kooples advertising campaign …

Yes, and it was funny because at school everyone said that I was ugly. Therefore, participation in The Kooples advertising campaign (approx: French youth brand of fashionable street clothes) was the moment of my sweet revenge.

You studied in Paris and live in this city for many years. What is most attractive for you in Paris life?

I think Paris life is attractive because people here are not obsessed with work. There are only a couple of cities in the world where people prefer to live rather to just work. One of them is Paris. In contrast to it, New York is a place where everyone is simply seized by work, always rushing somewhere, always talking on cell phones, and they never have enough time. Parisians also work, but they also know how to enjoy life.

Which cities do you like?

I like cities such as Rome, Barcelona and St. Petersburg, they do not feel the tension. With age, I discover that I don’t like to work, precisely because I work too much, I constantly make some notes, observe and record. Therefore, I do not understand people who donate their lives to work.

Do you have a specific scheme that you follow when you have an idea for a new book?

It's not easy to explain how a book happens. At first, something excites your curiosity, and then one day out of this curiosity an idea emerges from which the book is born. I am not disciplined and do not follow any procedure. In my case, I just have to wait - when will the idea illuminate me? Sometimes it scares, because, for example, now I do not know the theme of my next book, and whether this next book will take place at all. There are no clear rules for me, so I’m a real anarchiste de la litterature (fr)!

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Nargis readers are also very curious! They want to know what Frederic Beigbeder’s typical day looks like?

It depends. For example, I got up early this morning, but usually I like to sleep a little longer. Actually, my life is pretty boring. I read, read and read again, meet people and travel a lot. I discovered that flashes of inspiration overtake me while I am on the road: when I am flying on an airplane or going on a train. The same thing happens when I drive a car or a motorcycle. My advice to any young novice writer is to start driving! Of course, one should not drive and write at the same time, I know from experience that this is terribly inconvenient (Frederic accompanies his answer with a toast with a glass in his hand)!

Do you re-read the books you wrote?

Before the publication of the book, I re-read it. But after its publication, I never do it again.

Never again?

Never, except for "Love lasts three years." I had to re-read it because I had to write a script. I wanted to change everything and correct it and decided to make a movie in a new way, by offering the viewer a new version of the book.

Were you satisfied with your work? Was there something that you would like to change if there was such an opportunity?

I wanted to change everything! Rereading my work after 15 years was very exciting. As if you are looking at an old photograph of yourself, and nostalgia of your youth and stupidity rolls on you. For the nonsense that you carry for years after a divorce about love.

Most of the characters in your books are based on your character and your experience. How does it feel to be inspired by your own life?

It is both easy and difficult. And in addition it is dangerous, because if people don’t like my book, it means they don’t like me either. And it hurts. But I have no choice, because I am limited by my imagination. The reality seems so strange to me. Just look around you. For me, reality is a fiction. For example, at the table on our left there are three guests (turns in the direction of that table). I ask myself the question: “What are they talking about?”. Or I wonder what's in the lady's purse at the next table? Are these two really in love? I always ask myself such kind of questions.

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In your opinion, how do people show their feelings when they are in love? Do you think that lovers behave in a special way?

It is impossible to calculate, and this is all the charm and irony of life. You will never know what people really think. Everyone is involved in the game, as in the theater, and sometimes people take their own role as real feelings. There is always a secret in love, and you cannot be completely sure of another’s feelings. You know, if they had invented a machine capable of reading human thoughts, life would have become unbearably boring. Everyone probably would like to buy such a car, but if we knew everyone’s thoughts, then our disappointment would have no limits.

Since we are talking about love, what is the ideal woman for Mr. Beigbeder?

If I had met the perfect woman, I would have run away from her. I like imperfection: beauty is not perfect, this world is imperfect. Therefore, for me, sexier is the woman who has flaws. Maybe a little painful, talking too loud or laughing too much. For me, the ideal woman is a woman with a flaw, a natural woman. Perfection is boring!

Do you believe in zodiac signs?

Honestly, no, I just know my sign is Virgo. But I’m willing to believe if someone convinces me.

Does spirituality play any role in your life?

I was brought up in the Catholic faith, which is why one of my books was written as if co-authored with a priest (note: this refers to the book “Je crois, moi non-plus”). Religion has a big influence on me. But at the same time I am the son of a generation without God. All my books speak about this paradox: about how, being educated with faith in the Creator, you lose this faith and forever regret the absence of God. This is the true background of all the stories I am writing about. I write about a lost soul in the materialistic world and I think that it is impossible to be absolutely happy with total freedom. I believe that freedom from God impedes the attainment of the beauty of life.

How do you think what a person should do in order to become more spiritual in the modern world?

I think we need silence at least daily. This is the opportunity given by the Church. A visit to the temple gives us time to think and listen. With today's noisy and frantic pace of life, we are no longer able to think. And it seems to me that literature offers such a possibility of silence, since the reading and writing process is a kind of meditation.

Obviously, silence is very important to you ...

I like to take time out in my daily routine to enjoy silent reflections and contemplation.

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And do you have a favorite place where you like to do it?

My bed, of course! In bed I like to eat and do everything that is possible.

From which books do you get more pleasure: traditionally printed on paper or electronic from tablet computers?

I love the rustling of the pages being turned, the smell of paper, and I like to be aware of the fact that as soon as you opened the book, it became yours, and for you it is unique. After all, even in the library there are no two completely identical books.

You have established an award for talented young writers. Tell us in more why you called them the Flore Prize (The Prix de Flore) and the Prize de Sade?

Flore is the name of the cafe "De Flore" in Saint-Germain-des-Prés, where I like to go. And the second prize is in honor of the Marquis de Sade, a very free and wonderful personality. I decided to establish these awards, as none of the writers I like have ever been awarded. So great to encourage a new generation of French authors.

You must be happy with this ...

This is a great way to discover and share your addictions. Writing is a lonely craft, but this loneliness can also be shared with someone.

Who are some of your favorite writers?

Oh, they are a lot! I love French writers, because French is my native language. But I also like English and American authors. I do not always read them in the original, but I read Salinger and Fitzgerald in English, because their vocabulary is very universal, and they communicate their messages very intelligibly. The simplicity of writing is the greatest quality of a writer. I also like the nineteenth-century Russian writers who stood at the origins of the so-called realistic novel.

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Complete the sentence: "Writers are ..."

Hmm... Writers are like wizards when they are good writers. If they are not good, then they are just boring! There are some writers who do not write very well, but you still read their works, because you know that what they say is true. Sometimes it seems to me that books exist to awaken us, the same goes for movies.

Since we're talking about movies again, what's your favorite one?

I like Woody Allen because he can make you laugh and make you cry at the same time. I like the idea of going back in time to talk with such great artists as Fitzgerald and Dali in his latest movie, Midnight in Paris.

You travel a lot and you should have a lot of friends around the world ...

Today on Facebook, people sometimes have three thousand friends, but for me it is simply impossible to have so many friends! I love talking to a human being face to face - live, not virtual.

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So do you have a Facebook account?

I do not log in to Facebook because I consider it a waste of time. All of these virtual social networks are opium for the masses.

Do you believe in friendship between a man and a woman?

I do not. I think in order to be true friends you must be sincere. And with a woman, it seems to be difficult, because the carnal temptation complicates everything.

What life values do you profess and consider it important to follow in order to achieve a happy existence?

I wish I knew the answer! Of course, love is the most important thing in life. If you have no love, then you have nothing. Time is also important. If you are slowing down your life and enjoying every second of it, then you are probably a wise person. I have no recipe for a happy life, but I would advise not to rush and reflect on happiness.

Has anyone given you advice that you think is the best of all the advice received?

Once a psychologist gave me the good advice: learn to say no. So many people ask for something, and often out of politeness you cannot refuse them. But if you learn to say no, then you will regain control of your life. It is very important to control your time and your life, to resist every easily accessible temptation and not to depend on others. By learning to say no, you will improve the quality of your life. And when you say “yes” to someone, this person will understand that you have granted him a privilege. After all, I, for example, could say "no" to the proposal to spend the afternoon hours at a table with such lovely ladies…