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Jean Cau discusses his book "La pitié de Dieu" ; part 2

BROADCAST: Nov. 1, 1962 | DURATION: 00:11:19


When asked how he found time to write his book, Jean Cau said he took vacation time from his full time job. Cau was also asked if he wrote his book using a typewriter and Cau explained that he did all his writing with his own penmanship because he hated machinery, like the typewriter. In conclusion, Cau said he was writing a play about the Algerian War and its paratroopers. The play he finished writing was about the life and death of Adolf HiItler.


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Studs Terkel So the daily the daily job you do will in its own way be connected with whatever other novel you write.

Jean Cau No no no no no. [Tim and Jean Cau speaking French] No I don't think so no.

Studs Terkel I didn't mean a I didn't mean a naturalistic novel. I mean you write this, I merely meant you you feel you are better connected with the world as it is as a working newspaper man then shutting yourself off and writing at this moment.

Jean Cau Yes but I think that's an [French]

Tim Jean Cau thinks that there are two different activities and that it's a different world a different work a different way. A different kind of writing.

Studs Terkel One is journalism and this is not journalism.

Tim That's

Jean Cau Yes yes yes.

Studs Terkel Well how do you do this? Curious a matter of working habits now the time since you were working. You had a daily job. How did you write this novel hours late in the late at night or-

Jean Cau I took some vacations to write this novel and I got to spend-

Studs Terkel I looked around I looked around this apartment here, Jean Cau's place, and I noticed no typewriters, is it longhand or do you use a typewriter?

Jean Cau No no no no no no no. I write with my hand.

Studs Terkel Longhand?

Studs Terkel Yes.

Studs Terkel It's all longhand?

Jean Cau Yes

Studs Terkel Don't you. You have not accepted the typewriter.

Jean Cau No no no I don't no. It's terrific for me. It's-

Tim Terrifying

Jean Cau Yes

Tim He wants to make [unintelligible] the writing.

Studs Terkel So you feel-

Tim He's afraid of machines.

Studs Terkel You're raising-

Jean Cau I'm a European.

Studs Terkel Yes, you're European and almost a good nineteenth-century European in a way. You are twentieth-century in your thinking. You do not accept the machine.

Jean Cau I don't I don't accept this machine.

Studs Terkel This machine.

Jean Cau It's very necessary sure but I don't know and it's very abstract for me to to to type with a machine a novel or something. Yes with business if I if I if I may, business that's a very good thing. But to write a novel no it's paralyzing.

Studs Terkel [laughing] This is a very fascinating account here. So you feel you physically-

Jean Cau Yes physically.

Studs Terkel You yourself your hand kinaesthetically feel involved more with the pen.

Jean Cau Yes. No no. Yes I always write with a pen [sound of blowing nose] I don't conceal, I don't understand how, for instance, men can write, can speak of love with a machine. I am loving you. I am almost near to to to to dead for for loving you. It's extraordinary no?

Studs Terkel And so you feel the, it's something impersonal about the machine.

Jean Cau Yes it's very impersonal.

Studs Terkel Well I'm I'm I'm personally glad to hear this. Do drive an automobile?

Jean Cau Yes.

Studs Terkel Oh you do do that. This is

Tim He said it's not an artistic activity.

Studs Terkel No no but-

Tim He's driving very fast too.

Studs Terkel I think we should ask Jean Cau one more question since the novel is, oh, a couple of. Is there another one germinating in your mind another novel?

Jean Cau No no play.

Studs Terkel Oh there's a play.

Jean Cau Yes. Two plays I am writing two plays winners. Yeah one is [French]

Tim One is ready.

Jean Cau One is

Tim One play is ready.

Jean Cau One play is ready I am writing

Studs Terkel Oh, one so if one play is ready it would it would not be premature to ask you the theme of this would it?

Jean Cau Of the of the-

Studs Terkel Of the one that is ready.

Jean Cau Of this play. One is about the title of the first one is life and death of the [French].

Tim Chancellor.

Jean Cau Of Chancellor Adolf Hitler and the, all the play is the paratroopers

Tim Paratroopers.

Studs Terkel It's a play about paratroopers.

Jean Cau Yes no about Algeria about Algerian war.

Studs Terkel About the oh oh about the Algerian war.

Jean Cau Yes about Algerian war [French]

Studs Terkel You say you caught up the life and the life and-

Tim There are two plays.

Studs Terkel Oh, there are two plays.

Tim One is the life and

Studs Terkel Oh, and the second is about Algerian.

Jean Cau Chancellor Adolf Hitler and the second

Tim The title is-

Jean Cau The title

Studs Terkel And the second deals with Algeria. Isn't that fascinating?

Jean Cau Yes it is [French]

Tim Jean Cau hopes that the people will fight in the in the theater and in the the audience will fight and the police will come and the and the second showing will not be able to take place.

Studs Terkel You mean it's that hot a theme?

Jean Cau Yes, that's my ambition.

Studs Terkel Yes, I see a very hot a controversial play.

Jean Cau Yes.

Studs Terkel Something that Jean Genet always hopes for.

Jean Cau No never. Doesn't

Studs Terkel Doesn't Genet hope for this? Oh yes, he hopes for it.

Jean Cau He hopes but he never.

Studs Terkel But, not when I said it's fascinating. I was thinking you you bracketed these two plays. You said one play deals with the life and death of Adolf Hitler and the other deals with paratroopers in Algiers. And again in my mind came the sudden association and came your novel. This theme this recurrent theme of double guilt.

Jean Cau That's true. Because I have lived between two wars. A war that I lived as a young man and a war that I lived as with the with the edge of reasons.

Studs Terkel And the jailed in one possibly the jailer in the other. But the matter of the life and death of, is this allegorical too? The the life and death of Adolf Hitler. Is this an allegory in nature?

Jean Cau Yes. Adolf Hitler can be, it's a symbol. It's a symbol. But with the with the name of Hitler with the German army with the occupation with the war in Russia, [not?] an allegory but [French]

Studs Terkel But you feel that second play. You feel that second play The Paratroopers is one that will be explosive and you hope it will be exp-you've written an explosively. You hope the audience will explode.

Jean Cau Yes yes yes.

Studs Terkel Well this isn't that what theater, isn't this what theater is supposed to be for? [Jean Cau speaking French]

Tim I want, I want this short theater play to be a provocation.

Studs Terkel Well isn't this what theater vital theater should be for, to provoke people to think

Tim I want to. Have had taken part in this war this way and this what would be Jean Cau's way of being present in this war and to win it. In the writer's sense.

Jean Cau Yes.

Studs Terkel Well Jean Cau I think that in this roundtable very informal talk about your novel, the Prix Goncourt winner, and the two plays one finished and one in the process of being written. There is this recurring theme. A theme of a man who obviously has been thinking about it, a writing man thoughtful and we hope we hope soon. That is in the immediate future to read the novel "La Pitie de Dieu."

Jean Cau You are not making progress, it's French.

Studs Terkel No progress and we hope that the second of the plays too to be seen. Is the play in the process of being considered by producers now?

Jean Cau Yes. Next year next year [French]

Tim The director.

Studs Terkel The director.

Jean Cau The director and I hope that the two plays were produced next year. I don't know when but it's sure.

Studs Terkel We'll look forward for explosive evenings in the theater and thoughtfully reading the book Jean Cau. And as a journalist he's to be read in L'Express, one of the most, I beleive one of the most popular in Paris is he not Tim?

Tim Sure. He wrote very very famous reportage.

Studs Terkel Reports.

Tim On the Algerian workers suburbs near Paris and it has to be said that there were very very courageous very human and very witty and it caused this certain impression and he probably risked a lot for that. And he was menaced during this period. I don't know how he managed to escape the madness but he was really menaced by the O.A.S. if you know about

Studs Terkel Yes, we're aware of.

Jean Cau Organization of American States.

Tim He had to hide for some period because of his articles.

Studs Terkel So then John Cau expresses himself realistically in a reportage manner as a journalist.

Tim Because he he there there is much controversial always reactions about his articles he's not he's not a quite.

Studs Terkel You're a troublemaker. Well, that's good. Perhaps more such troublemakers?

Tim But it has to be said that this this reportage on the [French] suburb where the Algerian live and the conditions they have been living in and their human condition have to be said they have

Studs Terkel been Compassionate.

Tim -ssionate. [Jean Cau speaking French] He just he just he makes but with the same with the same wit. He interviews Brigitte Bardot.

Studs Terkel Oh so he's an all around. I see all around. He may be

Jean Cau That's very dangerous

Studs Terkel Haha that too dangerous in its own way.

Tim He he did he wasn't menaced after that. [Studs Terkel laughs] Except by himself, probably.

Studs Terkel Well, Jean Cau thanks to Tim as our interpreter at times although Jean you did very well. There's no problem here at all of course the point you're making is a universal one and it spans language barriers. Journalist, novelist, playwright, merci

Tim Thank you.

Jean Cau Merci.