Antoine de Lévis Mirepoix
An Interview with Antoine de Lévis Mirepoix
With David Garyan
DG: What inspired you to become a writer?
ADLM: I think that no one becomes a writer. One simply is a writer or is not. Writing is my essence. The necessity to write appeared naturally, but it was directly linked to my passion for reading. As far as I remember, I wanted to be a writer. All the other boys had other dreams: explorer, pilot, architect, film maker, astronomer, ethnologist, and so on. I started writing at the age of fourteen. Short stories mainly. Poetry. Thoughts. Phrases. Feelings. What I was observing around and inside me. Description of nature and beings. Relations between them. Stories I was told.
DG: You have a strong connection to France and Argentina. How does this influence your writing?
ADLM: I have a very strong connection to France on my father’s side, as my most distant French ancestor lived in the 12th century. And with Argentina because of my mother’s family—they immigrated there in 1784 and 1810. Regarding the influence of this double connection to my writing I will define it this way: On one hand, I feel close to the imaginary world of Echeverría (La Cautiva), Ricardo Guïraldes (Don Segundo Sombra), Adolfo Bioy Casares (La Invención de Morel), Ernesto Sábato, Julio Cortázar, but also to the reality shown and created by other authors from Latin America as Gabriel García Marquez, Juan Rulfo, Huidobro, Isabel Allende, Francisco Coloane, Luis Sepúlveda, Alejo Carpentier, José Lezama Lima (Paradiso) … On the other hand, I am close to the sensibilities of many French novelists as Le Clézio (Désert), Joseph Kessel, Albert Camus, Maurice Genevoix, Jean Giono, Julien Gracq, Jean de La Varende, Amin Maalouf, Roger Nimier, Raymond Queneau, Jean Raspail, Jean Rostand, Nicolas Vanier, Gilbert Sinoué, Antoine de Saint Exupéry, Jules Supervielle, François Cheng, Gustave Flaubert, Victor Hugo, Balzac, Rabelais, etc … they are too many! And I left aside all poets! May I add that Italian, English, Japanese literature seduces me too. The crossroads of culture are mainly about one thing: the multiplicity of reality.
DG: It would be interesting to hear about your past career—how has it shaped the writing you’ve done?
ADLM: My past “career” was varied. I happened to be teacher, diplomat, in charge of international relations in the French National Space Center and in a pharmaceutical company, located in many different countries. All that gave me the opportunity to deal with a wide range of situations and experiences. They provided an interesting amount of material that I’ve been drawing from over the years. The different jobs I have done have expanded my vision and perception of the world.
DG: Much of your writing contains deeply personal themes. How do you transfer that into literature?
ADLM: Personal themes are present in my literature even when the story itself is totally invented, which means that they are part of my moral composition, part of my convictions, part of my style. In writing or speech, I cannot express anything I don’t believe. I think that sincerity is one of the most important ethical obligations for an author. You can be wrong, you can be right, but you cannot lie in literature. To agree or disagree is our human liberty. It is part of our diversity which I consider marvelous. A writer must make himself vulnerable to his audience. It’s one’s responsibility. Because writing is a serious affair. On the contrary, presenting objective facts is reporting not writing. Marguerite Yourcenar once said to Matthieu Galey that none of the characters created by a novelist are similar to him, but all of them belong to his own essence.
DG: You’ve written novels and also poetry. For you, in terms of creative approach, how are they similar and how are they different?
ADLM: Creative approaches to poetry are based on emotions. The poet transfers his emotional state to the reader, establishing within him an intimate and deep connection through the meaning of words, and through the musicality of those words. The link between poet an reader is personal and unique. A novel is a story. It can be poetically written, or contain poetical descriptions, etc … but it his always a story with a beginning and end. Some novels are “open” with no formal end, but that doesn’t mean the novelist isn’t a story teller. To immerse one’s self in the creative process of poetry or novel writing, one has to consider the individuality of the artist. That’s why similarities can exist across the board, but also differences, depending on the author personality.
DG: In terms of theme, how has your writing changed over the years?
ADLM: Regarding the evolution of my themes throughout the years, I should say they are in accordance with my own emotional state—living in the moment. In a way they are an expression of my internal and external composition. I believe the kernel of writing doesn’t lie in the theme. A theme is a vehicle, not the heart of the message one wants to deliver. So the evolution of a writer’s message follows his own evolution. It gets deeper, more accurate, more generous, or on the contrary it repeats itself on and on, loosing strength, perhaps falling into commercial territory, or ultimate superficiality. My literary themes (and perhaps the themes of all writers) are not that original. For me personally, they are not that different from the interests I have, and most of the things I’m interested in have changed very little through time: destiny, life and death, encounters, humanity and the universe, music, philosophy, nature, horses, beauty, truth, love.
DG: Do you write more now, or were you more prolific in the past?
ADLM: I write whenever I have a moment. I started to write seriously—my first novel—at fifty six, because I never could dedicate before enough space time to my work. Although naturally sporadic, my writing never stopped. Sentences, literary ideas, plans of novels, human characters, poetry, descriptions, feelings into words, etc … all this constantly crosses my mind. Nevertheless I suffer from what I call “empty” literary periods. I do not consider myself as a prolific writer. Being sporadic is part of my style, linked with intensity. My novels are short, 80 to 200 pages, and my short stories can be half a page. I hope to dedicate now a third part of the day to literature creativity.
DG: How has the pandemic affected your writing?
ADLM: The pandemic has affected my writing, first because covid has stopped my work almost a year, secondly because it generated a crisis of credibility. Lies everywhere all the time. But on top of everything, the pandemic has changed my perception of humanity—the planet and it’s future. Still, at this point, I would like to avoid the issue of how this historical moment might have and will change my work.
DG: Who’s one French writer you couldn’t live without, and one Argentine writer?
ADLM: Very difficult question! I’ll choose Antoine de Saint Exupéry … but I must add Victor Hugo. Argentine writer Jorge Luis Borges. And I must add my Colombian favorite, Gabriel Garcia Marquez.
DG: What’s one book or poem you wish you had written?
ADLM: I would love to have written Alessandro Barrico’s novel Ocean Sea. Hemingway’s Across the River and into the Trees, Victor Hugo’s poem “Les Djinns,” and all Baudelaire’s poems. I must admit that I am jealous of J.M.G Le Clézio as a writer and as a man who lived a life in accordance with his intimate essence.