Lord green costume and a crown on the head, a pachyderm loved kids parade in the office full of books of François Sureau. That card-the creamy, the man Babar between these walls where the lawyer has written a powerful argument for the liberties threatened by the state of emergency (collected in the book freedom, published by the editions Taillandier last year) ? “Reassuring presence “, replied the person concerned, but also inspiring. Because the creature of Jean de Brunhoff is an enlightened monarch, “discreet and fair,” says Elder. On the occasion of the release of the book The Splendor of Brunhoff (Fayard), Yseult Williams, the writer has agreed to supply us with reading his philosophical-political book for children that borrows from Giraudoux, Homer, and Rousseau, all of it.
The Point : In your office throne a drawing of Babar. Why such a craze ?
François Sureau : everyone I imagine its a fetish, those memories of childhood that we carry into middle age with the idea, perhaps superstitious, that they will protect you from the misery. Babar is reassuring for the child. It is also for the man who has aged, and which may be encouraged by its presence to replicate the traits of the king of the elephants in Babar and father Christmas : at the same time adventurous and compassionate, discreet and fair. Babar and father Christmas is the latest, and perhaps the most upsetting books of Jean de Brunhoff. At the end, you will remember, Babar deputizes for the father Christmas failed, the creature to supplant the creator. And then Babar, it is also our destiny as it is an Odyssey. A trip. Jean de Brunhoff was a great reader of Homer. The first adventure of Babar, it is that of a young elephant that the death of his mother, away from the forest, and come back after a long detour. And it is rather late, the mention also of Robinson Crusoe, he too, like Ulysses victim of providence when the torque elephantine lands on a deserted island.
Babar is a children’s book ?
of course. this is a book that speaks to the imagination of children, first because of his genius pictorial, the mass velvety elephant, the white where the child-like imagination can enter ; because of the ” structures of kinship “, which are represented there ; because of the animals, and also of the figure of great mother of the old lady ; because of the particular taste for the disguise permanent, if visible when the elephants play of Molière, or because of the holidays Célesteville ; and games, the delicacies, of the “fair of the throne” of the Kingdom. But any large book for children is a book for adults, for obvious reasons. As the Grimm fairy Tales. As The Book of the jungle.
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Orphaned at a young age, marked by the death of his mother shot by a hunter, Babar flees the forest and then eventually return to build a city where the wickedness, the violence, the vice seem to be excluded. Babar, a worthy heir of Rousseau ?
the Heir in any case for a pessimistic view, and as the aztec world, where the universe of men (here, elephants) is continually threatened by the forces of chaos are about to surge. As to the political organization that derives from it, it appears to me to belong to several different universes, where the influence of the rousseauisme is not the only one. She inspires him, of course this idea of the original purity of the people pachydermique, that evil does not reach. Note also that this purity cannot be confused with other, more sinister, of which the Twentieth century has given us the sad habit : the other species that live in the company of elephants do not threaten in any way. And as the “small nation” of Rousseau, where the story is largely absent except at the time of giving a constitution, the Kingdom of Babar is still. Only Babar trip. And as for Rousseau, it is difficult if the message de Brunhoff is normative or descriptive. Describe what is, or what should be ? He cautions, as in a utopia, against the lies of the policy, and a policy of adventurous ? I don’t know.
To Célesteville, each animal lives according to its own customs. Do you see in the myth of Babar, a critique of assimilation ? A defense of communitarianism ?
The words that you use here are the words of today. They did not correspond at that time to concerns of the same nature. But there is still something in common. Brunhoff began to paint after the First world War. It is also marked by the horrors of the war that the surrealists, for example. And he described his company of elephants, different species included, at the time of the rise of nazism. This is not nothing. There is in him a concern of the liberal society, open, tolerant, something that looks like Giraudoux, even in the love of the niceties of the bourgeois world to which he belonged, and that hated also the fascists and the communists. Elephants drink in the Sèvres porcelain, sit on the same chairs executive Board that those of his own house of Chessy. And when Babar speaks leaning to the fireplace in her costume brand new, this is a farewell to the Nineteenth century, he shows, storytellers, Mérimée and Dumas.
What do you say to those who have blasted the” praise of colonization ” supposedly made by the book on the grounds that Babar returns to the kingdom of elephants decked in the trappings of western civilization ?
I didn’t say much. What about absurd amounts in reality to take the Africans to animals, while the about amazing, in many ways strange de Brunhoff, is to keep the elephants for the best of men.
progressivism has a dose of non-negligible amount of vanity, happiness, abject to be in the property, within the meaning of the story. Nothing is more foreign to the world of Babar.
In your article to be published in the NRF, you propose to Babar a political reading. Is it not finally the enlightened monarch, which the French dream in secret, which was not to embarrass or ministers capricious, nor an administration that is all-powerful ?
I propose a political reading for a laugh, you know. But Babar appears to me to effect the incarnation of the contradictions of French, a monarch republican both religious and strictly atheistic, stalinist – with its worker’s palace beside the palais des festivals –, but benevolent, superior, and similar. We can see that unlike Sarkozy or Hollande, it would very well be the king of the elephants. And the company that books draw is once again a true utopia, a utopia in French : the studies did not report with the business, we don’t like war, but we revere the old generals, the barter exchange replaces money, there is no class, but each function has its uniform and the best elephants are officers of the Legion of honor, without ever demonstrating any morgue. Babar is not only an enlightened monarch, it is both a monarch and non-monarch, the “best of us” and an elephant as the other. As have been said of Sartre, ” an elephant, because of all the elephants, which is worth all, and that is worth anyone “.
What relates to the character of Emmanuel Macron can be detected in Babar ?
the One in which he, and he alone could recognize. The kingdom of Babar is a kingdom within.
At the bottom, if Babar had lived today, perhaps would it be a progressive good complexion…
I don’t think so, because progressivism has a dose of non-negligible amount of vanity, happiness, abject to be in the property, within the meaning of the story. Nothing is more foreign to the world of Babar. In this world, is realized the program of the Sartre of the end : a society without commerce and without industry, which does not have its own propaganda. It does not cultivate his legend with the vulgarity of which we have become accustomed to. There is none of the idols of today, artists of genius multiplied by thousands, sporting half-divine, contractors, citizens, patrons, humanitarian paper, policy-makers dedicated, journalists-investigators, courageous, lawyers, disinterested, rebellious occupation, mutineers employees, independent judges. In Babar, we do not distribute the devotional pictures of the revolt or of capital. In this universe, it takes much less than in ours, the bladders for lanterns.
Babar is king but was given the name of his wife to the city he has built, what confuse completely the feminists. Can we consider the company babarienne as a patriarchate ?
I don’t know. Number of patriarchates apparent, as in the East, matriarcats concealed.
What is the current regime is closer to the monarchy babarienne ?
The regime that loved our childhood, the regime that is self-evident and which can serve us as a standard of reference to continue to reject injustice as the disorder.
” Babar at the Elysée “, article by François Sureau to appear in The Nouvelle Revue française of November 2018.
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