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ORIGINAL FRENCH ARTICLE: Armand Gatti, l’imaginaire rebelle et poétique au pouvoir

by Marie-José Sirach

Armand Gatti, Rebellious and Poetic Imagination Has Free Rein

Translated Monday 27 January 2014, by Henry Crapo

A leading figure in theater, poet, dramatist, journalist, Armand Gatti celebrated his ninetieth birthday yesterday in Montreuil, at the site he calls la Parole errante (Wandering Speech).

With bright eyes, a slightly mocking smile, Gatti can’t help showing his interviewer a tiny sign. Attached to the back of his jacket, always, wherever he is, under any circumstances, the portrait of Buenaventura Durruti, the charismatic figure of Spanish anarchism. It’s his own "Legion of Honor", which he wears with pride. This one, no one awarded to him. But it gives testimony at every moment to his engagement.

Anarchist from Top to Toe

Armand Gatti, anarchist from top to toe, as rebellious as Durruti, with an impressive pedigree: maquisard [1] at fifteen years of age on the plateau of Millevaches, arrested, condemned to death, escaped, arrested again, he will be deported ... He is no survivor who returns from death, but a combattant for life, a witness who throws himself body and soul into writing. At first, as a journalist, and what a journalist! He wins the Albert-Londres prize in 1954, then turns toward the theater after Vilar stages one of his plays. Because it is the theater that gets under his skin since that evening, in one of the camps, that he attended a drama acted by rabbis. In the confusion of the century and in feelings, this memory remained firmly anchored, shining like a fire-fly in the night, all those nights when he was on the side of the oppressed, with his brothers in combat, in Northern Ireland, in South America, or standing with the youth of the working class suburbs.

His Mentors in Drama

The titles of his plays, Le Crapaud-buffle [2], La Deuxième Existence du camp de Tatemberg [3], l’Enfant rat [4], La Vie imaginaire de l’éboueur Auguste [5], la Passion du général Franco [6], V comme Vietnam [7] or Petit manuel de guérilla urbaine [8], are explicit, both provocative and forceful. Rapidly, Gatti distances himself from frontal (stage) representation, then from representation itself. Far from the traditional places for theater, he sets himself up in a no-man’s land, in the city, in the country, works with those who are excluded, those who are condemned by society. For Gatti, these persons are suns. He endeavors to let them shine. At his performances, people come or they don’t, the take their places or they don’t. One knows, more or less, when it starts, one never knows when it ends. Because he never writes the last word, always preferring the ellipsis ...

Gatti confides to us that he has three mentors, Vilar, Piscator (the founder of proletarian theater) and Mao-Tse-toung. But also and especially Michaux, Rimbaud, Gramsci, whose books were in his sack the day he joined the maquis. Poets, like himself; free men, like himself; rebellious, like himself.

In 1986, he settles in Montreuil, in the former studios of Méliès [9] Le Parole errant is born, a proteiform locale open to all currents. With Hélène Chatelain, his son Stéphane Gatti or with Jean-Jacques Hocquard, they have made of this place a living locality, which palpitates with every encounter. In recent days, a festive air drifts over Montreuil. One passes, one stays, one leaves, one comes back. Armand Gatti, with his ninety springtimes, never stops working. The virus of writing, always and again, when he puts on his work-apron as on the first day, he never quits. Gatti was born in Monaco, like Leo Ferré. One may believe that "the rock" gives rise to some surprising wild plants.

All the works of Gatti are published and republished. Just appeared, in December, the recent issue of Cahier Armand Gatti [10], Du journalism" [11]. On 1 February, at 14h and at 19h, at l’Enstatt in Lyon, a meeting with Armand Gatti, hosted by Olivier Neveux.

[1resistance fighter

[2The Bull Frog

[3The Second Life of the Camp of Tatemberg

[4The Child Rat

[5The Imaginary Life of Auguste the Trash Collector

[6The passsion of General Franco

[7V as in Vietnam

[8The Little Manuel for Urban Guerrilla Warfare

[9George Méliès, French filmmaker, inventor of many methods of "trick" filmmaking, who opened the first film production studio in France, in Montreuil.

[10Notebooks of Armand Gatti

[11On Journalism

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