Members of the High Committee to the National Celebrations Ladies and Gentlemen, Dear Friends,
You did not find the 2011 National Celebrations Digest as it was intended to be distributed tonight. I fully accept this decision, and I will explain why.
But first, I would like to pay tribute to the High Committee for National Celebrations, composed of eminent personalities, for the quality of its work and expertise. So the decision I made is not a disavowal, it is an inflexion that I fully assume. It is in conformity with the role of the Minister that I am and who is the guardian in this field of the lights that must be dispensed by memory and the appeasement of hearts that allows to apprehend it.
I know that a legitimate stir has been aroused among a number of personalities whose actions I deeply respect and who have opened up publicly because of the presence of the writer Louis-Ferdinand Céline in the collection as it was presented. I don’t want to dodge the question, I don’t want to ignore it, it’s too important. I wish to face it calmly and scrupulously, in the light of the various readings that the expression "National Celebrations", a legacy of several institutions whose task since 1974 has been to propose “the commemoration of significant events in national history in the historical, literary, artistic, scientific and technical fields”.
“Shall we, can we celebrate Céline?”: This is the question posed by the author of the notice, Henri Godard, one of the most eminent specialists in his work, with as much insight as scruples. While I myself was divided on this presence and I finally came to terms with the opinion of the High Committee, after mature reflection, in my soul and conscience, and not under the influence of emotion or contradictory pressure, I decided to withdraw Céline from the 2011 National Celebrations. We know the terms of the controversy. A brilliant writer whose contribution to 20th century literature is not contested by anyone, Louis-Ferdinand Céline has also put his pen at the service of the repugnant ideology of anti-Semitism, in an obsessive manner, at a time when this ideology was killing so many people in our own country. We can pay tribute to the writer and novelist who revolutionized writing in the first half of the 20th century. This is what Jacques Tardi and Fabrice Lucchini do admirably, this is what will be done on the occasion of the symposium dedicated to the writer at the Centre national Georges Pompidou on February 4 and 5, this is what the edition of Céline’s work in the Pléiade- exceptional literary celebration. And Céline’s place is obviously in other places of research, in our public libraries and on our private shelves. I hope that this cultural vitality will be preserved and that it will continue in freedom and serenity. Literary genius is an objective fact that deserves the admiration of posterity; anti-Semitic madness is a pathology that generates only suffering and so much taken if Céline had to suffer from it himself after the war.
In the current state of affairs and in view of what the expression “National Celebrations” really means, we cannot celebrate the man Louis-Ferdinand Céline with regard to the fundamental values of the nation and the Republic, these values that bring us together and must inspire collective acceptance.
In this regard, I hope that the High Committee for National Celebrations, to which I renew my complete confidence, will undertake a new reflection on the meaning and content of this great mission at the service of memory, entrusted to the Ministry of Culture and Communication. I hope that he will make clear proposals to me in the coming weeks either to define a change in terminology, or to build an indispensable doctrine of the objectives of the State in this delicate area. It is precisely because anniversaries of all kinds can make us fear an atomization of our collective memory that the State is destined to be present. In fact, when I talk about a sensitive area, the issue of defining a boundary between what is acceptable and what is not may apply to other personalities, but in this case the wisdom of the high committee prevails.
It is about making it clear that it is important to pass on to younger generations all aspects of the past, that it is not just about exalting “great men” and “heroes”. of the past, but also to take a critical look and to face with vigilance and scruples the dark hours as well as the good times. The national celebrations as outlined today do not exactly answer that question.
To commemorate is not to make a work of hagiography, but on the contrary to appeal to reason, to critical consciousness, to the vigilance of the citizen on all the episodes of our past, without ever renouncing the duty of intelligence and history. Again, I want to be clear that this is not a denial of the work of the High Committee, whose quality, intelligence and dedication I know. It is a decision that I fully assume and that is entirely within my prerogatives. I have no doubt that the High Committee will respond calmly to this requirement, which is mine.
In other words, it is about knowing yesterday for tomorrow and facing the hours of glory as the darkest pages. Today, the duty of history obliges us. Without history, a country falls into oblivion of itself: it forgets its values, it forgets continuities and ruptures, shadows and lights, it finally forgets the thread of conquests and progress that lead it to the present time.
This implies a requirement for transmission. I make this desire to transmit, to reach all audiences and all generations my own. I am concerned to reconcile the duty of history, the need for transmission, with the technological tools we now have. That is why I am pleased to announce that, starting this year, all the anniversaries and notices contained in the collection will be accessible from an application for touch screens compatible with most mobile devices, including the terminology will in future be the one chosen by the High Committee. From tomorrow it will be possible
to easily consult all the notices related to the different anniversaries but also to take information on all the events organized throughout France. I am thinking of course, through this tool, of the young generations, of this French society rich in its diversity, to which we must be able to access knowledge and to understand what it is from a past made of contrasts, conflicts and wounds still alive.
If we are gathered this evening in the unchanged context of the national celebrations and in the Chapel of the Great Augustinians, it is precisely because we mark the 150th anniversary of the death of Alexandre Lenoir, whose figure continues to confront the opinions of both art historians and archaeologists. This endearing figure of the heritage policy, tried, as everyone knows, to save, in full Terror, relics and vestiges and gathered them as «goods placed in deposit» in the convent of the Little Augustinians, where today is the National School of Fine Arts (ENSBA) and where we are gathered today. He who had the intuition of the importance of the architectural trace in the service of cultural ambition, the one who was the «inventor» of the Musée des monuments français, certainly deserved a special tribute and attention.
This year 2011 will be a particularly rich year for the National Celebrations, which the Ministry of Culture and Communication is responsible for. This is of course the Liszt year, launched a few days ago in the historic buildings of the Erard piano factory – which already supplied Haydn and Beethoven – where the young Liszt was welcomed upon his arrival in Paris and where he lived during his Parisian stays. This year’s Commissariat, coordinated by the French Institute, was entrusted to Jean-Yves Clément, master builder of the Lisztomanias de Châteauroux for many years, who has shaped a rich programme of concerts, conferences, festive events, on the occasion of Europe Day on 9 May. On this date the brilliant pianist Giovanni Bellucci will perform Liszt in the heart of the European Parliament.Liszt is indeed one of the most flamboyant inventors of the star system, this phenomenon that Heine, as a witness of the scene, had baptized the Lisztomanie. It is the composer of Dream of Love, who makes women dream all over Europe, on permanent tour for ten years, from Dublin to Constantinople, from Cadiz to St. It is Liszt surrounded by Dumas, Paganini, Rossini, Hugo, the countess of Agoult at her feet.
The Liszt Year is also the most European of our 2011 National Celebrations. In the age of the crystallization of nationalism, the courted virtuoso knew how to play on all horizons. The man who said he conceived a «chauvinist passion» for Paris will also be the one who will design the acoustics of the Wartburg concert hall, this high place of German nationalism, to welcome Minnesänger’s dreams. Liszt, it is this star both Hungarian and Franco-German that succeeds in being the father-in-law and Emile Ollivier, and Richard Wagner.
2011 will also be the centenary year of the birth of two political figures of the twentieth century our country, who left a deep trace in the cultural and intellectual life. I am referring to President Georges Pompidou and the voice of “Radio London”, Maurice Schumann. In the political figures celebrated, it is the whole Republic that gathers, it is a better formed «collective memory» which is in seed: from Clovis to Louis Blanc, from Victor Duruy to Colonel Passy, there is neither heroism nor the will to transmit a legendary obsolete, rather the idea of providing reference points and witness mounds in the landscape, often chaotic, full of noise and fury, of the dominant «presentism», to use the expression of the historian François Hartog.
2011 will also be an anniversary year for one of the "founding fathers" of cinema, which we must never forget was born in the spirit of fairground and the love of the performing arts. Important events will mark the 150th anniversary of the birth of Georges Méliès, in connection with the very active association of friends of Georges Méliès, whose leaders I would like to salute. Unpublished copies on the occasion of major festivals and festive events, retrospectives, symposium dedicated to Méliès in July 2011, in Cerisy-la-Salle, opportunities will not fail to celebrate a visionary of talent and a forerunner of genius, combining surrealism and acute awareness of the evils of time. A new colorized version of Voyage dans la lune will be presented at the Cannes Film Festival.
2011 will also be a rich year for poetry and poetic art, with the presence of Boileau, Théophile Gautier, Saint-Pol Roux or Patrice de La Tour du Pin. I wouldn’t want to forget the sculpture with Bourdelle and Maillol. And how can we forget the «places of memory» that take part in our daily life, like the battalion of the fire brigade of Paris, created in 1810 after the fire that starts during the ball given on the occasion of the Emperor’s wedding with the Archduchess Marie-Louise from Austria, from the Orly terminal, symbol of the triumphant modernity of the «Trente Glorieuses» or the publication of the first album of the Adventures of Asterix, whose echo echoes far beyond the borders of the Francophonie, The struggle without gravity but not without meaning of the small against the big nourishes since then dreams and utopias.
I also want to mention the very rich “Year of the Overseas” presented a few weeks ago, which will be an opportunity to show the richness and the cultural, artistic and linguistic diversity of the ultramarine territories. In this regard the presence of an enlightened «discoverer» like Bougainville but also of the ardent figure of Frantz Fanon, born in Fort-de-France, translates this attention.
The year 2011 will also be an opportunity to evoke the great thinkers of madness, from the humanist Erasmus to the author of the History of Madness in the Classical Age, Michel Foucault, published in 1961.
I would not want to forget what is known as the “Great Century”, with the anniversaries linked to Boileau, Louis Couperin, Coypel – to which an exhibition will be devoted next spring at the Château de Fontainebleau – but also to Louis XIV himself.even, of which we will celebrate the 350th anniversary of personal government. I have no doubt that the many festivals dedicated to early and baroque music – I am thinking of Versailles, Ambronay, but also Royaumont – will find material to enrich and nourish a program. For my part, I plan to pay tribute to those who have unearthed and rediscovered this repertoire in recent years and who have launched important research and discographic collections: baroque ensembles, choirs, It is probably a source of creativity and innovation that has enabled many artists and performers to showcase their talent around the world.
And now we meet again at the beginning of this evening. In this regard, I would like to warmly thank Xavier Simonin and the great harmonicist Jean-Jacques Milteau for introducing us to the epic and travelling writing of Blaise Cendrars on the 50th anniversary of his death.
In this regard, let me conclude this brief, non-exhaustive evocation of the national celebrations of 2011 by saluting both the musical talent and the modesty of many creators who would never have thought of being so celebrated by posterity. Take Marguerite Monnot, for example, whose 50th anniversary we mark. It is to her that we owe some of the unforgettable songs of Edith Piaf. Yes, the Legionnaire, Milord, the Goualante of poor Jean, the Hymn to Love and the Lovers of a Day have their place here this evening, even if it is sometimes difficult to always consider «Life in Pink».