Master, dear Jean d'Ormesson, Military Governor of Paris, dear General Dary, General Officers, Delegate General for the French Language and the Languages of France, dear Xavier North, Mr. President of the Association of War Writers, dear Jean Orizet, Dear Stéphane Bern and Philippe Vallet, Ladies and Gentlemen, Dear friends,
Here we are once again gathered to present the Roland Dorgelès Prize, awarded by the Association of Fighting Writers to two audiovisual professionals, one from radio, the other from television, who deserve to be recognized for the quality of their contribution to the French language.
The Roland-Dorgelès Prize, which has been awarded for fourteen years, has become a reference for the French language, and I am delighted about that. Madeleine Dorgelès, the writer’s wife, created it in 1997 and Michel Tauriac, who chaired the association, and the jury of the prize, with the talent and enthusiasm that everyone knows him, gave it its form, which was the first architect of its success. And he has passed on to you the torch of this beautiful association, dear Jean Orizet, which in your turn you know how to hold high.
I would like to come back for a moment to the association of war writers, founded in particular by Roland Dorgelès after the Great War. His goal was to create a brotherhood of men of letters to prevent the tragedy from happening again. A noble undertaking if any, which unfortunately will not prevent Europe and the world from setting itself ablaze again, adding its share of horrors and barbarism to the already unbearable record of the First World War.
Just a few days ago, in the Europa supplement, published jointly by some of our major European newspapers, Umberto Eco said: We must remember that only culture, beyond war, is our identity. For centuries, French, Italians, Germans, Spaniards and English shot each other on sight. We have been at peace for less than seventy years and no one notices this masterpiece: imagining today that a conflict between Spain and France or Italy and Germany erupts only causes hilarity.” The European political project, in fact, came to respond to the need for utopia that had presided over the creation of your association.
Who cannot subscribe to this thought? Certainly, this long-established peace does not prevent crises, and the European horizon is still under debate. However, let us not lose sight of Umberto Eco’s message: beyond dissension, culture is the glue that unites us, in Europe, with respect for our diversity, thanks to the freedom that is our common value – freedom of the press, freedom to create.
This freedom, for us, is intrinsically linked to what Michel Tauriac called, with a beautiful expression, a «francophone consciousness»: that of a language mastered, conscious of its origins, its history, the value of the social bond that it represents and carries; that of a freedom of expression that is also exercised by style, that is, through a clear language adapted to its object and to its audience. Indeed, our language, forged by centuries of use, has been able to transform itself without losing its essence; in its incessant and necessary changes, the French language carries a look at the world.
The influence of the media makes you all language prescribers. It is through you, through radio and television, that a certain standard of language is established; that this standard is changeable, it is the lot of every language that lives and evolves. In your professions, being concerned about your language is precisely knowing how to play it so that it is the spur of our freedom of expression. Having shared your profession for so long, I am not on the side of those who grieve the slightest breach of the rules, which will often end up not being any more, evolution obliges. But on the other hand, I am resolutely with those who, because they love their language, seek the grace of the right word, of the well-expressed idea, of the formula that marks. Our language, which is our first working instrument, is magnified.
This evening, we pay tribute to two of your colleagues whom the Roland-Dorgelès Prize jury chose this year to honour for their talent in handling our language. For Stéphane Bern, it is the rhetoric of classical inspiration that fits in harmoniously with his usual subjects: heritage and history. At Philippe Vallet, it is the talent to reconcile, in his columns - the «Book of the Day» on France Info -, the long time of writing with the short time of information, by the sense of simplicity and the art of precision. Your colleagues and friends thank you both.
Dear Michel Tauriac,
Allow me to take this opportunity to pay special tribute to you.
You are a committed man, a man of combat, and this trait brings together all aspects of your long and beautiful career, as a soldier, as a journalist, as a writer.
Our modern literary history is rich in figures like yours, which have married struggles, travels and writing. I am thinking here of Joseph Kessel, Ernest Hemingway and André Malraux, Jean Lartéguy, among many others. How can we fail to mention, one generation before yours, the writers of the Great War, Maurice Genevoix, Georges Duhamel, to name but a few; and of course, Roland Dorgelès, whose awards we are presenting today are named after.
Your commitment is first and foremost the fruit of admiration: for you, and above all, for the figure of General De Gaulle, whose epic journey has seduced you since your youth. Witness the many reports, writings, books that you have dedicated to him, and especially the Dictionnaire amoureux de De Gaulle, in the beautiful collection of Éditions Plon, in 2010. On the head of free France, on the statesman, I would also like to mention the Thirty Days that made De Gaulle, as well as the two volumes of De Gaulle, my father, a collection of the fascinating interviews you had with Philippe De Gaulle.
Whether it be novels such as Jade or La nuit du Têt, or scholarly essays such as L'Histoire d'Angkor, your works on Indochina illustrate your willingness to testify and transmit, whatever the register or the genre, with a quick and incisive pen, a strong and communicative passion, which has the ability to train your readers.
Your commitment is finally your passion for the French language. You exemplify him as a man of pen, as a journalist, of course, but also by your associative devotion, with the Fighting Writers, who bring together people of eminent letters who have carried arms for France, and all those who share the values and ethics of your association. As president of this fine association, you have once again displayed the energy and inventiveness that characterize you.
Dear Michel Tauriac, thank you for the example you give us, by your life and your work.
On behalf of the French Republic, we make you Commander of the Order of Arts and Letters.