“Hand on the phone”. It is with this phrase of novelist that the young Yvonne Baby began a tribute on the front page to Marilyn Monroe, suicide two days earlier, on August 4, 1962, in the laziness of the summer, the silence of the news of the world and the solitude of the Parisian newsrooms. Like that of the World where the journalist has been learning the trade for five years in the shadow of the master of the «Cinema» section, Jean de Baroncelli, by chance gone on a trip. The necrology of the huge Hollywood star she was entrusted with cost her a night of ink, but launched her career, drawing attention to the exactness and beauty of her pen.

Writing, for Yvonne Baby, goes back to the migratory childhood, anchored in the torments, the mistakes and the heartbreak of war. Writing is taking refuge. Like her father, Jean Baby, a history scholar and communist activist, dismissed from his teaching duties by Vichy, on the run, like her mother of Polish Jewish origin, Ruta Assia, who hides from the Gestapo, the girl lives in emergency, in hiding, and in terror. During a short respite in the folds of the Massif-Central, she expressed the wish to be a writer. Encouraged first by his mother and father-in-law, Georges Sadoul, eminent critic and historian of the 7the art, an accomplice of culture that inspires her future job as a journalist and confirms her talent for writing, she will dare. It is because she sees this second father decline in the summer of 1967, that she hastens to complete her first novel, Yes hope, with which she won, in defiance of the reluctance to crown the romantic work of a – even more than ONE – journalist, the Interallié Prize.

Exceptions to the rule, Yvonne Baby was probably the most remarkable. First woman to be appointed, by Jacques Fauvet, successor of Hubert Beuve-Méry, to head a service of the World, the cultural service that was just born in 1971, from the merger of the Arts and Entertainment sections, and the only one to participate in the editorial conference. She recruits allies, Hervé Guibert and Claire Devarrieux, atypical like her, creative and literary, to give breath to the pages of her service. Together they form a team of free electrons, a separate band.

Taking advantage of the freedom that her journal gives her in the choice and treatment of her subjects, she lets herself be guided by her explorations far from the beaten path. She thus helped to reveal Jean-Luc Godard, whose revolutionary genius she knew and praised, against the tide of doxa, kindness and gentleness. She also deploys an ability to dive into the works known to probe the author at length: talks-rivers of these «splendid men» like Yves Saint-Laurent, Ingmar Bergman, Peter Handke, or Orson Welles, close and deep exchanges with mysterious men like Paul Pavlowitch, who assumes the identity of Émile d'Ajar, double of Romain Gary. Wishing to «find the bottom of things» rather than slip on the agreed surface, Yvonne Baby had a passion for documentation and prolonged excavations. His erudition, his fine and sensitive intelligence, and his gift of brow flowed into this pen full of grace that only death managed to make him let go at the age of 90. Two years ago she said, “I’m actually finishing a book. It’s my salvation, the writing, and it’s my home.”

 

I extend my deepest condolences to his family and to all his loved ones.