Conversing and exchanging views with: Author/Journalist Robert Colonna d’Istria

My first impulse would be to state that it’s an impressive and vast world, that of Robert Colonna d’Istria – whose career has led him through many choices of fields of work. Author, journalist, lecturer, inspector of historical monuments, collaborator of various newspapers and magazines – to name but a few.

A question struck me concerning his most recent publication: Une Famille Corse, 1200 Ans De Solitude (A Corsican Family, 1200 years of Solitude). Was this a decisive choice for an accomplished career ?
Not really, no. More so a reflection on the island, the Corsicans themselves and how they differ from elsewhere; a type of examination would be a more appropriate way of defining this proposal – however, not only – it is also an interrogation on his own family and his very own story. He certainly hopes to continue writing for many years to come.
This obviously led me to ask how he views families and Corsican families today, in general.
A noticeable decrease in influence can be observed, which can partially be explained by the fact that families are less united than before; separations, divorces .. a changeable society, leading to less weight as a group and Corsica is not spared from this transformation – quite unlike a group who would hold economical power.
There’s also the task of making a distinction between tradition and modernity. Sociology, anthropology (amongst others) are in question, individuals holding more influence.

Author/Journalist, if he had to choose, which passion is the greatest ?
Without hesitation, that of the author. The art of creation belongs to the author. He also finds it is quite easy to stop writing on one subject in order to concentrate on another. Cézanne came to mind immediately as an example of artistic creation, and his desire to grasp the Saint Victoire landscape which as we know, would occupy him right up to the very end of his life.

How does he situate the island today in the world ?
Like many places, the island experiences and suffers from globalisation, the global market continues to dominate. Ways of life and habits have also altered; people travel more, they come and go. The past has been somewhat shattered – but, in spite of all of the above, the island does manage to exhibit directly what it produces.
It was after spending many years on the mainland and returning to his island for annual holidays, that he decided to finally make his home here on a permanent basis.

One of Robert Colonna d’Istria’s former activities includes lecturing, and the answer to the question what he had been lecturing on is ‘his books’ – travelling notably to the US (Boston), Germany and Algeria at times in the past, along with the mainland.

How does he find young adults today, are they more or less receptive ?
Noticeable generation gaps seem obvious. The work climate has drastically changed throughout the years, with a serious lack of jobs for many. Terrorism has entered the scene, and the public is generally more worried than before. Insecurity and violence have become major preoccupations.

And how has internet changed the medias ?
This really depends on how it is used. It is a massive and swift means of communication – also a ‘hidden’ world within which we are not always aware of what is really going on.
In his opinion, international affairs have altered so fundamentally in recent years it’s a whole new picture we have before our eyes these days. Influences have changed, and the world has undergone major transformations. Conflicts degenerate quickly, at times giving birth to new predicaments. Heads of states have much to worry about. A sad state of affairs for the European evolution.

What would his preferences be when he takes up a book ?
As he has quite a lot of research to do, he enjoys the reading involved.
Vénus Khoury-Ghata, a French/Lebanese writer is his choice for reading poetry, and he also thoroughly enjoys African/Francophone literature.
It was indeed out of interest that he became attracted to history and historical heritage. He remembers always wanting to write books, knowing well that it is also a world of insecurity and doubts, also conscious of the fact that one should remain modest. He reflects on what he has to say and writes on a daily basis.

What he would really like for people to retain from his publications would be that life is made from dreams, passions, desires to be together and sharing – the fact that we are constantly reminded that the world can be quite mad at times, and although people are incited to earn more and more money, should not lead us away astray, nor away from our initial and personal pursuits.

I’m always very curious as to what people find they have yet to accomplish. The answers are invariably personal and widespread !
His hopes include writing many more books, travelling and time to renovate an old house.
A personal quote that has held his attention would be:
To be king, poet or captain‘.
Again, quotes are indeed bountiful, but those that spring to mind instantly, that have swept you off your feet or that have had a specific influence remain ingrained.
Furthermore, when asked if he has anything to add, and with a pondering regard he replies:
Lorsqu’on rêve, on ne vieillit pas
“When we dream, we do not grow old” … certainly a reflection worth reflecting upon.

Now, here’s a short list of chosen publications you may like to look into:
– Une Famille Corse 1200ans de Solitude (2018) Ed. Terre Humaine Plon, which was awarded the Livre Corse 2018 and was also in the final selection for the Prix Renaudot 2018
– Moi, Napoléon Bonaparte (texts + illustrations 2018)
– Le testament du bonheur Ed. du Rocher (2016)
– Hexagone Trotteur Ed. Transbordeurs (2004)
– L’Art du Luxe Ed. Transbordeurs (2006)
– Bernanos – Le prophète et le poète Ed. France Empire (1998)

You may also find him in our daily newspaper Corse-Matin, where he runs a literary chronicle, and collaborating with Le Point, Le Figaro and Corsica.

For further contact:
Image: Robert Colonna d’Istria

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