Exchange of thought-provoking reflections with: Antoine Albertini – Journalist/Author

A shared pleasure, meeting Antoine once again, after having had the opportunity in the past, while participating in a debate relating to democracy and Catalonia, organised by the local television in Corsica. I would like to underline the fact that my intention here was not to direct this interview uniquely in the sense of Antoine’s most recent book ‘Les Invisibles’, but to notably determine the importance and impact it certainly holds, along with his personal views on several subjects which we will unfold, little by little, during our line of conversation.

Born and educated on the island and residing in Bastia, he furthered his studies in Paris at the Sorbonne University, and more specifically in financial press law. Having returned to Corsica in 2001, he thereupon became a local correspondant for the newspaper Le Monde and our local television channel FR3 Corse, specialising in crime reports. This point particularly attracted my attention, as I had every intention of finding out why he chose such a distinct subject for his most recent publication – I held the beginning of an explanation, which I will disclose a little later on. Antoine Albertini is also a very active Assistant Editor of Corse Matin, our local newspaper.

It turns out journalism chose Antoine, as opposed to what we would have found natural being the other way round – in fact, his immediate wish was to enter the French Foreign Legion, to fight for a cause and with a smile he adds, ‘wear a green beret’. I admit, it wasn’t the answer I had expected !
In order to comprehend the ‘why’ and the ‘how’ as regards to journalism, we need to bear in mind the fact that Antoine always wrote stories, fiction, and recollections. After his law studies were completed, he was contacted by a friend who proposed joining him to write articles for a site that had been created – this brought self-confidence and an initiation to the ever-expanding world of the Internet, within which he had to swim and learn the expanse of the ropes.
Today, if he could change something in journalism he would no longer tolerate political journalists, finding them far too subjective and influential – neglecting facts. Also, he would widely promote longer reading, which had been given a second chance a few years ago by Le Monde, with a very satisfactory result.

How does he find the public views journalists today ?
He’s very conscious of the fact that the public does not particularly like journalists, it’s evident. And, as he has written hundreds of articles on violence itself and violent subjects, he continues to believe that part of the world remains completely immune to all of this, shutting its eyes so as not to break any illusions it still carries – there’s a definite breach between these two worlds.
Saying this, he does find journalists better prepared today, following a constant evolution of the profession.

Does freedom of speech remain plausible today within Europe, as France rates thirty-third worldwide ?
This really boils down to being a matter of choice – for choice there must be. Journalists deal with the authorities on a regular basis, their duty is to inform and relay information as correctly and objectively as possible. Self-censorship can be a prominent danger, practised through fear or compliance.
For information, currently there are laws being prepared in this respect by the French government, as to what journalists will and will not be able to express – the connection here being directed towards ‘touchy’ or ‘unfinished’ matters, and he adds, to be voted by people who have had no real experience in this area.
So, one can say it continues to remain vital to gather and transmit events/news that could just go by unseen or unheard of, in order for the readers/viewers to reflect and make up their own minds – the public needs to remain aware above all, and also help in every way possible.

Let’s return to our island of Corsica – how does he situate it today, and does he feel it remains ‘unspoilt’ ?
In his opinion, and he made it quite clear, Corsica finds itself at a distinctive point of its history right now, within a situation which appears peaceful and quiet, and yet is not. A progressive poverty can be observed more so than before, with the continual widening of the gap between rich and poor. Structures are stumbling down, and the presence of concealed problems which could cause imminent devastation for the future can be sensed. Solutions are rapidly required, before it may become too late.

We’re now coming up to his most recent work of writing: ‘Les Invisibles’ (The Invisible).
Antoine took his time in preparing and writing this book, eight years to be exact – for he knew nothing would change. The ‘plaine orientale’ on the east side of the island remains the first agricultural region, and will probably continue to be so in the future. In diffusing facts which occurred around the end of 2009 with authentic details and testimonies resulting in a murder, he feels he was just doing his job, and what he had to do – a witness, not at all trying to be a ‘white knight’. He is constantly aware of the existence of ‘grey matter’, how could it be otherwise, wherein the law is often helpless. ‘Les Invisibles’ remain part of the immigrant North African population continually arriving on the island, in search of employment. A brief reminder, between 1957-1966, 15000 French from Northern Africa settled on the island, and from then onwards history would be somewhat disrupted. Insufficient reflection led to inevitable events, that are now written down in history for all to read. We must also remember that the North African population is the second population of the island, with legal immigrants rarely mixing with locals, but where issues arise from illegal immigrants. As for the authorities, one could say that in the beginning it was a comfortable situation; they had relocated their population from abroad without too much difficulty, although shading a certain hypocrisy. Today, the need for these workers is superior to what could be offered here.
In taking the decision to relate, I wondered what he hoped to achieve with this book – his answer is straightforward, awareness – although he does realise that not everybody would greet the release with enthusiasm, but that’s not a problem for him in any way.
Personally, I found his book set the records straight – precise, detailed, without omitting rather disturbing elements, that certainly raised an eyebrow or two.
Therefore, I do advise those who have not already grasped the occasion to read it, to do so without hesitation.
Then I wondered, just how easily does he detach himself from being personally involved – is it a constant struggle ?
In order to protect oneself, it is necessary to take a certain distance from circumstances. Antoine admits, after covering over a hundred homicides, crime scenes become almost familiar at some stage, even though we realise each one carries its own story and remains individual, there is a definite repetition over time – this line of thought can be observed in certain other professions, where the thin wall of separation requires regular attention and care.

Views on books today, digital/paperback ?
I wasn’t surprised to learn he prefers paperbacks. However, he doesn’t deny the advantages of digital, especially with the wide range of choice nowadays covering the classics. Quite poetically, he points out when you look at slanting book covers, a forcible suggestion of ‘travel’ reveals itself, alluring and inviting. With an impish manner Antoine adds ‘Shakespeare was an ancient God, who was sent to earth to reveal the authentic nature of humans’ – and that set off an immediate fit of laughter …

In the literary world, who does his admiration go to ?
– James Ellroy
He read his first book way back in 1994 in one day: ‘Brown’s Requiem’.
And, as amazing as it may appear, James Ellroy actually came to Bastia (north of Corsica) in 2015, for a festival and naturally enough, Antoine managed to meet his idol.
Following Ellroy and in the world of journalism, we may note: John Hersey, Hunter Thompson, Norman Mailer, Janet Malcolm and Norman Lewis ( I frankly had to say “stop !” here, as the list would have gone on forever).
I was attentive to learn his preference, being a journalist or an author – to which he replied “journalist”.
This also led me to ask what he thought of the pungent quote from Christopher Hitchens, when he said “I became a journalist because I did not want to rely on newspapers for information” – smiling, Antoine admitted this was very true.
From a personal point of view he adds that “journalism has opened up the world for the better or for the worst of the world. You get paid to learn/see how the world turns”.

Favourites quotes contributing to our discussion and his beliefs turn to:
‘We are such stuff as dreams are made on, and our little life is rounded with a sleep’ (Shakespeare)
attached with a journalist/writer’s motto:
‘Show, don’t tell ..’

Finally, in answer to the inevitable question :
“Anything else to add Antoine ?”
“Read, never stop reading .. whatever it is”.

Works by Antoine Albertini :
– La Femme sans tête (Grasset 2013)
– Les Invisibles (JC Lattès 2018)

 

Photo credit:
Christian Buffa © 

2 comments to Exchange of thought-provoking reflections with: Antoine Albertini – Journalist/Author

  • André Torre  says:

    un homme attachant, compétent et objectif. Un article riche comme d’habitude

    • Pamela  says:

      Thank you André !
      Indeed, this was a very interesting interview and I am thankful that you have taken the time to appreciate and comment.

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