One loses all notion of time with Jérôme Camilly : Journalist/Author Jêrome CAt the idea of meeting an esteemed journalist and author I admit, a multitude of questions literally surged making their way for consideration. Adding to the fact that this choice is an islander, who now lives and writes here, I sincerely felt a long discussion was going to be planned and experienced – this was the case, and to be confirmed.

Jerôme Camilly was born in the village of Cristinnace, and remembers his school days with a certain nostalgia. Having attended the Lycée Fesch in Ajaccio, he continued his studies in Paris at the Lycée Henri IV, driven by a literary conviction. Following a BA degree, his studies were heading towards journalism school, within which later on he would find himself teaching – relating to journalism, he finds it was always a way of life, with a certain precision. This was to answer my query, as to whether he had a preference for journalism or being an author. Two worlds a part, and yet in many ways attached.

“When you are an author, you are mentally occupied all of the time” he confides, “your mind is continually activated”. He actually qualifies himself as being ‘exuberant’ in this field.

Vivid memories flowed from his words, relating how he would watch the boats leaving the port of Ajaccio, convincing him of his strong desire to travel later on. Television, written press and radio were to absorb his world for many years to come.

Travel he did.
Having worked for over twenty-five years with the French television, (to also become editor-in-chief), he spent twelve years combing the Far East. An interesting remark here I might add, he finds Lebanon resembles Corsica, in many ways – adding Sicily too. For the ‘notion of time’ is a particularity especially witnessed with these choices. In his opinion, Lebanon remains a country that has left many memories. Of course there were moments when he feared for his life during his career, and this can very well be understood. The Far East, Europe, the Pacific, India and Polynesia were on his route, and he remembers with a smile how Napoleon was known there.

Author of sixteen books, and remembering his first publication at twenty years of age on Turkey, I was very curious as to who his favourite authors could be – for we must remember, writers also find the time to read for themselves. Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Blaise Cendrars and Samuel Beckett came to mind immediately. He spoke highly of ‘La main coupée’ by Cendrars, of which he also wrote about in one of his own books.
A very interesting remark here, ‘L’ombre de l’île’ a book Jérôme Camilly wrote twenty-five years ago, has been said to be the first ecological book written about Corsica. France 3 Corse Regions
Over a lifetime, there are obviously people who stand out in our minds; especially when one is surrounded by the medias and celebrities – three people enter this category, leaving him with precious memories
–  Joseph Kessel: with whom he worked for over two years on/in Israel, leaving him with a strong sense of rigour
Robert Doisneau: spotting and scouting together, partners in search of illustrations – also using one of Doisneau’s images to represent a book cover and attending exhibitions in Rome

Romain Gary: in the 90’s, they would meet at least three times a week over a period of two years – a mutual companionship and interest in the the development of the imaginary. They would first meet in Paris, leading to regular get-togethers and in 2014 a book dedicated to his memory, would see the light of day: ‘Romain Gary Brève Escale en Corse’

So, how does he view Corsican literature today ?

With enthusiasm he spoke of the new generation, and how women were becoming more involved and present. He would however, like to see a more widespread diffusion outside of the island, as forcible identity wrapped in a very attractive imaginary is regularly sensed. The imaginary holds a very important role for him, and this he stressed on several occasions.

And journalism ?
Today, the ‘scoop’ is very often a priority, which of course he finds is a pity, knowing well this is a general tendency throughout the medias. To remain serious, always verifying every piece of information must be respected in order to deliver authentic reports.
This led to a further question on the role Internet plays in our society, and the time consumption involved. Undoubtedly, written and vocal exchanges have seen deterioration, partially due to the fact and notion of imperatives in gaining time, whenever and wherever possible. Technology is advancing at a surprising speed, and information is required to adapt a constant flow.
In going through his books, one of the them caught my highest attention : ‘Paroles de Precaires’, edited in 2014 – there must have been a story behind this publication – and there was.

For over a year Jérôme Camilly kept company with, and listened to, the insecure and frail members of our society, living on the streets and very often overlooked and unnoticed – his quest was to try and comprehend their drifting into a personal breach, through the social landslides that surround us. Night rounds, visiting squats in the region of Ajaccio, tentatives of discussions – the result represented meeting over two hundred people. He spoke of them with generosity and many sentiments, I clearly grasped the importance this period implied. A sincere, generous and necessary regard has strengthened and contributed to a beautiful book, with representative illustrations from Laurie : ‘Paroles de Précaires’.

‘We all have a story .. anyone who has struggled with poverty, knows how extremely expensive it is to be poor’.

Jerôme Camilly 1What does he think of Corsica today, and what would he like to see for the future ?
A distinctive desire for less individualism, and more collective endeavours.
He would also like to see the younger generation creating more companies – particularly in arts and crafts.
Personal projects for the future ?
One of his projects concerns what I just wrote about above. In December, there will be a play based on his book ‘Paroles de Précaires’ which will be directed by Paul Grenier and entitled ”Je n’ai pas à vous parler’, to be shown in Ajaccio. He spoke highly of Paul Grenier too, someone he knows well and enjoys working with. This could very well lead to a future presentation abroad – as the US is presently in the wave of time. To be followed.
Passions ?
Writing, of course ! also travelling, and here he mentions the Greek Islands and the Pacific.

The only regrets he witnesses entail not having travelled enough in his lifetime, and not having flown a small private plane !

Is there anything he thinks he has yet to achieve ?
I realised he had a personal wish to write a saga one day, it has been trotting in his head for some time now ..  I believe we will discover yet another ambitious facet unfolding, little by little.
A favourite quote he would like to share :
(I usually insist on a favourite quote, for I believe life itself is a quote)
‘La vieillesse, c’est quand les regrets remplacent les rêves’

(Old age, is when regrets replace dreams)

Anything to add to all we had spoken about ?
His love of art, and I discovered his wife Marie, painted and had exposed at the Lazaret here in Ajaccio, and in the village of Sartène.
Then, quite out of the blue, a fleeting idea revealed itself – his fear of waking up one day, and having nothing else to write about ..

After hours of engaging and stimulating discussion, I felt I had met a warm hearted philanthropist, holding a pertinent vision of the world as it is today, possessing a powerful weapon – writing, which urges him to continue to transmit, captivate and willingly guide us through both real and imaginative states.

Listing Editors :
La Table Ronde
Le Cherche Midi
Actes Sud
Autre Temps
La Marge
Léo Scheer
Albiana Bleu Outre-Mers
Buchet Chastel
Photos: Courtesy of Jérôme Camilly

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