Spending time with author/essayist: Thierry Ottaviani

Style ought to prove that one believes in an idea; not only that one thinks it, but also feels it‘ – Nietzsche’s statement couldn’t ring more loudly nor more clearly then at that moment when one meets an author who has in truth granted time, energy and sincerity towards the insight and comprehension of a chosen reflection.
In turn, this will be an important part of my encounter with Thierry Ottaviani recently in Ajaccio – but for now, let us reach out to the person himself, and hear what he has to say.

Originally from St Pierre de Venaco, having lived in Corsica up to six years of age, these days Thierry Ottaviani resides in Paris most of the time, returning to Corsica during the year when he can manage to do so.
I was interested to learn how he became a writer.
Having completed literary studies, he entered the media in 2008, working in the financial area and defending small shareholders – the idea of writing a book slowly took form when he met someone who suggested writing ‘La Corse pour les Nuls’ (Corsica for the Hopeless).

I wondered what necessary ingredients he finds are essential for a good writer – taking into consideration what one is writing about – fluidity, with a certain musicality in a written form. His influences and favourite authors are mainly philosophical and philosophers. He doesn’t write on a daily basis but, when he sets down to do so, he finds himself in a constant flow, writing continuously in phases without stopping until he has achieved what he set out to do.

Up to date, which book has he preferred writing ?
– La Corse pour les Nuls, and it is true that we have never really finished discovering this island – overflowing with mystery, adventure, legends and accounts.
What about La Corse des Ecrivains, did it not take a certain time to prepare and write ? (one I particularly appreciate and from which I have drawn certain stimulating extracts, more than once). In fact, it took less than a year, as he had already toured the island for La Corse des Nuls, so, exploiting the remaining information in his possession, he found he was sufficiently equipped.
Does he find writers easily influenced by what goes on around them ?
– Yes, they are. But, experiences are also required, in the same way you need to be capable of disconnecting from everything too. He writes about Corsica when he is away and not when he returns, feeling just how much he misses it, we realise the evidence of how it pulls a certain weight in his writing, and he’s quite conscious of this element.

Is he capable of reading everything ?
– less and less
And what about his interests today ?
– a part from philosophy and philosophers, he does find time for history, and considers himself a cinephile. In fact, he will be going to Belgrade some time in the future in search of a church that would have been founded by a Corsican. Maybe some day we’ll be reading about this too. It’s quite evident that Corsica remains a principal theme, one which demands a personal introspection and constant renewal.

So, why choose Nietzsche for the most recent publication ?
He had in the past, read several of his works, but hadn’t actually make the link between Nietzsche and Corsica. With three friends, he finally took the decision to go ahead with the project, although he found he didn’t possess sufficient raw material. Here, it’s important to note that he is the first person to write a book about Nietzsche and Corsica. This took one year all in all, and there may be a suite to come …

Let’s begin by elaborating on what the Corsicans represented for Nietzsche

Willpower, passion, strength, honour and dignity are amongst the main dominant traits to be sensed. It is necessary to recall the fact that he experienced an ongoing fascination and veneration for Corsica. This small island that had produced such great minds – Napoléon ‘the absolute master’, and Pascal Paoli ‘the most accomplished man of the last century’.

Great men are necessary, the age in which they appear is accidental; that they almost always become masters over their age is only because they are stronger, because they are older, because for a longer time much was gathered for them. The relationship between a genius and his age is like that between strong and weak, or between old and young; the age is relatively always much younger, thinner and more immature – less assured and more childish‘ (extract: Twilight of the Idols).

He will never make it to Corsica. Sick and slowly losing his eyesight, he will remain in Nice, ‘somewhere his eyes know so well’. He is also very preoccupied with his most recent philosophical work, which he states will divide the history of man into two parts – he knows time is not on his side. But, he also believes that travelling is not just going from one point to another, it is a manner of searching for new experiences, and if possible ‘higher’ ones; allowing philosophy to bloom, confirm itself and scatter seeds for growth. He must also concentrate on his introspection and gathering – a profound necessity and urge.
In December 1887, he discovers a meteorological phenomena in Nice. A thick coat of snow had covered the Promenade des Anglais; with large, resistant crystals remaining attached to the palm trees – he discovers the name given to this phenomena – ‘neige de Corse’ (Corsican snow), deeper and more resistant. How could it be otherwise ? – a metaphor for the Corsican virtue.
This mountain in the sea Nietzsche will only see it from afar, during short appearances. He will never know the answer to his query: ‘perhaps the soul fortifies and purifies itself in this place ?’

The spirits increase, vigour grows through a wound’ – Nietzsche

Returning to writing, I questioned Thierry as to which part of the process he preferred – the idea, the plot or maybe the final chapters ?
– taking the example of a novel, he finds it’s like directing a film. The start can mean using a strong character, within which there’s a ratio of power involved, you’re telling a story. If we take Nietzsche into account here, it went from simple to becoming more complicated. The first part concerned his life, followed by Corsica and the Corsicans. Then again, there were thoughts on Corsica in the universe itself. Ultimately, it really depends on each book.

Nowadays, the island has become a refuge for Thierry. He finds it has become better and better, and hopes it will remain so. This is in addition relative to Nietzsche, as philosophy opens up an unquestionable refuge for man.

Favourite quote:
‘That which does not kill me makes me stronger’
Nietzsche ‘Twilight of the Idols’

Upcoming news:
We can expect a new publication in 2019, which will be entitled:
‘Les Corses qui ont fait la Corse’ (Corsicans that have made Corsica) with images by Philippe Lorin – so, something to look forward to, and to look out for.
And, an anticipated collection from several authors of what Corsica could be like in the future – I think you’ll agree, both should prove very interesting for discovery.

This was a very pleasant encounter, where often reflection took flight through imagination and references, and at times, questions with hypothetical answers, trimmed with wonder and conviction. For now, and where Nietzsche is concerned, it is left up to our perceptibility to attempt a regard on what his Corsican experience could have been.

La Corse Pour Les Nuls (2010) Ed. First
La Corse des Ecrivains (2013) Ed. Alexandrines
Chien de Sang (2017) Ed. Maïa
Nietzsche et la Corse (2018) Ed. Maïa

Where to find Thierry Ottaviani:
– Twitter
– Site: thierryottaviani.fr

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