Vaucluse: when Saignon was the refuge of a diaspora of Argentine artists

Vaucluse: when Saignon was the refuge of a diaspora of Argentine artists
Vaucluse: when Saignon was the refuge of a diaspora of Argentine artists

Hair pulled behind the nape of his neck, penetrating gaze, he looks like an Argentinian revolutionary in his pocketed shirt, in this photo posted in front of the Saignon media library, renamed “Julio Cortázar” two years ago. Behind the writer’s striking face, shrouded in cigarette smoke, a vintage poster announces, denoting, “Free Grand Ball”, “Petanque Ball Competition”.

In 1971, the date this photo by Colette Portal was captured, the man was already part of the daily life of this village perched on the heights of Apt, where he lived for 14 years. Integrated and known to all, “he regularly came to village festivals“, describes Pierre Godard. The retiree rubbed shoulders with the writer during his adolescence. He remembers a character “calm“. A discreet, almost paternal figure, encountered from time to time, in the alleys where his long silhouette greeted the “kids”, then, in his own parents’ house: “He came to use the phone. It was a rare commodity at the time.

Decors that evoke Argentina

Born in 1914 in Belgium, Cortázar grew up in Argentina. In the 1950s, he moved to Paris to escape Peronism, then the Videla dictatorship. By chance, he discovered the Luberon, Apt, Saignon. He bought a shed there in 1964. The village became his “hideout”, far from the worldliness of Paris: he camouflaged himself there to write, drawing inspiration from the landscapes – several of his Argentinian friends described the striking resemblance to the province of Mendoza, where Julio Cortázar lived, and South America, more generally. “It looks like Machu Pichu“, his friend Rosario Moreno would have said. Another “hiding place”: his Volkswagen van, in which he travels the roads of the Luberon to write and correct his texts.

Along the cobbled streets, some witnesses of this time persist, pillars of the village, who rubbed shoulders with the writer and his circle of friends named by him “the phalanstery”. Some of these Argentinians took up residence there: the couple Rosario Moreno and Aldo Franceschini, who first came to help Cortázar restore his shed before settling in their turn, in Saignon, in “the house at the foot of the rock”; then, the painter Julio Silva; the follower of abstract geometric art Luis Tomasello, his wife, Delia Rufino…”They are easy to talk about. They are not rolling in gold and their humility seduces. They enrich the peaceful and silent rhythm of the village“, describe the “Cronopes”, a collective of residents and aficionados of Argentina, founded in 2021 to honor the memory of the writer, crowned in 1974 with the Medici Foreign Prize. During their research, they gathered testimonies and questioned the living memories of Saignon.

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