Bernard Pivot, the passer of words has passed away

Bernard Pivot, the passer of words, has died

Published: 05/06/2024, 5:03 p.m.

“Getting old sucks.” And die? “It’s a verb from 3e group difficult to combine. How to live.” In these two passages from “Words of my life”, there is a lot of Bernard Pivot, man of letters in more than one way, journalist, reader and novelist, teacher (“an apocope”) of spelling and reading well , whose family announced his death on Monday, the day after his 89e birthday.

This Lyonnais – we say “Gone” in Lyon – is the man of an impossible and successful bet: to have writers and intellectuals debate on television so that their books are snapped up the next day in bookstores. “Apostrophes”, its emblematic show, was for fifteen years, between 1975 and 1990, an event that was as much television as literary, provoking controversy just as it knew how to convey the pleasure of reading, in a casting that was sometimes improbable and often tremendous.

An incredible impact on publishing

In the credits, Rachmaninov’s first piano concerto and a simple and clear launch: it was a bit like the mass of the book, on Friday evening, for many readers in France.

The historians of the Annales School, the angry young men of the new philosophers, the New Right, the criticism of Marxism, the new psychoanalysis: none of the movements of ideas of those years escaped his keen eye. journalist, often inviting detractors to cross swords and give that spice that so many TV hosts seek with less subtlety and success.

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No show on books will have had as much effect in the world of publishing (with all due respect to Régis Debray) and will have launched so many successful authors, with sometimes ephemeral careers. But some, like Jean d’Ormesson on the right and Philippe Sollers on the left, had their chair for each publication.

The art of intelligent controversy and the confidence of adults

Others made notable appearances: Bukowski, drunk on the set, the brilliant Brassens next to General Bigeard, Gabriel Matzneff addressed by Denise Bombardier about his pedophile loves, Simon Leys dismantling the book of an Italian journalist written to the glory of the cultural revolution, the fake Emile Ajar (alias of Romain Gary) in different styles.

The conciseness, the relevance of his questions, his amused reminders or his apostrophes quickly convinced the greatest writers to grant him interviews during special broadcasts. Solzhenitsyn in his house in Vermont, Georges Simenon in Lausanne, Marguerite Yourcenar in New England, Vladimir Nabokov reading his answers from a lectern off-camera, Norman Mailer, Milan Kundera refusing to be “only a dissident”, etc.

Surprise guests and her Beaujolais loves

His shows with François Mitterrand, Giscard, Kirk Douglas, Delon, Gainsbourg, Ferré, Devos and Cabu will have widened the circle of the show, just as his Proust questionnaire has sometimes extended it. But Pivot is not just “Apostrophes”. Then there was “Bouillon de culture” open to all the arts, and the ritual of dictation offered to all French people and soon staged in all corners of France.

At the Geneva Book Fair in 1990. Bernard Pivot and Georges Haldas, the Genevan poet, essayist and translator, whose “The Legend of Football” still appears in the French journalist's library.

The lover of words, devourer of books, has finally naturally taken his place among the members of the jury of the Académie Goncourt which he chaired. But he was undoubtedly also proud of having created the Committee for the Defense of Beaujolais, his region, where a school now bears his name and whose gastronomy, wine and football remain for him the best defense against the Parisian gloom.

Several Apostrophes broadcasts are visible on YouTube and on the INA website.

Olivier Bot has been deputy editor-in-chief since 2017, head of the World section between 2011 and 2017. Alexandre de Varennes Press Prize. Author of “Search and investigate with the internet” at Presses universitaire de Grenoble.More informations

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