July 25, 2021

Emmanuel Carrère: "We live in the world that Philip K. Dick imagined" | Culture

Emmanuel Carrère: "We live in the world that Philip K. Dick imagined" | Culture


Emmanuel Carrère recalls (Paris, 1957) that his two favorite writers died in 1982, a day apart. One of them was Georges Perec. The other, Philip K. Dick, the beatnik cosmic, the king of the pulp fiction philosophical existential, the creator of pop science fiction, the type that inhabited a reality that always knew alternative, someone who was little more than a writer of the bunch until in 1963 he won the Hugo Award for his most serious attempt to fit in he star system of the genre: The man in the castle. It was shortly after that that Carrère began to read it, and soon became "the central figure" of his youth. He was still alive at the time, but he talked about how any writer is talked about not serious, that is, of anyone who prefers to write about Martians and other planets, even if what he writes is not only portraying (very hard) the world in which he lives and anticipating the even harder one in which he will live in the future.

His life was pure torment – he married five times and each of his marriages was a little hell, he got to write five novels a year to stay afloat, he lost his head, he was chased by eyes the size of buildings, he could never overcome guilt because he was not the one who died at birth, as happened with his twin sister – and died without suspecting the tremendous success that Ridley Scott would have with the adaptation of Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?, the story of Rick Deckard, the hunter-hunter in love with the idea of ​​taking care of something alive that Scott transformed into the classic Blade Runner. He died without knowing that this was going to turn him into something like the Father of Cinematographic Science Fiction – because the great number of adaptations is compounded by the fact that his ideas are everywhere: there are even Maniac, the penultimate series sci-fi of Netflix -, and that its name would become bigger year after year.

"Dick is a great writer, comparable to Dostoevsky. I thought about it then and I still think about it now, "Carrère says, sitting in what looks like a yoga pose in an armchair on the terrace of the Hotel Formentor. Carrère published in 1993 a biography of the genius of Chicago, which was titled I am alive and you are dead (recently reissued by Anagrama), to escape a creative block. "It is very likely that it was in that book that I found the voice by which I am known today," admits the most admired of the many authors who dedicate themselves today to the so-called autoficción, that genre that plays to distort reality, to polish it, to fiction. At a time when even Dick was looking over his shoulder, from the establishment literary, Carrère welcomed him and who knows if doing so began to normalize the possibility of it becoming part of the American canon without gender distinction, a place that today begins to occupy. "What fascinates me most about him? The prophetic of his work, "says the author of Limónov, since today, he adds, "we live in the world that he imagined".

Dick is a great writer, comparable to Dostoevsky. I thought about it then and I still think about it now

Carrère already saw traces of him in the Romania of Nicolae Ceauşescu. In fact, it was a visit to Budapest, as a journalist, the trigger for him to return to France and call his editor to tell him that he wanted to write a biography of Dick. "Ceauşescu had just fled and the country was plunging into total chaos, into a non-world, the fake news, and the idea that reality had split and we had before us an alternative reality was in the air. It was like a chapter of The unknown dimension", remember. The world today is not very different. "Dick's world is our world," he insists, "what Dick saw in his day is here today." What do you mean exactly? "That Dick predicted the disappearance of reality," he replies. Therefore, he believes, "his figure is growing." "It's been 25 years since I published his biography and since then it has only grown," he adds. Regarding the biography and his responsibility as a biographer of the image he gave of Dick – a tormented writer who was never allowed to fit in any place – he hastens to add that he never thought of writing "something canonical".

Philip K. Dick in 1977.
Philip K. Dick in 1977. Getty

The French author had in his hands, he assures, the manuscript of The Search for Philip K. Dick, he memoir Anne R. Dick, the third wife of the author of Blood Currency Doctor, he wrote, and in which he recounted how complicated and even dangerous it was to live with him. "There is a great classic biography, in which all this is told. It was written by Lawrence Sutin. What I wanted to do was different. I wanted to read all his work in chronological order to try to discover if his life could be read through what he had written, however Martian that was, "he says.

And not only that. "My pretension was to collect his mental universe, although my feeling is that I used everything I knew, only that mixing reality with fiction, which gave rise to a somewhat bizarre object, which I assume as such," he says. What if I had to point out one, two, or three entry doors, to the uninitiated, to the Dick universe, which of your 36 novels and 121 stories would you point to? "My favorites, without a doubt: Ubik, The three stigmas of Palmer Eldritch Y A look at the darkness"

And what do you say about today? Any sci-fi writer at the level of Philip K. Dick? "No. In fact, today's science fiction does not interest me, I was lucky to grow up at a time when the genre was radical and experimental," he replies. "Although I am very interested in what Michel Houellebecq is doing, in his case, it is not so much a prophetic dimension as it is enormously wide of the moment we live in. There is something in it, as there is something in Enrique Vila-Matas and Roberto Bolaño, It reminds me of the way Dick was in the world, and it's something of his own, unique, great, "he adds.

Next thing: direct Juliette Binoche

Emmanuel Carrère will direct the film adaptation of Le quai Ouistreham, the book in which the journalist Florence Aubenas translated in 2010 a small great odyssey: one day, she packed her bags, went to a city where nobody knew her and tried to find work to show that the world after the 2008 crisis It is still a hell for many.

The actress Juliette Binoche will play Aubenas, on this trip that, in the manner of the historic Günter Wallraff – the German journalist who posed as a Turkish immigrant in his country for a year in order to uncover the abuses to which they were subjected – , took her from the employment office to the employment office until she finally found the only job she could aspire to: a woman cleaning the ferry that connects France with England.

His intention was to demonstrate that the crisis has not gone anywhere, and that starting from scratch today is almost impossible mission. "It will be a film of women, and the only professional actress will be Juliette", the writer advances to EL PAÍS . Filming, he says, will start this winter.

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