The protagonist of Frédéric Beigbeder’s latest book (Neuilly-sur-Seine, 1965) is Fréderic Beigbeder, someone exactly like him who, in an outburst of tenderness, promises his sweet little daughter that they will never die. Then, to see if it is possible to fulfill such a promise, he goes around the world interviewing the main international scientists – and some picturesque gurus – who work on longevity and DNA, like a gentleman in pursuit of the secret of immortality . Beigbeder answers the questions of this newspaper in the media library of the French Institute of Barcelona.
– Have you rejuvenated to write this book? How do you feel?
-Immortal! My great ambition is to survive death … at least thanks to literature, to my books. Well, really, if you want me to tell you the truth, everything I learned in this great report that comes to be the book has bothered me a lot, as if I had discovered something terrible. Please, can you bring me mineral water?
-Mineral water, very good. Who has seen him and who sees him …
-Truth? You have to drink water, eat vegetables and do a lot of sports. Yes, sir, that’s what doctors say.
-The novel mixes reality and fiction, even in the autobiographical.
– I have come to Barcelona with my wife, she is Swiss but I did not find her in a laboratory dressed in a white coat. I also come with my daughter Chloé, and I have an older one named Oona. But, in reality, none of them have married a robot, do not worry.
-What has disappointed me, searching YouTube, is that you have not done that program, ‘The Chemical Show’, I found it plausible …
-I’m the first disappointed! I would have loved to present such a program, in which the interviewees, before starting the broadcast, take a random drug pill, like the presenter, and their dialogue is channeled according to the effects of chemistry on their personalities. But, in return, I offer readers a piece of stark reality, see this photo on page 92? It is my authentic heart. Few writers show it that way.
-What about non-fiction in this book?
-All what scientists say is true, they told me during the interviews. If you want, we listen to them together, I recorded them with this phone. Their names, clinics, technological advances and findings are accurate. I even gave it to some to read, because there were things that I didn’t even understand, like all that part of AIDS going to save lives, one of the most beautiful passages in history. I have surrounded all that reality with actions of a novel.
Fatherhood saves artists, irresponsible people forced to be a little more serious. I thank my daughters for giving me this. ”
-What have been your references?
-The funny thing is that, in ‘Frankenstein’, the first science fiction novel, Mary Shelley is based on the scientific discoveries of her time, who ventured that electricity would be able to revive a corpse and bring it back to life, something that Today we do everyday. In ‘Dracula’, Bram Stoker imagined, from very old legends, the eternalization by vampirism, which is today one of the lines of clinical research, which appears in my book, that of injecting blood of young people to rejuvenate. I have done it, for the book: pure blood of Californian virgins. Like Shelley, Stoker sensed that his clue, that of blood, was serious.
-I just turned 50 and I am horrified to see the long list of his friends fallen in that decade.
-That’s right, friend. Death is approaching us, we see it taking friends, burials are becoming more frequent. I have written this book because I saw it around me.
-You appear as a television star, a role you have played in France. That end of the year program …
-I was once invited to an end-of-the-year program that was filmed in November, in direct false, with all of us looking at the clock and celebrating the arrival of the new year. In the book I imagine what would happen if the artists died before December 31. What would the chain do? Would they record it again or broadcast the whole party with dead singers and comedians dancing under the confetti?
– Has fatherhood avoided his suicide?
-I don’t know if he had the courage to kill me … Fatherhood forces man to be responsible … a little. To irresponsible people, like artists, fatherhood can save them, from temptation, from permanent lightness. We have an obligation to be a bit serious. I am very grateful to my daughters who have given me this, they are the ones who take care of me. The other issue is that it allows you to transmit your DNA, and that’s what the book is about.
The big dilemma is: pleasure that kills or boredom that it retains? What would you choose? ”
-Immortality is a classic topic of literature.
-Adoro ‘The portrait of Dorian Gray’, where Oscar Wilde treats eternal youth. In ‘The possibility of an island’, Michel Houellebecq focuses on cloning, while I opt for genetic modification. It is the oldest dream of humanity, the first text found is the ‘Gilgamesh Poem’, which is a man who seeks immortality. Humanity has always had the utopia of defeating death, a dream that led to the foundation of religions, churches, that offer us that promise, that of eternal life.
-Is your psychoanalyst not angry at going out in his books?
-Happly I don’t see her anymore, so I don’t know. Asking it would cost me more than 200 euros.
-This is his most scientific novel.
-Yes. As a young man I loved science fiction, it is the genre that made me interested in books. I always wanted to write one and now the opportunity arose.
-There is a dystopian part, with a future in which humanity is immersed in a series of longevity wars.
– If I have learned something with this investigation, it is that to be immortal we should stop being human. That is the question: do we love humans or not? Or do we prefer to improve the species by creating a hybrid with the machine, with a robot? Many transhumanists, people of Google, do not love people, want to improve them by creating something else, downloading their conscience on a hard drive and perfecting it there. But I feel a great love for humanity. I am pessimistic about that cruel animal that is man, but I am a humanist in spite of everything. I prefer to remain human and die than to become a cyborg and be immortal.
-In the book you do all the interviews for a television program …
-They were for the book, but I lied to some scientists telling them that I was preparing a great movie because the book wouldn’t have interested them so much. My merit is that I never studied any of these issues, maybe they will give me the Nobel of the disclosure, who knows, I asked all the time and they talked to me like an eight-year-old boy to understand.
– He says that hedonism will end up being declared a disease.
-The dilemma of humanity is: pleasure (which bothers health) or a very boring life (which protects the body and allows you to live more years). Look, I prefer to kill myself by drinking, having fun, eating charcuterie … It’s a great question: pleasure that kills or boredom that protects? What would you do? (don’t answer me). The same thing happens to the planet, it is a victim of hedonism, of consumption. Humanity must accept to lead a less pleasant, quieter and calmer life. Who will die before? Humanity or Earth?
-There is also a reflection on fame … What is the best and the worst of being famous?
-It is best to meet people like you, travel and go around the world talking about eternal life, thanks to your literary work. That is great luck. The main drawback is to be limited, the famous is like a summary of you, you are simplified, there is no time to be complicated, you necessarily simplify your interaction with everyone, I have fans who are always the same, and sometimes I contemplate them sadly because I would rather be understood, but it is not possible.
-Here, unlike France, where it is a celebrity of couché paper, you are only a novelist.
-The most pleasant thing is to walk around the countries where nobody recognizes you. It is curious the case of the Japanese filmmaker Takeshi Kitano, who in his country is a celebrity because he presents stupid programs of yellow humor, of those of battles, but when he travels abroad he is a cult director who presents his films at the Cannes festival.
-I was struck by seeing Zinedine Zidane as a patient in one of the clinics he visits …
-Shit! Is he very well known here? Let’s see if he gets mad … Let’s say we don’t know which part is fiction and which part is documented, there is also Vladimir Putin. The truth is that there was a time when athletes went to that clinic every year – or every two years – to renew their blood. I cannot guarantee that the names I quote are one hundred percent reliable information because I did not contrast it properly.
– You have entered like patient in that clinic of radical thinning?
-Yes, in that and in everything else. My acts as a patient are real. I signed up for the asutriaca Viva Mayr, a five star. They put laser in my veins, I ate tofu and broccoli. How much suffering, how much pain. They have sequenced my genome, I know the three billion letters of my DNA, I share some in the book, that allowed me to fill a few pages without working.
-Will DNA be the ID of the future?
-Yes. We can also store books, films … DNA allows man-machine fusion. DNA will allow us to pay, be permanently monitored, be cured, corrected, programmed, downloaded to a hard drive … Another possibility is to create genetically modified mutants. DNA is the new frontier, the place where we will stop being human to become machines or mutants. I am surprised that there are bioethical laws in France, Spain … but that other countries pass them through the lining.
-Like China, you say.
-The Chinese have already genetically modified humans, in their laboratories: babies have been born, who have then grown up and are now children. I wonder if humanity realizes what is happening. I think not, that people do not know or understand. And we play our future as a species. It is strange that we do not discuss the issue.
– Without regulation, you point out, China can create humans aggressively to have unbeatable soldiers.
-May. Or choose the color of the hair, that of the eyes, favor more successful, intelligent humans. Or make mutant creatures, mix animal species. One of the scientists tells me: “The only limit is our imagination.”
-Explain how to print on 3-D human organs.
-That already exists. From cells, we make a stomach. Imagine an entire human created – or printed – in 3-D, born through a printer, why not? By separating the creation of sexual reproduction it can be done in test pieces or in a printer, it is not so different.
-The chapter on ‘Jurassic Park’ is chilling …
-It is all true, they are working to revive the mammoth, I hope they do not believe the tyrannosaurus, if not Godzilla could destroy the port of Barcelona in a few minutes. Michael Crichton, like Mary Shelley, was based on very recent discoveries, such as the DNA of a dinosaur found in a frozen mosquito.
-Use comparative lists as a literary genre.
-I’m a journalist, 35 years ago. And, when writing books, I intend to offer refreshing, a little fun breaks, I compare the 30-year-old with the 50-year-old man, the man with the robot, the advantages and disadvantages of death … How sad it is to have That seduce all the time, I make jokes especially on those lists.
-Macron invites you to the Elysium, we read in the novel.
– Yes, they have done the last three presidents, Sarkozy, Hollande and Macron. The three are seducing machines, they touch you, they make you laugh, they pretend they listen carefully to you, they make you feel important to their eyes, they empty so you can spend an authentic moment. A second later, they totally forget you. That’s why they win elections.