Interview with Mich Beyer

Interview with Mich Beyer

This interview took place originally as a written interview between Clayton (Clay) McKee and Mich Beyer (Mich) in French. It is translated here by Clayton McKee If you’d like to listen to the podcast episode made with this article, check it out here

Clay: Tell us a bit about yourself.

Mich: Hello! My name is Michèle Beyer and I am 74 years old. I was born in Douarnenez where I currently live. Before my hometown, I lived here and there: Paris, Quimper, Rennes, Botmeur in the Monts of Arrée. I completed my studies in classic and modern letters in Paris. I worked in a lot of different domains, but my main job for 8 years was as a teacher in maternal and primary Diwan schools, which is a network of Breton-language immersive schools. Then, for about 20 years, I was an instructor for adults of Breton learning structures, for example, Stummdi, Roudour, and Kelenn.

Clay: What is your relationship to Breton? Did you speak it at home when you were young? Did you learn it later on as an adult? 

Mich: My family came from various regions of France. My dad was from Alsace and French Flanders. My mother was from Brittany. I learned a lot of Breton when I was a child from my mother, family, and nearby neighbors. But that suddenly stopped when I went to primary school in the Parisian region. I missed Breton and I started studying it when I was a teenager. At first, it was by letter, and then later, when I returned to my home region, I took night classes, went to immersive workshops, and talked to childhood Breton-speaking friends.

Clay: What’s the status of Breton in Brittany today? How about more generally in France?

Mich: What a tough question! We estimate that there are about 280,000 speakers with a quickly disappearing number of elders. The majority of this elder generation spoke Breton but did not read or write in their language because it was forbidden at school. But, luckily, since the birth of the Diwan immersive schools in 1977, then the implementation of private and public bilingual channels as well as the growing number of organizations for adult education which propose long courses of 6 or 9 months, the situation is changing. The majority of new speakers are coming from urban areas and the majority of them are young. Furthermore, for the last 20 years or so, Breton has become a source of employment for teaching, socio-cultural entertainment, media, cinema, and even computing. I don’t have specific stats in mind but I think that the image of Breton has changed a lot. One of the signs of this larger visibility is the appearance of Breton on road signs, in cities, in certain administrations, or its use by many companies at least in terms of advertising. There is more visibility, but we are still in a very precarious situation. The French State does everything to halt and hinder this progress. The official dogma of French is that it’s the “language of the Republic” and this centralist force is wreaking havoc.

Clay: Talk a bit about your writing career. How many books have you published? Do you write solely in Breton? Are there any themes that inspire you in particular? Or do you write about what inspires you at the moment?

Mich: I started writing when I was a primary and maternal schoolteacher because we were sorely missing books for children. So, I wrote three novels and one short story collection for children and young teens. Then I stopped because of not having enough time. I got back into writing in the early 2000s but for adults this time. Planedenn paotr e bluenn (The Destiny of the One Who Wrote) is my thirteenth published book. I only write in Breton.

Inspiration is difficult to define. It varies. There are a lot of things that are tied to social relations between people, including violence. My stories range from today to older times (the Middle Ages, the 17th century, etc.). There are connections to art, individuals, society, and more. Sometimes, it’s one person in particular who inspires me, but it’s only a jumping-off point. Amongst my books, there are three detective novels, because it’s a literary genre that I love, but also because between two books that are “serious,” it’s really relaxing to work on a crime novel.

Clay: In 2022, you published Planedenn paotre bluenn / The Destiny of the One Who Wrote. We are very excited to include that in our issue Essential New Literature of Lesser-Known Languages of Europe. You can find the excerpt here. Can you tell us a bit about this text?

Mich: I often say it’s easier to write a book than to summarize one. This one is a very incomplete story about a young man living in a difficult time between war and sickness.

Clay: Why did you decide to write a story set in 1920? Why did you concentrate on the need to physically and psychologically heal? 

    Mich: I was inspired by my great uncle for the main character. I was very close to him and he was around twenty years old at the beginning of the First World War (1914-1918). He also had tuberculosis before dying at just around 100 years old! But, it’s not a biography whatsoever. I played off of his real life a lot! I wanted to write this story because in it I saw a ton of similarities with the worries and anxieties of youth today: the pandemic, general stress, and the risk of widespread war, etc. The young also yearn to change the world but their hopes seem blocked.

    Clay: The choice of language for a publication is very important. There are many scholars and authors, in particular, those who work in relation to the continent of Africa, who debate whether it’s better to publish in a language from colonization to reach a wider audience or in a native language for a local audience. Why do you choose to write in Breton? What does the language do for you (or for Brittany) by publishing in it?

    Mich: I never really thought about the choice of language. Breton is the language that I chose for my family, professional, and activist life. I live in a country in which language is very mistreated by the centralist State. We need books in our language. The young need it. French-language readers have a ton of things to read already, there’s no need to add further to it. Breton-language readers, even if they’re a minority, they need materials. We need new writers as well. It’s important to show others the path. To show that it’s possible to create and be creative in our language. But what I’m saying is not just true for literature. It’s needed as well for cinema, theater, and music and its diverse genres: rock, slam, rap, traditional, etc. It’s really needed across all types of media and cultural production.

    Clay: Can you share any resources about the language or to help us learn more about it and its culture?

    Mich: There are a ton of associations that offer language classes. Here are three: Skol an Emsav allows people to take classes in Rennes, Nantes, or even online. You can access their site here. Stumdi is another organization that provides classes for language. You can go to Stumdi’s website for information on this organization. Last is Mervent, you can access it at Mervent’s website, and it also has various classes and resources to learn for those interested. There are also full university curriculum in Breton that go the whole way through doctorate level, in particular in Rennes. There are also professional trainings and teacher trainings. For those who have attained a level that is sufficient to live their daily life in Breton, there is an immersive summer training where you can come with your whole family for one to two weeks. You can find information about this immersive camp here. Honesetly there are a ton of resources out there and it’s impossible to make a full list.

    Clay: What are you working on now?

    Mich: I don’t really have too many writing projects at the moment. But I’m translating a lot. I am translating from French into Breton The House of the People by Louis Guilloux, A Rector of the Ile de Sein by Henri Queffelec, The Empires of the Moon by Savinien Cyrano de Berjerac which is a political science fiction novel from the 17th century, and in this very moment, I am collaborating with an Icelandic translator friend on the translation of Jon Kalman Stefansson’s trilogy. I also do technical translations for expositions, associations, and various research projects for local cultural heritage. I also participate in a commission on literary translation under the guidance of the regional council for the public office of Breton language, which financially helps editors and translation for the translation of important works of world literature.

       

      Interview with Mich Beyer

      Une interview avec Mich Beyer

      Cette interview était une interview écrite entre  Clayton (Clay) McKee et Mich Beyer (Mich) en français. Si vous voulez écouter l’interview en anglais, cliquez ici

      Clay: Présentez-vous.

      Mich:

      • Bonjour ! Je m’appelle Mich (Michèle) Beyer et j’ai 74 ans. Je suis née à Douarnenez et j’y vis actuellement après avoir vécu ici et là (Paris, Quimper, Rennes, Botmeur dans les Monts d’Arrée…). J’ai fait mes études universitaires à Paris (Lettres classiques et Lettres modernes).J’ai exercé pas mal de métiers purement alimentaires et précaires, mais j’ai surtout été enseignante pendant 8 ans dans des écoles maternelles et primaires Diwan, le réseau des écoles bretonnes en immersion linguistique, et puis ensuite pendant une vingtaine d’années j’ai été formatrice pour adultes avec diverses structures d’apprentissage du breton (Stummdi, Roudour, Kelenn).

      Clay: Qu’est-ce que c’est votre relation avec le breton ? Est-ce que vous avez parlé le breton à la maison quand vous étiez jeune ? Avez-vous pris les cours à l’école ? 

      Mich: Je suis d’une famille issue de régions différentes, père d’Alsace et Flandres françaises, mère bretonne. J’ai beaucoup entendu le breton quand j’étais enfant, par ma mère, une partie de la famille et nos voisins proches, mais cela s’est arrêté quand je suis allée à l’école primaire (en région parisienne). Le breton me manquait et j’ai commencé à l’étudier à l’adolescence, par correspondance d’abord, et puis plus tard à mon retour au pays, en cours du soir, en stages immersifs et avec des amis brittophones de naissance.

      Clay: Qu’est-ce que c’est la situation du breton en Bretagne aujourd’hui ? En France ? 

      Mich: Question complexe ! On évalue le nombre de locuteurs à environ 280 000, avec une disparition rapide des « anciens » dont la grande majorité parlaient mais ne savaient ni lire ni écrire leur langue puisque elle était interdite à l’école, mais d’un autre côté, depuis la naissance des écoles immersives Diwan en 1977, puis des filières bilingues publiques et privées, ainsi que la multiplication des organismes de formation pour adultes qui proposent des formations longues (6/9 mois) la situation change. La plupart des nouveaux locuteurs sont issus de milieux urbains, ils sont beaucoup plus jeunes. Par ailleurs depuis une vingtaine d’années le breton est devenu source d’emplois (enseignement, animation socio-culturelle, médias, cinéma, informatique…). Je n’ai pas de chiffres en tête mais je pense que l’image du breton a beaucoup changé. Un des signes de cette plus grande visibilité est sa présence dans les signalisations routières ou en ville et dans certaines administrations, ou son utilisation par bon nombre d’entreprises au moins en termes publicitaires. Plus de visibilité donc, mais on est toujours en situation de grande précarité. Par ailleurs l’État français fait tout ce qu’il peut pour freiner et entraver ce progrès. Le dogme officiel de la langue française « langue de la république » et le centralisme forcené font des ravages !

      Clay: Racontez un peu de votre carrière en tant qu’écrivain. Combien de livres est-ce que vous avez publié ? Vous écrivez qu’en breton ou écrivez-vous en français aussi ? Est-ce qu’il y a des thèmes qui vous attirent ou est-ce que vous écrivez avec l’inspiration du moment ? 

      Mich: J’ai commencé à écrire quand j’étais institutrice parce que nous manquions cruellement de livres pour les enfants. J’ai alors écrit 3 romans et un recueil de nouvelles pour enfants/jeunes ados. Puis j’ai arrêté faute de temps, et j’ai repris l’écriture au début des années 2000, mais pour les adultes cette fois. Planedenn paotr e bluenn est le 13ème édité. Je n’écris qu’en breton.

      L’inspiration, c’est difficile à définir, c’est varié, il y a beaucoup de choses qui tiennent aux relations sociales entre les individus, y compris dans la violence, aujourd’hui ou à des époques anciennes (Moyen-äge, 17ème siècle…), à la relation etre l’art, l’individu et la société. Parfois c’est une personne particulière qui m’inspire, mais c’est seulement un point de départ ! Parmi mes livres il y a 3 polars, parce que c’est un genre littéraire que j’adore, et parce qu’entre 2 livres « sérieux » c’est un vrai délassement.

      Clay: En 2022, vous avez publié le livre Planedenn paotre bluenn et nous sommes trop contents d’inclure un extrait dans notre 24ième numéro de la revue. Est-ce que vous pouvez nous donner un petit résumé du livre ? 

      Mich: Des fois je me dis que c’est plus facile d’écrire un roman que de le résumer ! Celui-ci est l’histoire, très partielle, d’un jeune homme vivant à une époque difficile, entre la guerre et la maladie.

      Clay: Pourquoi est-ce que vous avez décidé d’écrire une histoire en 1920 et pourquoi un concentration sur le besoin de guérir physiquement et psychologiquement ? 

        Mich: Le personnage pricipal m’a été inspiré par un grand-oncle dont j’étais très proche, qui avait justement la vingtaine au début de la guerre de 14/18 et qui a connu aussi la tuberculose…avant de mourir quasiment centenaire ! Mais ce n’est pas du tout une biographie, j’ai beaucoup joué avec sa vraie vie ! J’ai eu envie d’écrire cette histoire parce que j’y voyais beaucoup de similitudes avec les inquiétudes de la jeunesse d’aujourd’hui (pandémie, risques de guerre généralisée…), les envies de changer le monde et les espérances bloquées.

        Clay: Le choix de langue pour une publication est très important—il y a beaucoup d’écrivains et théoriciens, en particulier en Afrique, qui se demandent si c’est mieux de publier dans une langue de la colonisation pour avec un public plus grand ou dans une langue native du coins pour parler à un public local. Pourquoi est-ce que vous avez choisi le breton ? Qu’est-ce que le breton fait pour vous (ou pour la Bretagne) dans la publication ?

        Mich: Je ne me suis jamais posé la question du choix de langues. Le breton est la langue que j’ai choisie, pour ma vie familiale, professionnelle et de militante associative. Je vis dans un pays dont la langue est très malmenée par l’État centraliste, on a besoin de livres dans notre langue, les jeunes en ont besoin. Les lecteurs francophones ont largement de quoi, pas besoin d’en rajouter. Les lecteurs brittophones, même s’ils ont minoritaires, eux sont en manque. On a besoin de nouveaux écrivains aussi, et c’est important de montrer la voie, de montrer que c’est possible de créer dans notre langue. Mais ce que je dis pour la littérature est vrai aussi pour le cinéma, le théâtre, la musique sous ses aspects divers (rock, slam, rap, traditionnel…), et tous les médias.

        Clay: Est-ce qu’il y a des ressources où on peut soutenir la culture et la langue bretonnes ? Est-ce que vous pouvez nous dire des livres, des sites ou des associations qui peuvent être utils pour apprendre la langue bretonne ? 

        Mich: Il y a plusieurs structures associatives qui offrent des formations longues. En voici 3 :

        https://www.mervent.bzh/qui-sommesnous-₃

        https://stumdi.bzh/presentation/

        https://skolanemsav.bzh/apprendre-le-breton/

        Mais il y a aussi des cursus universitaires complets, jusqu’au doctorat, à Rennes notamment, ainsi que des formations professionnelles aux métiers de l’enseignement. Et également, pour ceux qui ont acquis un niveau suffisant pour vivre au quotidien en breton il y a un stage immersif chaque été, où l’on peut venir en famille pendant 1 ou 2 semaines : https://www.keav.bzh/

        En réalité il y a tellement de possibilités que c’est difficile d’en dresser la liste !

        Clay: Qu’est-ce que sont vos projets à venir ?

        Mich: Pas vraiment de projets d’écriture. Mais je traduis aussi beaucoup. J’ai traduit du français La maison du peuple de Louis Guilloux, Un recteur de l’Île de Sein d’Henri Queffelec, Les empires de la lune de Savinien Cyrano de Bergerac (science-fiction politique du 17ème siècle), et actuellement je collabore avec une amie traductrice islandaise sur la traduction de la trilogie de Jon Kalman Stefansson. Je fais aussi assez régulièrement des traductions plus « fonctionnelles » pour des expositions, des associations, divers projets d’enquêtes participatives sur le patrimoine local. Je participe aussi à une commission « traduction littéraire » sous l’égide du Conseil régional et de l’OPLB (office publique de la langue bretonne) qui aide financièrement les éditeurs et traducteurs pour la traduction d’oeuvres importantes de la littérature mondiale.

           

          Brand New Issue and More to Come!

          Brand New Issue and More to Come!

          Trafika Europe is excited to begin our 2024 season and we are here to announce the start of our programming. This includes all of our usual content, free online, as well as our new member-specific content! Here is a glimpse at what is coming this week and what is to come after:

          • On January 19, 2024, at 12 am EST, we will launch our first issue! Essential New Literature of Lesser-Known Languages of Europe is a treasure cove of amazing literature. Languages represented include Cornish, Latgalian, Luxembourgish, Faroese, Yiddish, Breton, Irish, Basque, Lemko, Sámi, and Romani. There are multiple ways to enjoy, including on our website (free), as a TE E-Reader, as a TE Audiobook Listener, or purchase an electronic/print copy!
          • Also on January 19th, we will be releasing our first podcast of the year! Naturally, the only way to kick off the launch of the new issue is with an episode by Latgalian poet, Ligija Purinaša, and Latgalian translator, Jayde Will. You can check out the episode on our website or other podcast streaming sites (just search “Trafika Europe Radio”).
          • This week, our member benefits begin! Check out our Patreon for details. That means TE E-Readers (or above) will have access to an electronic version of our first issue, made available on the 19th. Check out our previous issues to see what you can expect.

          Of course, our progress doesn’t stop there! Here’s a teaser about what to expect moving forward:

          • Every Friday, we will be releasing a podcast episode at midnight. Here is our schedule for the next few weeks:

          • For the TE Audiobook Listeners (or above), your benefits will begin on January 26 with the release of our first audio excerpt. We will begin with our latest issue before we go back to past issues.   A new reading will be posted every week and will only be available to members with access to the excerpts.

          We really look forward to launching into this new era and we hope to see you engaging in our literary community. Reach out if you have any questions about memberships or thoughts on our project (editor@trafikaeurope.org) or leave a comment on this post!

          Trafika Europe Radio Season Seven Debut!

          Trafika Europe Radio Season Seven Debut!

          Trafika Europe Radio’s Season 7 will debut on Sunday, September 17, 2023. We will be live broadcasting a mixture of new and old episodes to honor the memory of our late Director, Andrew Singer. Trafika Europe officially began our radio in 2020, a part of the project that was conceptualized since the official launch in 2014. We are pleased to be honoring Andrew on the start of our next season. This debut will include a mixture of old and new episodes, all of which relate to the legacy that Andrew is leaving behind. Take a look at the below schedule to get an idea about what’s coming up. For more details about each episode, keep scrolling!

          EUPL Montenegrin Author Ilija Đurović (New)

          10am EDT (New York) = 3pm BST (UK) = 4pm CEST (Montenegro)

          Andrew started working with the European Union Prize for Literature during our third season of the radio. He always sought new partners and really wanted to spread community across Europe and European writers through collaboration.In this new episode, Montenegrin author Ilija Đurović talks with host, Andrew Singer, about his EUPL-awarded novel Sampas. This series is a cooperation with the European Union Prize for Literature and other partners. Andrew created the Spotlighting the EU Prize for Literature in the third season of our radio. You’ll continue to hear his voice on many episodes throughout this season that he recorded before passing.

          Eco-Lit Sam Lee and Cosmo Sheldrake (Season 3)

          11am EDT (New York) = 4pm BST (UK) = 5pm CEST (Paris & Berlin)

          Despite Andrew not being in this episode, this is one of Andrew’s favorite from our third season of the radio. Host, Joe Williams, speaks with folksinger, song collecter, and author Sam Lee and musician and music producer Cosmo Sheldrake about the importance of preserving natural soundscapes.

          Bowery Poetry Speaks The Brothers Gillespie (Season 2)

          12pm EDT (New York) = 5pm BST (UK) = 6pm CEST (Paris & Berlin)

           

          Andrew was very taken by folk music by the Brothers Gillespie. He even created our first radio concert with the group. In this previously published episode from Season 2, exquisite UK musical folk duo The Brothers Gillespie — Sam and James — speak with host Andrew Singer about their songcraft and its development and inspiration from the tradition and community in and around Northumberland and the Scottish Borders region. Not to be missed! Includes songs from the group. 

          Bowery Poetry Speaks Glyn Maxwell (Season 2)

          1pm EDT (New York) = 6pm BST (UK) = 7pm CEST (Paris & Berlin)

           

          In addition to Trafika Europe, Andrew was also a creative individual. In this episode, he opens up and talks about his own creative writing alongside UK poet, playwright, and teacher, Glyn Maxwell. In this incisive and fascinating conversation, Maxwell discusses form in poetry. We consider work from the poet W. H. Auden, discuss verse theater, and Glyn also reads his own poems, “Thinking Earth” and “The Snow Village”.

           

          Directors Interview—Andrew Singer Discusses Trafika Europe (New)

          2pm EDT (New York) = 7pm BST (UK) = 8pm CEST (Paris & Berlin)

          As long time Editor and Outreach Coordinator for Trafika Europe, Clayton McKee had the privilege of sitting down with Andrew Singer to discuss the development of Trafika Europe over the years. This new conversation between the late Director and the new Director is a follow up from previous talks and interviews that Andrew gave throughout his career.

          If you enjoy what we do here at Trafika Europe and want to continue helping us develop as a project, we have ways to support us. For a free way to support us, please comment, like, and share our content. We are always hoping to reach a bigger audience and spread the community that we have started here. If you’re able, you can also support us on our Patreon page. We are going to be developing this further as we move on with the project; however, for the time being, there are levels of support you can choose from—the most basic being the price of a cup of coffee. Please email trafikaeurope@gmail.com if you’re interested in making a one-time donation and information.

          Trafika Europe internships available for 2023

          Trafika Europe internships available for 2023

          Trafika Europe is an exciting and innovative project showcasing new literature in English translation, from across the 46 countries of Council of Europe and related. • The project includes our acclaimed online literary journal, literary events calendar, online bookshop, literary animated videos, local events, print publications… and Trafika Europe Radio – Europe’s literary radio station, free online! • We are affiliated with The Pennsylvania State University and are a registered US educational nonprofit foundation, with virtual working locations.

          Here is a brief video introduction to Trafika Europe, focusing on our exciting Radio initiative:

          Wouldn’t you like to participate? There’s lots to do, especially now with our literary radio! • We are offering suitable candidates 15-week internships on a rolling basis – presently seeking new interns for Winter, Summer, and Autumn 2023. Internships combine some portion of support tasks with one or more project-based tasks depending on candidate skills, background, location, and personal and professional goals. • The internship combines tasks to be carried out independently at intern’s own location with regular online meetings and supervision. A commitment of nine (9) hours per week is expected. • This unpaid internship can give selected participants at any level experience with publishing and the literary/creative sector, new media and communications. Interns can establish career contacts, explore European cultures, and depending on qualifications, may learn and practice skills related to nonprofit management, literary translation and editing, outreach and promotion, events organizing, cultural journalism, database management, audio interviewing / recording / editing and online casting, website management and so on. Internships can sometimes lead to greater cooperation with the project ongoing.

          Qualifications: there are no fixed prerequisites for this internship, except for strong English-language writing and communication skills, regular internet access, and a love of literature. Some familiarity with one or more European languages can be a plus, but is not required. The ideal intern may also have experience and/or interest in literary translation, print and creative arts, radio, communication and online media.

          Especially as we are now expanding our Radio offerings substantively, outreach and audio production will certainly be a part of any intern’s tasks – for which we offer all needed training. • Interns must be at least 17 years old before start of internship. • We welcome all inquiries; for suitable candidates, a Skype or equivalent interview will help us best determine suitability and focus of internship.

          Come join our Trafika Europe community — and help us contribute to greater openness, enthusiasm, and mutual regard in culture, for and across Europe!

          For more information and to apply, please email: editor@trafikaeurope.org.

          Open Letter to Europe from Chus Pato

          In the month of August 2009, right on schedule, the plane in which I was travelling landed in Lviv. The snowy white of the airport bedazzled me.

          Erín Moure, the Canadian poet—who had decided one fine day to translate a book of mine into English and who has since become one of my best friends—wished to bury the ashes of her mother in the cemetery of her mother’s natal village, Velyki Hlibovychi. I wanted to accompany her and also visit the mouth of the Danube River where the channels of its delta enter the Black Sea. Destiny had chosen, and destiny’s name was Ukraine.

          Europe? Yes, this too is Europe. From Europe, we’re always taking leave

          Europe is a territory that, in the first half of the twentieth century, ruthlessly expelled its population (leftover?) toward the Americas. And so it is that two poets who reside on separate continents can meet in Lviv. The one who comes from Québec and awaits me in the airport is daughter of a woman who emigrated as a child from Austro-Hungarian/Polish Galitzia/Galicia—now Ukraine— and of a father whose grandfather emigrated from Galicia in Spain, where I live. Three of my grandparents were emigrants to Argentina and Cuba, and one is buried in Camagüey. Erín and I are the same age, born in 1955; both of us have ancestors born in one Galicia or the other. We are the result of this coming and going, this crossing and re-crossing of the Atlantic.

          The distance between Lviv and Velyki Hlibovychi is about thirty kilometres, and we take the train. The nearest town is Bibrka. There, shortly after the arrival of the Nazis, 200 Jewish residents were sent to the Belzec extermination camp. Later, on April 13, 1943, 1,300 more Jews were shot dead on the road to Volove. Most Ukrainian Jews were murdered like that in the Second World War, thrown into pits outside their villages. The majority of Galician supporters of the Spanish Republic were murdered by Franco’s Falangists in the same way, shot and thrown into pits near their villages during the Civil War. There is a tendency to consider that places from which emigrants come are backward. Not only economically: they are also seen as isolated and outside History. I’d like to point out that enduring History by being treated as cheap exportable labour is one way of living it. I also want to add that families like those of our two poets— who meet up in what was once a capital of Austro-Hungarian Galitzia—have had and still have continuous contact with the Americas, as well as with European states where they emigrated in the 1960s; in all these places, they formed part of the proletariat that worked to rebuild after the Second World War.

          Europe? Yes, Europe teems with peoples. We never take leave of peoples

          A people—humanity—is a being that arises just like rivers do. It rises and, because it can rise, it can fall. It is indestructible, that is, can be sacrificed a million times over, but never destroyed. A people is unforgettable, that is, a living thing that does not need us as individuals in order to exist. It is never on the side of power, whatever the power; it is on the side of potential, of possibility, and answers to that possibility. It is not to be confused with its representatives nor with those who govern it, because it is not a representation, it is a presence on Earth.

          A people has memory of many kinds of governments, and of all the modes of production that have traversed it, but its body precedes them all. It is a force that overthrows any ancient regime, and all regimes are ancient. It is the action of standing up, bursting forth, singing, of being defeated or of winning, but is never the act of governing. It is incompatible with government, with any kind of government.

          A people is an intensity not to be confused with a state, or nation-state, or any administrative division. It’s a rhizome and grows and extends without taking any bureaucratic obstacle into account. A people always lacks papers. Institutions, any kind of institution, don’t thrill it, but it knows their fair price. A humanity is, presents itself, overthrows, can fall, is contemporary, moves forward.

          Europe? Yes, Europe teems with thinking. We never take leave of thinking

          Hope knows how to wait, but we, sapiens persons, are trained to despair.

          We despair because at times we are unable to visualize a future different from today. We despair because we’ve been groomed for belief. Belief neutralizes uncertainty, but can’t prevent catastrophe. We’re used to living in catastrophe and all we know is that yet another catastrophe lies ahead.

          In his essay “From the Future to the Time to Come: The Revolution of the Virus,” first published in the newspaper Le Monde, Jean-Luc Nancy contrasts belief to faith.

          Faith, to him, is that virtue by which we admit that we can’t keep everything under control. Faith waits and hopes because it knows that risk is at the root of freedom. Faith is a thinking capable of the one act we can truly perform with our lives: the risk of living. It means opening ourselves to a future different from one of submission and catastrophe.

          Faith moves mountains because it empowers us to act in ways that do not lead to the illusion of control and power. Perhaps we can see, from this, that democracy is that which lets us enter together into the future. What democracy offers us is a way to share, in equality, the burden of finitude and of ignorance, because we all face the same uncertainty.

          “It is in foundering that we find ourselves anew,” concludes Nancy.

          Europe? Yes, Europe teems with art. We never take leave of images

          And so we will dream anew.

          We will dream again of hope, dream of hope as depicted in Andrea Pisano’s engraving on the doors of the Florentine Baptistery. We’ll dream of it in the fresco of the Scrovegni Chapel where Giotto also painted hope, and here we will contemplate it again.

          Utopia—hope—has wings but does not use them; she holds out her hands and does not know whether her work of waiting will one day be crowned with success. She lives in this uncertainty and waits.

          I accepted the invitation to write this letter in August 2021. At that time, we were focussed on a plague. Now as I write this letter, at the end of spring 2022, we’ve seen the red horse of war emerge from the beautiful book of the Apocalypse.

          The first war in my own memory was the Six-Day War. As a girl, I was magnetized by the images of tanks, in black and white because that’s how television was broadcast at the time. I found it impossible to relate those tanks to the names of the territories through which they rolled. Those names were ones I knew from the biblical history we studied in school. At that age, I had no words to describe what I was experiencing; today I can posit that one of the possible definitions of war is the fracture that occurs between language and territory. Language, regardless of what tongue we speak, is cleaved by war and can never again be what it once was. Bitter is Troy, and bitter the fury sung by the muse.

          Earlier this year, on March 17, the Lviv airport was bombed. I think of white phosphorus bombs, and I think of the villages of Hostomel and Irpin, and what arises incessantly in my mind are memories of my trip to Ukraine in 2009.

          Surely one of the most exciting moments of my life was heading to the port of Odesa down the steps on which Sergei Eisenstein had filmed some of the most unforgettable images of Battleship Potemkin.

          From Odesa, we set off to Vyklove and the “Kilometre Zero” where one channel of the Danube enters the Black Sea. Igor, a local Lipovan, brought us in his small boat to this extraordinary demarcation line.

          We stayed on Avhhustyana Voloshyna Street and we were happy in Ukraine, in Lviv.

          Europe? Yes, Europe teems with empires that want to unite it, to keep West and East under their exclusive dominion. We’re always taking leave of empires, of schisms

          I don’t need to remind you of any of this; we studied it in school. I only want to offer a thought—possibly foolish—and tell you a story.

          The foolish thought is that Europe is dual: the West of Rome and the East of Constantinople/Moscow. West is a colony of the USA, East a colony of China. As long as West does not recognize East and vice versa, as long as the two halves of the symbol do not unite, Europe—Europa—will remain that young woman abducted by the lust of an ancient and patriarchal god.

          Now the story. A young woman, who might have been Giotto’s model, arrives at a desert outpost. We know from her rags that she is a beggar. There, in that desert, Time showers its gifts on her. Alongside the two of them (Utopia and Time) is a man who each night scrawls his fury on a parallelepiped of wood. The man is old and has lived all his life in a country where trees grow easily; in his youth he was a woodcutter. The house where he lives has a garden, and on one of its walls, he’s installed a solid wood parallelepiped that he’d hewn while clearing forests. Every night he heads to the wall and scrapes at the block of wood with all his might. It’s his shock absorber. It’s his buffer. What he really wants is to bang his head on the wall until his skull cracks open so he’s free of the horror of life—despite this being a happy life. Scratching at the wood night after night lets him control his fury and not turn into a murderer.

          The three extend their arms just as Hope—also known as Utopia—does, without knowing if they will ever satisfy their desire; they don’t know if they’ll be able to use their wings and fly happily. Their act will move mountains because they know how to wait, and know how to devise a future different from the one that subjugates them. They choose to live amid those who refuse to be counted among murderers.

          May we all see a dawn in which Europe, Europa, does not suffer the whims of a patriarchal god, nor the jealousy of his divine consort.

          May a thousand more springtimes come to these fields we share and to the languages still reviled today in which some of us write and speak, and in which we intensely love.

          translated by Erín Moure

          Trafika Europe