Roland Jaccard ended his days yesterday, Monday, September 20. Many of his friends received an early email saying he was about to leave, that he was bowing out. For me, it was 8:09 a.m. With the subject “A lesson in Swiss dandyism” and the following sentences in the body of the text: “You are one of the few who understood me! Vivid friendships! “
Roland did me a lot of honor. There may not have been many of us who understood it, but there were a few nonetheless. To have understood it and to have loved it. I had a nasty feeling all morning, but I was in front of some students and I promised myself I would call him at the lunch break. Two phone calls from Gil Mihaely and then from Elisabeth Lévy told me that it had become unnecessary.
He had dreamed of it. He did it. Roland Jaccard died as a free man. He was part of the Chatter adventure since the early days. Words fail me to express my sadness, my gratitude and my admiration for his courage. High class. Thanks Roland.
I was flabbergasted but not surprised. Stunned because, all the same, the death of a friend, of one of those literary friendships transformed into reciprocal affection over time, is a kind of block of abyss in the hollow of the soul and the guts, a block of abyss known to all those who learn of the sudden disappearance of a loved one.
But I was not surprised: who knew Roland knew that suicide was a recurring theme with him, an obsession, an almost reassuring way out. Suicide is that terrible freedom of the Stoics, and there was something Stoic in Roland beyond his elegant hedonism, summed up by Marcus Aurelius in Pensées pour moi: “There is too much smoke here, I m ‘ go ”. Suicide, Roland knew: in their time his father and his grandfather had also chosen the night. He wrote in “My Father’s Notebooks”, one of his “Rascal’s Notes” which he gave to Chatter each week: “Let’s be frank: we loved living once, but we wouldn’t like to do it again. This was also my father’s opinion. It was at age 80 that his father had bowed out. Roland wrote and said, often, that he did not intend to pass him in age. And in fact, he was going to be 80 years old on September 22. When you love someone, you don’t listen to them, or you don’t want to believe them. This is to forget that behind Roland’s flippancy, behind his elegant and eternal skinny teenage look, he was terribly rigorous. He spared no one of his sarcasm, especially himself. But we reassure ourselves as best we can, when we love. After all, hadn’t one of his masters and friends, Cioran, throughout his work spoken of suicide as the only rational solution to the horror of the world without ever taking action?
No, decidedly, unhappy as stones but not surprised: Monday, September 13, after months of absence since he had decided to come back to live in his hometown, in Lausanne, since the start of the health crisis, he had appeared in an editorial meeting followed by a drink celebrating the departure of one of our own. It seems obvious, now, that he had come to say goodbye to us or more precisely, because there too we too often overlooked how much the one who professed cynicism loved friendship, he had wanted to spend a little time with us. one last time. What did I talk to Roland about what was, without my knowing it, a final meeting? I don’t know why, I have a hard time remembering it. I would like to tell you that he had given implicit clues, that would not be true. He had his usual composure, his oriental smile, his exquisite courtesy of a man who has long since lost all illusion but who does not make a drama of it, courtesy inherited from that wrecked civilization of Mitteleuropa to which his Austrian mother belonged.
I would like all the same to underline, now, its importance in the French intellectual landscape. He wrote essential books on psychoanalysis with which he had ambiguous relations as with everything else, notably The Inner Exile in 1975. He said there in another way, what Debord had identified in La Société du Spectacle: the impossibility in the modern world for beings to meet other beings, and even worse the impossibility for man to coincide with himself. He was also one of the most beautiful pens in the world as an essay critic and above all an outstanding editor at the PUF where his collection, “Critical Perspectives”, presents a dream catalog. We owe him the discovery of André Comte-Sponville but he also published Clément Rosset or Marcel Conche and ensured, through several other authors, the marriage of philosophy and literature: we thus find the unclassifiable and so talented Romain Slocombe and Frédéric Pajak.
Afterwards, others will undoubtedly reduce him to a legend which he has mischievously kept in his diaries, including the monumental Le Monde d’avenir (1983-1988) published at the beginning of the year which we reported in Chatter. His friendship, never denied, with Matzneff despite the quarrels, his taste for young girls who resembled his idol, Louise Brooks, or who came from the Empire of the Levant. His way of gauging and judging men by the way they played ping-pong and chess. One of his great sorrows was the closing for renovation of the Lutétia, where you could find him every Sunday in the salons where he would checkmate you very quickly.
Beyond his refusal of posterity, that which consists in having children like the one that makes us survive our own death by being still read in twenty or thirty years, the nihilist Roland was a man surprisingly anxious to transmit. He refused to admit it, he said that I was teasing him, but yet you only have to open one of his books to want to read the authors he talks about: Cioran, of course, but also his dear Amiel or even Paul Nizon. I forget, of course.
I don’t know where Roland is now. He laughed at my communism as at my Catholicism which is coming back with age. Still, I’m glad to have his books in my library. I’ll read it again. It’s still the best prayer and the best tribute I can pay him. The most consoling too, because there will be a certain number of us, in Chatter and elsewhere, who need to be consoled.