Here, we have letters written to Frédéric Dard – the man known to most people as San-Antonio after his eponymous larger-than-life private detective – and many tributes and many letters by (mainly, but not exclusively) figures involved in the world of literature and the arts such as Bernard Pivot, Georges Simenon, Frédéric Beigbeder, Albert Cohen, Geroges Trenet, Patrick Sebastien, Jean Dutourd, the list is huge.
Frédéric Dard was a highly gifted, highly original and very funny writer whose work will continue to inspire many other writers. He was also a very loving father, husband and very warm to his many friends, very giving. But this book seems to tease out more than Jean Durieux's book on him did. Here, and by more than one person, we learn of his hypersensitivity, shyness even, and Joséphine Dard reveals that on her first marriage he walked her to the church but no further as on that day his arms were covered in psoriasis. For me, the most revealing part in this book is in three pages he wrote about himself, which I find quite devastating.
The paper is called 'Si j'étais...Frédéric Dard' ('If I were...Frédéric Dard') and is astonishingly frank, even though he didn't (I'm sure) intend to publish it. Here we have the existential Dard, reflecting on what he, er, isn't. He writes that he always expected to be himself, that his self (Frédéric Dard) would somehow magic itself into being when he grew up, like at a particular age when he was allowed to vote. But it didn't happen, he still feels deprived of himself, is still waiting for something to happen, as if he's missed an appointment. There's a kind of parallax (my expression), a lack of correspondance between how others see him and how he sees himself. Everything he says, does and thinks doesn't conform to his 'true [or real] essence'. This seems even bleaker than Samuel Beckett.
An extremely interesting book.
One small correction: the author says that her father invited Renaud on Le Grand Équiquier, in 1982, when his career was just starting: wrong, Renaud already had five successful albums to his credit. He went on to much greater success, but that's hardly the same thing.