Ldrooling in the small TER that takes me to the Sète station, I think of the octopus party that awaits me. In this fishing village in the Hérault, dear to Georges Brassens and Agnès Varda, the “pouffre” (the name of the cephalopod in Occitan) is venerated – to the point of having erected it as a statue on the large square in front of the town hall. Probably this afternoon I bite into octopus meatballs at the Fritto restaurant, where Marilou Fassanaro serves them (crunchy to perfection) to be dipped in a cuttlefish ink mayonnaise. Tomorrow morning I get up early to go buy some of those fresh rock octopus tentacles (to be grilled on the plancha with a good parsley, I was told) that are sold on the stalls of the De Ranteau fish market, in the central Halles. Later, on my way up to the Théâtre de la Mer, I’ll stop at Paradiso or La Cettoise to stock up on perfectly golden tielles, these famous local pies, topped with octopus and a slightly spicy tomato sauce. Well settled in the shade of the pier, facing the marina, I will finally take them carefully out of their cardboard box; before slipping them, as is customary here, with an iced glass of picpoul-de-pinet from the pond of Thau. Only then will I take a moment to collect in memory of all the octopuses I have devoured.

It may sound a little weird worded this way, but ever since I’ve seen it The wisdom of the octopus (“My octopus teacher”, in VO), it is clear that I no longer look at octopuses the same way. In this documentary series, which aired on Netflix and won an Oscar in 2021, we begin by following the sea voyages of Craig Foster, director in the Cape Peninsula, South Africa. During his excursions among the algae, the snorkeler encounters a young octopus, well hidden in its lair, but intrigued by the repeated visits of this artificially webbed human being.

Read also: “The Wisdom of the Octopus”, on Netflix: the psychoanalysis of the octopus, between visual fascination and existential crises

After a few days, the animal finally drops its guard, comes out of its hiding place and begins to establish first contact. Between the two entities there is also a daily dialogue, both poetic and disturbing, made up of games, attentions and hands (or suckers) stretched towards each other. For a few moments one gets the impression that the octopus and the man speak the same language: that of affections and feelings. At the sight of these images, taken with emotion, I could not help but see the sprawling creature from another angle. A question continues to haunt me: if we can communicate with the octopus, and recognize ourselves in its behavior, can we consider it as our fellow man?

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