After directing last year in The response of men ambivalent situations and characters in chiaroscuro, the writing of Tiphaine Raffier is inspired this time by the sharp irony of Roth.
In 1944, Bucky Cantor, a young gym teacher from the Jewish community of Newark, was discharged due to his myopia. While his friends disembark on the Normandy coast, it is on a sports field in New Jersey that he teaches young boys for whom he is responsible, until a poliomyelitis epidemic arises. By dint of wanting to give meaning to the absurd misfortune of the disease, it is Némésis that he will meet: the goddess of revenge.
The fight of a man caught in an era
“In Philip Roth’s novel, it was the character of Bucky Cantor that first interested me. We are in 1944 and he cannot go to war, at a time when America is positioning itself in a moral overhang compared to the rest of the world. It is the time of heroic America which will leave lasting traces in the history of this country. One of the things that I like in the novels of Philip Roth, it is that it always speaks of a man caught in an era. In this book, there are three states of amazement: war, epidemic and heat wave. These states will determine many choices of the main character, who will positions himself as a frustrated soldier. His fight will then move from the battlefield to the playing field.”
The Conventions in the Face of the Scandal of Death
“In the first part of the novel, we are confronted with this scandalous death which is that of children. It is this scandal which comes to question conventions: how can conventions survive in the face of such a scandal? interested in theatrical conventions. In the performance hall of the Atelier Berthier, we are in the head of Bucky Cantor, we follow him completely, and even if sometimes things burst and overflow like sound or light, he works what conventions hold.”
A literature of detail
“I believe that the literature of Philip Roth is a literature of the detail and the singularity of destinies: this is what gives it its strength, as opposed to the concepts of good and evil. As Ruwen Ogien wrote, notions of good and evil do not help us to live. They overwhelm us, so we have to add detail and circumstance to understand and delimit them. There is also the question of divine retribution, which is part of our neurological wiring. If something bad happens to us, we will wonder what we could have done to make it happen to us. The character of Bucky Cantor comes to weave causality to be able to explain what is happening to him, because otherwise it is unbearable to him.”
Alain Kinkielkraut, issue The big table, Olivia Gesbert, France Culture, 06/26/2020
Frederique Leichter Flack, source Youtube, 01/31/2023
Stuart Seide, issue In a bare voiceGérard-Henri Durand, France Culture, 11/11/1999
Phillip Roth, Nemesis (Gallimard)
Nemesiscreated by Tiphaine Raffier, Théâtre de l’Odéon, 2023
Philip Roth, without complexdocumentary by William Karel and Livia Manera, broadcast on Arte on September 19, 2012
cat-power, I’ll be seeing you