Man alone is a dream. Man alone is an illusion. One likes to think of them in an emblematic solitude, but men only pretend to be alone. This is deceiving. Predators, they are called, but predators are solitary. Without doubt, within their territory, men can be predatory. Elsewhere, they are tame.
In the office at Place Beauvau, where we meet for the first time, he listens graciously, and then I very quickly perceive, in little ways, something with which I am all too familiar, impatience.
He has understood. He is “honored” that I would like to do his portrait. He says, So, you want to be there. I say, Yes.
Later, I am talking with my friend Marc in a café.
Anyway, you’ll reinvent him. Writers, like tyrants, are capable of bending the world to their will.
No landscape. No city. For a long time, I will not see a thing. Not a place, not even him.
Thus, this day, a highway through nowhere. Road signs, exit. Warehouses. Venue. Headlong rush into the dressing room. Constant stream of things to nibble. In the prefabricated makeup room, some prunes, some chocolate, candied fruit squares. Him nibbling constantly. Nibbling, gobbling, rushing. I had noticed that he ate fast, just as I had noticed that he limped.
Getting dressed, after the meeting in Agen, he keeps repeating, They want to cut down on the working hours, when we want to boost the purchasing power. He has said it during the speech, in front of six thousand people—had said it solemnly the night before, during the dinner, in his apartment at the Ministère (with a slightly ridiculous solemnity, as if seriously testing). He repeats the sentence over and over to these people he has no need to convince, he is happy, he repeats the words as he changes his shirt, still in disbelief, still waiting, like a child, for the umpteenth approval.
In front of André Glucksmann asking questions (twenty-five minutes each, in a slow and didactic voice) on Europe’s future, EU energy policy, or the fate of Africa, he slouches in his chair, upper body projecting patience, legs restless, opening and closing in perpetual motion.
As the Bastille Day garden party winds down, he is hugging Christian Clavier. They are hugging the way actors do. Wild with joy, with love, with You, I mean you, my pal, shouted at the whole world. The kind of hug I have seen a thousand times, other places, other faces, actors hell-bent on hugging publicly, drunk with their own performance, with their demonstrative laughter, their superhuman zeal. A little bit later, as he is burying his tie in the black bag he is taking to Rome, he says to me, Did you see who was there? Did you see? . . . No . . . Mathias’s parents. (Mathias? . . .) Math-ias, if I remember correctly, was the little boy who was raped and murdered. The day before, during a conver-sation on foreign policy with Glucksmann and Bruckner,* he had managed to slip in the Mathias story—he had mentioned it to me at some point, I don’t know when. Mathias’s parents. Mathias’s parents were there. I nod in sympathy. What else do you do?
Flipping through Le Point the day his book, Testimony, comes out. Alongside the excerpts, some photos captioned and perhaps chosen by him. As is usually the case, and well before I met him, I am struck by the childhood. Childhood, intelligence, men’s clothing. The tie and the suit never fit his age. The man’s suit accentuating a kind of fragility. The laugh is not the laugh of someone his age. He seems more elegant these days. I say so to Pierre Charon.† He is elegant, yes, he’s gone back to Dior. Before, he wore Lan- vin, Lanvin is normally the thing, but it has to be tailored, the sleeves cut, all kinds of alterations, Dior suits him better. . . .
Observing him at the town hall in Palavas-les-Flots as he listens to someone introduce his speech, I feel like I’m watching a little boy. Standing, hands clasped, waiting politely.
In the car, Bernard Fixot, his publisher, whispers, He has changed a lot. He thinks about himself, about who he is. It’s hard to stop long enough to think: I’m doing this, and why am I doing this? That’s not easy for a man of action. He has evolved, Fixot continues. He is more solid, more authentic. (His entourage makes a point of praising him to me unreservedly.) I ask, Since when? But I don’t get a clear answer.
Often, he says, How you doin’, Yasmina? But that means, How is he doing? How you doin’, Yasmina, happy? You saw that crowd, huh? . . .
In the plane, after pressing-the-flesh on the beach in 110° weather and the book signing, he says, People are nice . . . You saw. And the number of people who say, Give Cécilia a kiss for me! I say, You too, you’re nice. He dismisses what I say, The people, they come and what, I’m going to curse them out?
The people he is talking about are well dressed in this bookstore, in the middle of a thousand-degree summer. Pretty dresses, necklaces, makeup, only a few men in shorts. They stand in line for two hours. Thank you, Jean-Paul, heh. Go, go for it. I’m gonna go for it, Alain, all the way. Look at your mother, Jean-Baptiste (she is trying to take a picture with her cell phone upside down), if you don’t, we’re both gonna get it. I admire you, sir, more than I can say. I see it, Solange, that works for me. You’re going to win. We’re going to try, Marie-Ange. Leaving, on the street, in the nuclear heat of noon, a bunch of arms wave open books. He signs a few more on the cover page.
People, a procession of first names. Voices, hands, already left behind.
On the plane going home. “It’s mostly women who come. They see the sensitivity! . . . And all to make Bernard Fixot a richer man!” We laugh. They congratulate themselves on the morning’s win. Again and again. Repeating that it went well. Repeating before it fades away.From the Hardcover edition.
Excerpted from Dawn Dusk or Night by Yasmina Reza. Copyright © 2008 by Yasmina Reza. Excerpted by permission of Vintage, a division of Random House LLC. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.