Conversation with Valdas Papievis about Paris - the white city, which insensibly sucks you in... 7

Elvina Baužaitė
The article is illustrated with Vladas Braziūnas' photograph of Valdas Papievis and V. Papievis photograph of spring graphics, 2016-02-28
Valdas papievis. Montmartre, Paris, 2009. Vladas Braziūnas' photo

In brief: We could say that possibilities of being are the topic of Valdas Papievis (1962) oeuvre, the leitmotif connecting his works. Writer has been living in France for more than 20 years, and thus authentically experiencing the country's daily life and feeling its pulse. He is one of the most relevant people to talk to in order to grasp the French present and being of mankind in general.

I was curious to know what, according to the author, determines Lithuanian sorrow and pain, which is so vivid and opposite to the French merriment - simple desire to live. Author says, "I would not simplify the joy of life, the mere wish to live, to the merriment. Even during the greatest moment of joy you can be pierced by the sliver of pain - how fragile and temporary everything is. As if the pain can open up the extraordinary beauty of life. But here I am talking about the higher moments. Let's go back to everyday life. France is also full of misery, pain, but here it is easier to lift the unbearable lightness of being. Lithuania is wood, stone, roughness and grit. I do not want to idealize France but still - it does have more elegance, grace and playfulness. Perhaps also it has more of the everyday culture that rids you of that same daily routine."

I was wondering how writer views the France of today. Valdas Papievis says that France is very big and diverse, "I cannot say I know all the France. Traveling somewhere and taking a look is not the same as knowing. I know Paris a little bit, also Provence and maybe the French Riviera a bit. Therefore, I will speak only about Paris. Paris is a white city. When you are looking at it from the Sacré Cœur, for example, it floats like a white swan... Here I am creating a legend again (says ironically with a grin - author's note). But before it was black. Charles de Gaulle's Minister of Culture André Malraux decided to clean it of the soot in the sixties. I could mention some signs of external changes, but they are minor, less than in Vilnius."

Freedom - the premise of human rights and dignity - is an undeniable value and French not only respect it but live it. I was interested in the writer’s opinion, whether protection establishes or destroys freedom. Valdas Papievis says, "Immediately after the attacks, four-fifths of French people agreed to the constraints of liberties, if this is what is needed to ensure safety. Sure, the state of emergency, but how long is it going to last? Let it be. I am more annoyed by the infantilizing approach towards society, when in everyday life government starts building protections, when they want to safeguard you from yourself. That wish to categorize and regulate absolutely everything. As if we ourselves would not be able to decide what is good and what is bad; as if we could not agree amongst ourselves."

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