INTERVIEW. Philippe Delerm, writer: “I dreamed of New York, so I won’t go”

the essential
For those who dream of taking a plane back to New York, Philippe Delerm offers a portrait of THE city he visits in films, images and fantasies, from his home, to avoid spoiling everything with the trip. “New York without New York”, or the teletourism trip. …

Is “New York without New York” a way of consoling travelers long left behind by the Covid?

It would be the height of opportunism, but I’ve been collecting albums, documents, memories on the subject for about ten years. Without ever having been there, I’m surprised to have so much New York in me, and there’s a certain jubilation in thinking that the things you don’t do are as real as the things you do.

For about fifty books, you have been telling things seen…

But there, “I dreamed of New York”, as in the song by Yves Simon. It’s a kind of daydream nourished by books, films, images. For example, in my teenage room I had the poster of James Dean, cigarette in beak and collar raised in the rain of Times Square, but it was on the back of a Simon and Garfunkel 33 rpm that I dreamed the plus: you could see them sitting in front of the pond in Central Park.

Central Park where you “review” a scene from “Love Story”, another 20th century hit…

Yes, it’s a melody that marked the 70s, as much as Erich Segal’s world bestseller. In the film, I found the contrast between Ali Mac Graw’s delicate face and the carter’s dialogues that the screenplay made him say very appealing. There is also “West Side Story”, the musical tragedy, of which the youth of the whole world will make a myth. I am of course talking about the first version.

Have you ever wanted to cross the Atlantic?

When we were young teachers, with Martine [son épouse, autrice et photographe avec qui il a cosigné « Fragments de Venise »], we didn’t think about it, we were rather attracted by the Scandinavian landscapes of Larsson, which we discovered, later, by car… It is true that for about fifteen years, I have been receiving proposals to go to New York, but by dint of saying “maybe”, I know that I will not go. I won’t let the dream and the image I have of the city be ruined by the trip. I’ve only flown once in my life, to comment on athletics at the 2008 Beijing Olympics. ‘Irkutsk on the small screen in the front seat. A name that refers to Michel Strogoff by Jules Verne, but I was a long way from “L’usage du monde”, Nicolas Bouvier’s wonderful book. The plane is to travel by suppressing the journey.

Travel kills travel?

We have the impression that there is a list of destinations for retirees aged 60 to 75 to check off, based on this expression that “you have to take advantage of it”… Go and see that the life you have Not having had would have been preferable to the one we had, which is quite a melancholic approach.

Why is New York so fascinating?

Because it is the absolute city, others are more populated or have taller buildings, but without, like it, feeding all the fantasies. Mine is that of the fear of living expressed by Woody Allen, with the permanent anxiety that transpires from his humor.

If we dream less of America, is it Donald Trump’s fault?

Not because of Trump, which for me is an accident such as unfortunately happens in quite a few countries where liberalism and democracy push us towards far-right caricatures… No, which makes New York less mythical, it is its gentrification, its gentrification, the end of contrasts even if misery is always ready to spring up again. It’s like going to Milan to be in the most elegant city in the world and see the same shop windows there as everywhere.

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