The poet, novelist, playwright and critic Jean Ristat, executor of the work of Louis Aragon and Elsa Triolet, died this Sunday, December 3. He was 80 years old. In a press release, Guillaume Roubaud-Quashie, the director of Maison Triolet-Aragon, installed in a former water mill in Villeneuve (Yvelines) and the couple's vacation spot from the 1950s, wrote: "It is this a generous and humble man, erudite and of great talent, whom the Maison Elsa Triolet-Aragon is sad to lose and whom it wishes to salute with respect and gratitude.”
In his latest collection, O you who sleep in the stars chained (Gallimard) published in 2017, Jean Ristat confessed: “Here you are, sir, carried away before our eyes/By the army of shadows in a flash that ignites / And passes before returning to the night its rags / Here you are, theater O theater of death / With your procession of deaf and / Mute extras the orchestra of birds suddenly falls silent. The same year, he continued the publication of his chronicles, portraits, interviews, under the title Who are our contemporaries, where we meet Philippe Sollers, Antoine Vitez, Nathalie Sarraute, and on the classics side: Rimbaud, Lautréamont, Tristan Corbière or Emily Dickinson. Texts which for the most part appeared in Le Monde, L'Humanité, the Gazette de Lausanne or Les Lettres françaises, of which he was the director, and of course the literary review Digraphe (which would become an editorial collection), which he had created, and whose name had been suggested to him by his philosophy professor, a certain Jacques Derrida.
Born in 1943 in a modest family in a village in Cher, Ristat was a faithful traveling companion of the Communist Party, and the confidant of Louis Aragon, as well as his advisor, to whom he devoted numerous works, notably the album of the collection of La Pléiade in 1997, not to mention numerous unpublished works by the poet who called him “the continuator”, and which he published, notably the Illustrated Erotic Notebook of 1975, J.R-75, subtitled “Le Cadeau à Jean ".
Ristat made his entry into literature at the age of 22, with Le Lit by Nicolas Boileau and Jules Verne, praised by an article by Aragon – to which he would now link his destiny. Five years later, in 1970, he published Du coup d'état in literature followed by examples taken from the Bible and other authors, where Marat and Charlotte Corday, Artaud, Osiris, Zeus... Jean Ristat turns then towards choreography and theater, working in particular with Roland Petit (the ballets Light Up the Stars after Mayakovsky, and The Sick Rose, inspired by William Blake). During the same period, he translated the Spiritual Exercises of Loyola, prefaced by Roland Barthes.
This spiritual son of Aragon, guardian of the temple who jealously watched over the work and image of his master, going so far as to censor certain compromising texts, would then pursue a long career as an author. He thus goes on to produce theatrical works (The Wig of Old Lenin, The Entry into the Bay and the Taking of the City of Rio de Janeiro in 1711), novels (the epistolary Lord B, Le Déroulé Cycliste in 1996), poetry (Le Parliament of Love in 1994, NY Meccano in 2001).
The pocket collection “Poésie/Gallimard” dedicated a volume to him in 2018 including the collections Ode to hasten the coming of spring, Tomb of Monsieur Aragon, The Death of the Beloved, and The Parliament of Love. We could read the following verses, always in this lyrical, elegiac and flowery register, from which he had rarely deviated: “What time has given us it takes back/Irisory lover in the middle of the night/I don't remember only daylight and I cry/Here are ancient verses like a rosary/That I tell while at the window I/Watch the moon pass where the dead sleep”