While he was alive, I never called him Dachy—I called him Marc. We can’t help changing them: the dead. They require special treatment. I met him two months before my May 2014 suicide attempt. I was 22. A friend, C., introduced us. It had to be done. I was putting together the first issue of a magazine that I had decided to call OROR. The first thing I described to Dachy was how OROR is the bright side of Maldoror. I think I remember this comment making him clasp his hands together in front of him, like when an opera is about to end and you’re waiting to start clapping. A long while later, one morning I opened a large kraft paper envelope. This had become commonplace. I recognized my friend’s inimitable handwriting: archaic, cuneiform-like but written in pen, often green, or purple when he felt like it. Inside, three facsimiles. It was MERZ, Tzara’s magazine, which Dachy had reissued. When I read the credits for the reprinting, I burst out laughing: “1998 – Mouvement Art Libre (M.A.L.).” We were birds of a feather.
I interviewed Dachy for OROR in what he called “the villa,” an eight-square-meter office on the top floor of a building at the corner of Rue Campagne Première and Montparnasse Boulevard. I wanted him to discuss what had been his magazine, Luna Park, as well as his other work on Dada. In the middle of his office, with a window so large compared to the size of the room that it caused awful vertigo, beneath helical columns of papers, messy piles of books were jammed against the ceiling all around us. Dachy’s rare, precious, strange books.
During the interview (1. OROR Zine #1; video at oror-fanzine.net) (I don’t know if we took any drugs, but it felt like we had), he talked first about how when he was twenty, freshly plucked from his provincial home, he went to New York, hoping to catch Burroughs and interview him for the first issue of Luna Park. He met him after a reading. He showed me a photo of the two of them. Marc looks different; he’s very dark, very thin, but I recognize his jutting lower lip. Burroughs and Dachy, playing chess.
Then, for the next couple of hours, Dachy let loose a torrent of names—the organs, bones, and tissues of Luna Park’s history—taking me back to the books and emotions of my youth: Tzara, Breton, Tinguely, Crevel, Ionesco, Beckett, Joyce, Ginsberg, Burroughs, Roberto Altmann, Raoul Haussmann, Frédéric Baal, Daniel Fano, Henri Lefebvre, Raphaël Sorin, Jacques Calonne, Mirtha Dermisache, Carlfriedrich Claus, Florence Delay, Hervé Guibert, Pierre Épertout, Dufreyne, Julian Beck, Gorky, Arlovsky, Bolaño, Guyotat, Clément Pansaers, Van Druan, Eugène Savitzkaya, the Vorticists, Kurt Schwitters, Kosinsky, Aragon, Brion Gysin, Skira, Hazan, Adamov, Jean-Jacques Schuhl, Sollers, Françoise Colin, Barthes, Soupault, René Clair, Matthieu Messagier, Eric Losfeld, José Corti, Jean-Jacques Pauvert, etc.
Shortly before I found myself in a mental hospital in May, I went to New York with a lover. Marc had given me dozens of addresses that he and the beats had frequented. My girlfriend and I went to them all. Most of them had closed, or worse. Marc was seeing a psychoanalyst about his violence. One day at the mental hospital, he brought me a radio, soothing oils, cocaine, and Chasse Spleen wine. Marc always left cafés and restaurants without paying. The only ones where he was still welcome in Montparnasse were the Closerie and sometimes the Sélect. One night, Marc went to the Closerie naked under a long white djellaba. He took it off right in the middle of the room while reciting Lautréamont, because he had lost a bet with me. Marc wanted to write a book about the Japanese Dadaists. One day he introduced me to Sollers under the pseudonym of a certain Sophie Podolski. Sollers then looked at me strangely and told me to take on an enigma which is in a Cendrars novel and to come back once I had found the solution. I couldn’t remember what it was so I never saw Sollers again. Once, Marc paid at a restaurant with a check from the Jean Arp foundation, signed Jean Arp. One day, when he was visiting me at the Saint-Antoine Hospital, he shouted at the nurses: “You killed Bolaño, you whores!” Marc loved me while I was in love with a woman, then hated me the day I fell in love with a man. He called me a “little hussy.” Then he cooled it. To encourage my discovery of my femininity—“ludically,” in his terminology—he gave me a volume from the Bibliothèque de la Pléiade every time my new lover made me orgasm. He told me, “you know, there are lots of authors in the Pléiade.” All I had to do was send him a text message with a name. He gave me Brecht, Jacottet, Michaux, Shakespeare, Rabelais, Chekov, Saint-John Perse, Barbey d’Aurevilly, Joyce, Jarry, Cendrars, Nietzsche, Rimbaud, Villiers, Leiris, Rilke, Saint Augustine, Yourcenar, Baudelaire, the old and the new testament, Queneau, Wilde, and Casanova.
That summer he would only listen to Pogorelich, and when it came to porn, he only had eyes for the Japanese actress Maria Ozawa.
One day, we went to Drancy. Another we visited Mallarmé’s house. Marc sometimes wept with joy when his daughter Kikuko played the harp. He was head over heels in love with his wife Mayuko. Marc would write me every morning, around six or seven, while listening to Radio France Culture; and almost every morning was the morning after a drinking bout. One day, Marc needed a text by Yannick Haenel for Luna Park. He ran into him in the street, handed him a pen and piece of paper, saying “Go ahead!” Yannick did, and the text was excellent. I never understood how Marc worked, nor how he provided for himself and his family. Later, doing some thinking, I grasped it. There are no clear borders between work, art, love, friendship, desire, madness, and discipline for us, the degenerate para-situs. A work of art is very different from work. Marc was a man very much of his own time. He would say “Never work! Pick up money off the ground!” I didn’t agree. I thought it was disgusting, and we fought a lot because of that. One afternoon in August we were walking in the Rue Babylon garden with Edward Mérino. They were talking about Christian Dautremont, who they knew well. I was listening attentively. Marc told me about the existence of a certain Guy Debord, that situationism is him, that he grew up in this garden and in this neighborhood where Edward and I were living. Here he invented the concepts dérive and psychogeography. I’ve said that I live in the Bermuda triangle since I’ve lived in this neighborhood. But it is truly indescribable, and in any case, this place should stay a secret, an internal experience. Marc added that Gombrowicz lived right over there, across from the garden. Marc knew everything about everything. I decided to exchange the salary that Edward owed me for a day’s work for dinner at the Closerie with him and Marc. Edward accepted, and we hailed a cab. Edward couldn’t tell which color the taxis were. “Is that one red or green?” He’s colorblind. We arrived at the Closerie. My lover and our friend C. met us. We ordered dessert and a cheese course first and the entrées last, drenching it all in astronomical quantities of Bloody Mary. The night veered towards disaster. Marc, our friend C. and my lover got into a fight. It was no joke. Edward and I dove to the ground. Furious and utterly embarrassed, I fled. I wrote in my journal from that time: “Marc was horrible. Aggravating. He thought he was being funny but he was just dumb and drunk. His disgusting stupidity and self-satisfaction took over the whole discussion. (…) I’ve lost too much time to these bravado-brandishing bozos.” In a letter Frida Kahlo wrote to Diego Rivera while passing through Paris for an exhibition, she talks about “this bunch of coocoo lunatic sons of bitches of the surrealists.”
Marc sent me his book The Dada Archives and the publishing catalogue for l’Encyclopédie des Nuisances with a single word, “Sorry.” The day after, an unpublished poem by Crevel, and some Clément Pansaers poems. Marc had told me to read Buñuel’s memoirs. I forgot to, but I did four years later on the recommendation of Gaëlle Obiégly. She knew Marc from elsewhere; from when she had hung around with the beats in NYC. I read the memoirs at Ferdinand Gouzon’s last summer. Ferdinand, if you’re reading this, I forgot the books at your place, I’d love to get them back. Two days later, Marc told me to read a text about theatre by Genet. The day after that, he gave me The Theatre and Its Double by Artaud.
In my journal from May 2014, I also found this remark: “My recent meeting with Marc Dachy, for example, who I can’t help doubting and mistrusting. He sends me his notes like he were trying to impress me, to hook me. What does he expect? He says he’s not interested. I’m not fooled, nor interested. I’m way less interested than he is. I’m never going to unreservedly send my notes for no reason to someone I barely know. These days everything seems phony, even a hero of Dadaist scholarship.” Four years after writing those words I find myself writing this text, which includes my own notes. My journal continues: “Me who at 15 was sure I was unconditionally and eternally connected to the avant-garde, (illegible) ugh! The changes that it provoked in me when I encountered it (illegible) ugh! That’s passion: love, then hate, then love. (…) I’m writing with a feather quill that Marc gave me, in a notebook that Marc gave me. And what an irony that these Waterman ink cartridges’ color is called “serenity blue” (one night in the asylum). (…) Look for the poet who started “The Monkey Bridge” with Yves Bonnefoy, I think. Ask Marc, not Google. (…) Jean de Tinan and Hubert Durt are coming over for lunch. (…) Marc gave me the keys to the villa, to soothe my fears. (…) I’ve been checked in for a month now. Marc gave me his Pléiade edition of Lautréamont, The Waves by Virginia Woolf, some Japanese felt-tip pens, Mimes by Marcel Schwob, The Defense of Infinity by Aragon, books by Adam Thirlwell, even Matisse and the Art of Textiles. (…) Was texting with Marc this morning (I’m getting out soon): —Thanks for all the gifts. They soothe my atrophied heart. —You’re Brissetting me… [Jean-Pierre Brisset]: “you misplaced a trophy d’art.” (…) Marc sends me “sweet missiles” every day. (…) Talking to Marc day and night. (…) We call all wine “Chasse Spleen.” (…) Our relationship shocks a lot of the other patients at the hospital—they say he’s a bad influence, drugs and alcohol while I’m just getting back on my feet after a near-miss suicide. (…) July 15th: He leads me back into my worst ruts. (…) July 16th: I admire him and wish he would return the admiration. (…) Of course, we have so many things in common. Our families, our non-paths, our audacity and our science of the sacrifice. (…) Nobody loves me for the right reasons. Nobody except Marc Dachy. (…) July 23rd: The café at City Hall. Marc swims in, he’s just walked 500 meters. I tell him that the first issue of OROR is finished and that I’m going to go postering around Paris to promote it that night. He wants to go with me. I tell him that it’s too risky, that we need to move fast if the police catch us and be able to climb buildings. Marc gets pissed off, dropping the idea bitterly. We go by Rue Férou, he shows me Man Ray’s studio. We role play one of the stanzas from The Drunken Boat, painted in full on a wall. I graffiti the wall across from it: “in M. A. L. D’OROR.” We go along the Jardin du Luxembourg, arriving at Rue Vavin. Marc points out a strange building, covered in the same white and navy blue tiles that make up the métro’s internal membrane. The architect’s name is “Sauvage.” Marc tells me that Last Tango in Paris was filmed in an apartment on the top floor. A short Chinese lady goes into the building, we decide to follow her. She studies us for a moment and says, “I’ve never seen you here, what are you doing here?” Marc smiles at her as only he knows how to smile and courteously says (as only he knows how to be courteous): “I would like to show my young friend the palatial apartment where Last Tango in Paris was filmed. Were you aware that it was filmed here?” The Chinese lady answers, “That’s my apartment! Come in, I’ll show you around!” Everything has been remodelled, except the bathroom. We surprise Maria Schneider taking her bath. We apologize and say goodbye. We’re going to visit Massin on Rue Montparnasse. I don’t know who that is. I’m informed that Massin was Gallimard’s artistic director between 1958 and 1979. André Malraux’s successor. Yet again, I hadn’t known. We get to Massin’s; it’s 3PM. A frail, 88-year-old man dressed in sky-blue pants and a fennel-green shirt opens the door, followed by his bulldog Charlus. The apartment is divided into two distinct parts: on the left it hasn’t changed since the war; walls covered in tortoise-shell print wallpaper and mounted with heavy glass and copper cases. They are full of thousands of objects. Suits from the 20s are draped on numerous tailors’ mannequins. The shutters are drawn, almost nothing can be seen inside this Capernaum, just the ghostly knots of pearls, brocades, lace, ivory. “All of that was my wife’s,” Massin tells us. “She died, but I can’t part with her things. To keep my mistress from getting angry, I redid half of the apartment. As you can see, it’s completely different.” Off to the right, everything is white, grey, sleek. Marc and I sit down. Massin tells us that he’s a humanist and a music lover. Camus hired him at Combat when he was twenty. He tracked Céline to Denmark, then Scandinavia. He knew Prévert, Queneau, Aragon, everyone. He was very disappointed the day he went to Tristan Tzara’s, whom he found wearing a three-piece suit in a 200-square-meter apartment, eating with silver cutlery. He explains to me how he would manipulate texts with condoms; I still don’t understand how he did it. He shows us his correspondence with Céline, Duchamp, Aragon, Dubuffet, Breton, etc. He declares that he thinks typography is a medium in its own right. We spend a few hours listening to him, downing three bottles of rosé champagne, then leave Massin’s and continue our adventures in the building across the street. One of Marc’s friends, Gila Lustiger, lived there (in Montparnasse Marc knew everyone and everyone knew Marc). There I meet Marceline Loridan Ivens, who made it out of Auschwitz (where she made friends with Simone Weil), Bergen-Belsen, and Theresienstadt. In 1961, in A Summer Chronicle (a documentary by Jean Rouch and Edgar Morin), she gave a speech at the Place de la Concorde that was one of the very first filmed testimonies about the deportations. Marceline tells me all of this while trying to seduce me. She’s wearing a Chanel suit, size 32, bending her bright-orange head over a porcelain plate to snort cocaine. Alain Veil, the great expert on French posters and reportedly the most elegant man in Paris, makes his entrance. I didn’t realize it then, but I would see him regularly some months later when I started working for the designer Pierre Le-Tan, another great connoisseur and collector of avant-garde art and literature. With Marc, that’s how the days go. And my friends ask why I spend my time hanging around with him. (…) October 4th: Today I met Marin Karmitz, thanks to Marc who thought that he could help me find a job and an apartment. We only vaguely touched on the subject. Marin Karmitz talked all afternoon about nights spent drinking with Beckett, and about the film (whose title is Film) that they made together which was his first production. (…) October 16th: Marc says that my lover is a killer. He’s harassing me constantly. Something about me has gotten to him. It’s jealousy. (…) Saying “fuck the avant-garde” is avant-garde. So I said fuck you Marc Dachy, for consistency’s sake. (…) All separations are political. I left my lover for a devoted fan of Georges Simenon and Emmanuel Bove that Marc can’t stand. I hate ultimatums. (…) January, 2015: I hear from my friend C. that Marc is in the hospital. He has cancer. (…) June 14th, 2018: Dachy is dead now. But he’s a living utopia. Dachy and I said we were “friends FOR life.” But I couldn’t honor the promise. I didn’t have the courage to join Dachy in death. My cowardice, my agony. I sometimes ask myself if I wasn’t part of what killed him.”