Dominique Manotti: May 68 Translated by Steve Novak
May 68... I was 25. That age is not meaningless. 25 years old means that I was already deeply involved in politics. I’m not a child of May 68 but one of the Algerian war. I already carried a very solid Marxist intellectual perspective through which I read the world as I still do. And, before May 68, I already knew of the irreparable ideological collapse of the world of “real socialism” which was to shape our history. Besides, I was convinced that by my own battles, I had contributed to this shake-up. 68 arrived as a huge expectation. I thought that it was going to be possible to build another society, not through the frenzied political activism of isolated groups, but through a deep motion of the whole society, like a ground swell. And I believed that for more than 10 years until the election for Mittérand in 1981. Then the time came to tally it all up and to settle the balance of expectations.
If I try to make a strictly personal assessment, what is left of these years of hope and struggle?
Many really fundamental ideas. First I learned how to meet with and listen to other people since in those days everybody had something to say and was trying to be heard. Listening, far removed from pre-conceived ideas and certitudes. To be able to catch nuances, corrections, the unspoken. In my view writing starts just there in this openness, this attention to details, done in depth and with finesse. And equally as important, the conviction, acquired at that time, that any individual, whatever his place in society, has an original personal history, potential material for fiction.
I only started to write much later, in 93-95, when the extreme sourness of defeat started to be digested. But since I’ve been writing, the men and women that I met at that time haven’t stopped to fill my imagination. Because then meetings were easier, less contrived, more open and fruitful. This piece is serious backward-looking nostalgia. But you asked for it. One doesn’t stir up such memories and get away with it.