Your story in ten lines
Ahi ahi ahi, this is a hard question to answer in ten lines!
I was born in the South of France in 1966 – a French « terrone », already exhausted! – but grew up in 1970s Paris, where you could meet poets on the terrace of the cafés. Since I have experienced, also with the aid of drugs (LSD at twelve, etc…), that life beyond Paris was calling me, I just kept on pushing the boundaries of my personal experiences.
When I moved to Venice 25 years ago – I was a 23-year-old baby -, I was already a coiffeur working for fashion shows and magazines. Everything in this period was about competing – being the best one here, there; only nurturing the ego… – while I always tended towards the inner quality of life and to live slowly, thanks to my contemplative laziness.
I fell in love with a French man living in a “rock and roll” Venice palazzo in Castello (not in the suburbs of Milan, which made the whole difference!). Back in Paris in the hair studio, I caught my reflection in a mirror and this came to me in capital letters “What the hell are you doing here?”.
I’m an incurable romantic. Luckily I’ve just found a wonderful shrink.
My boyfriend at the time was a kind of eccentric ‘20s stylist who was twenty years older than me. Together we made the palazzo more rock and roll. Lots and lots of parties took place there, not only during Carnival. It was duly christened the Casa del Peccato.
I moved away from Venice several times, for example to Guadalupe (it did not work out very well for me there, it was very boring). So I came back to Venice every time.
I lived in many houses in the city, the first Palazzo – la Casa del Peccato – was in Castello, close to the Arsenale walls. It is there where the deepest Venice still is, where nice and real, very welcoming people used to live. I missed these people like la Beppa (a DIY shop still present in San Francesco della Vigna) when I left! Now I live near Campo Santo Stefano.
I met somebody in Venice around sixteen years ago. Then, after seven years of silence, my phone rang: he was calling me in the middle of whathever evening I was serving prosecco to some friends but not drinking it (it was one of the times I was not drinking in my long alcoholic life!): « Do you recognize my voice” (Pascal puts on a deep, mellow baritone voice). At that time I was planning to settle in North-East Brazil to help in a non-profit organization. Things were going very differently: I took a flight to Istanbul.
Actually I recently came back to Venice after this eight-year-long love story, commuting between Venice and Turkey on a monthly basis.
I have just turned over a new leaf. But it was a very nice story, a very nice moment.
Two important factors have helped me get closer to Turkey: his family is the classical example of Kemalist upwardly mobile. The father’s side of my X boyfriend’s family escaped from Uzbekistan. His father lost almost all of his relatives in Afghanistan and received a grant in Turkey during the new era, which was breathing a new idea of nation (secularized, republican and turned towards European standards of this time) that now is violently disappearing.
X is a non-traditional Turkish man who worked very hard to pay for his kids to go to university in London and Florence, and he’s now retired and can enjoy of his life. After his divorce he said: “Ok, it is my turn”, he left Istanbul for Anatolia, to a lake shore where he has an absolutely wonderful place with a big garden. Nowadays he just dedicates his life to nature and flowers, to a slower life. He is more attached to the soil than to keeping his feet on the ground!
He allowed me to understand modern Turkey and the current situation. Erdogan’s present turmoil caused many problems also for us.
A few months later I met X again, asking some questions about Turkey and how Turkish non residents manage to travel and settle in the EU; my boyfriend’s daughter told me about the nightmare many people undergo in order to do it. She is fantastic and has a beautiful sense of humour.
Right at that time, her father was coming out. And a few months later she did as well, telling him she was in love. He asked her “What is his name?”, she said “perhaps her name”! She had fallen in love with a Greek girl and so I married her in Istanbul to help her to get a visa for EU. So I’m happily married. The break up with my boyfriend did not affect this and neither, unfortunately, the downturn of political rights. She is an LGBT and animal rights activist and works as a translator. She really needed to live in a better and more democratic environment.
Modern Turkish society greatly challenges people to define themselves, not only regarding their sexual orientation (which you do not decide anyway!!!), but also the way you fulfill yourself. The consumerist society and moral order are only closing our horizons more and more.
Intellectuals, artists (the living poetry of Handan Börüteçene’s contemporary art pieces, the cinema trilogy Egg, Milk and Honey of Semi Kaplanoğlu) and ordinary people are trying hard to survive in these conditions.
Many of them emigrate now.
Presuming your city is Venice, what do you give to it and what does it give it you?
Venice is my home. Home is Venice. I presume this is a very common answer, but it gives me a nest and a golden cage at the same time. Out of this world. What have I given to Venice? Maybe in the first years here, these parties to shake out the bourgeoisie of the city.
How is difficult is it to establish your own business here, given you work as an independent hair stylist?
I wouldn’t say it is hard. The dimension of work in my life is this: I have worked enough and I do not work very much now. I call my clients my hair victims, I take the time to torture them and they love it. Having a good time, good tea, and listening to good music. The time of working in a salon on Avenue Montaigne or for fashion is gone. It just does not make any sense to me anymore.
The issue of purely making money does not make sense for me. Especially as I am not able to save it. Sometimes I work a lot and because I am very lazy I push myself, other times I don’t. And doing so I just started to be more accommodating to myself.
A wonderful event in the recent times?
Meeting Kamal Halali, an artist and poet in Marrakech. Time just flew.
The books with you now and the music you’re listening?
I’m afraid I do not read very much. At the moment I am reading Romain Gary, the only author to have won the Prix Goncourt twice, and a friend’s self published book of poems (« La Sirène Bicaudale », Susan Wise). I listen to all kinds of music except for heavy metal. My favourite online resource to hypnotize my hair victims is Radio Fip, a very eclectic source of music. I’m an addictive person, when I get a one-dimensional obsession I have to go in depth until I have tasted all the juice of it.
Your favorite food and drinks?
At the moment Moroccan cuisine, it reminds me of the filigree of my childhood. As a drink, the most enchanting, sexy and seductive for me is sparkling water. I do not want and do not need any more spirits.
What is the talent you have and the one you miss?
I wish I could write. Lately my little companion on my trip to Morocco was a notebook, a carnet (to replace my partner who was not able to come, ha ha!). When you read yourself after a while it is weird. I would like to be able to write, not as a writer. But writing. Something that has always been in me, but not until now. I love handwriting.
Handwriting is very sensual: the smell of the paper, the fact of touching it, the pen in my hand reminds me the tool of any artisan, like my scissors. You are not only writing with your hand, you do it with your entire body. You channel everything through this action.
Now with age, I hope I’m not misunderstanding what I am feeling at this moment, you stop your self-judgement. A very good friend of mine, Béatrice Bantman, a journalist, left Liberation twenty years ago and said: “I can’t work for these right-wing people!” She has been writing for other newspapers and is actually a successful novelist (the last one she wrote is La Plus Belle – ed. Denoël –, a mother pretending to be the beauty of the camp in order to survive the tragedy of the Shoah). Pinault owns Le Monde, Rothschild took Liberation. We say that the French press has become Italianised since Sarkozy was elected.
The talent I think I have is to be able to look for one (he smiles)! I am impressed with people’s ability to keep on learning, as this quality is called in the Jewish Culture.
You’re someone on this land if you spend. You’re someone if you work somewhere. I’m not agreeing on this. And Venice always attracted people thinking the same. A friend of mine collected many special stories of people inhabiting this city in a book ((Gérard-Julien Salvy, Un Carnet Vénitien, Editions du Regards, 2001). It’s an incredibile anthology of foreigner. artists and writers coming and settling in Venice.
What do you do to live slowly in this life?
I accept interview offers.
What have you learned so far in life?
Pascal’s story has been suggested to Slow Words’ editors by another ‘person from this world’: Stefania, restorer. If you still have to read it, this is the right time.