In the middle of the drawings, a newspaper cut-out clings on.
I grab hold of it and take it out of the box without really understanding why Raymond kept this little scrap of paper with a big hole in it, but not thinking about it much either, there are still so many drawings to look through…
I put it to one side – without crumpling it all the same, I always work delicatley, trying not to rush anything…
It is, no doubt, something he didn’t finish, a project, back-up for an idea he would develop later.
The following are marker and crayon drawings, variations of a grimacing soldier with a broad toothy smile.
Through a spyglass, he observes the explosion of an atomic bomb setting ablaze the sky over an island, where two palm trees would willingly uproot to follow a bird flying in the opposite direction.
The heavily decorated soldier with stars on his cap stands upright, gripping the ship handrail tightly, his nails resembling the talons of an eagle. He is on the other side, far from the explosion. He can afford to smile.
But explode it does. Everywhere. On the island. And inside his body also.
Red, yellow, blue.
On the mushroom cloud. In his lower abdomen.
The visceral tie between man and bomb.
At the top, a date : 15. 9. 66.
Now I get it.
This skeleton, with his boiling guts and empty eye sockets, his pointy boots and contented jaw-line, is De Gaulle.
The island beyond is Mururoa.
The strokes of his crayon or marker on the paper express anger, rage : the medals are embedded in his body, the spyglass stuck in his eye…
This pointy-boned general is already dead.
Raymond was always on the brink of tears whenever there was talk of soldiers or weapons…
I turn back to the little newspaper cutting still on the ground beside me.
I look at it more closely. I turn the slightly yellowed piece of paper this way and that trying to discover how to interpret it. I place it on a white sheet of paper to see more clearly what I am starting to grasp. In the centre, a rectangle has been carefully cut out. All around this hole, thus extricated, soldiers are to be seen, sitting side by side, very close to each other in a bunch. They are moving forward, floating now, over a road : the tank on which they are sitting is now no more than a great emptiness. Its gun mount and canon amputated as it were.
Using a box cutter, Raymond has
cut the paper
separated man from the weapon
restored the humanity of those young men who had become soldiers
An artistic and actively engaged operation