2 February 2024

Jean-Marie Apostolidès, in July 1984.

Emeritus professor at Stanford University (California), Jean-Marie Apostolidès was an essayist with multiple interests, from classical theater to situationism and including the adventures of Tintin. He died at Stanford Thursday, March 23, at the age of 79.

He was born on November 27, 1943 in Saint-Bonnet-Tronçais (Allier), and grew up in Troyes in a large and devout family. He will talk about his childhood in The Hearing (Les Impressions nouvelles, 2008) which is like a “return to Troyes”. This beautiful story culminates in the long-promised meeting with Pope Pius XII. The flatness of the sovereign pontiff’s remarks makes the 13-year-old teenager lose faith. The theater becomes his main passion. He hesitated to devote himself entirely to it, before preparing a master’s degree in psychology at Nanterre.

It was in the extension of his thesis, defended in Tours in 1977 under the direction of Jean Duvignaud, that his first books were born. In The Machine King (Minuit, 1981), Apostolidès shows that the role of the arts, unified in a grandiose project during the reign of Louis XIV, was to put the body of the king on display. The Sacrificed Prince (Minuit, 1985) offers a political reinterpretation of the works of Corneille, Molière and Racine.

After dividing his time between France and Quebec, Apostolidès taught at Harvard from 1981 to 1987, then became professor of French literature and theater studies at Stanford University, where he remained until his retirement.

Early Developments of Situationism

In 1984, Tintin’s Metamorphoses (Seghers) makes it known to a wider audience. A year after Hergé’s death, this is the first in-depth reading of the Adventures of Tintin. Based on psychoanalysis and anthropology, extending the work of literary critic Marthe Robert (1914-1996) on the figures of “the foundling” and ” bastard “, Apostolidès looks at the nocturnal side of the work, and in particular the dreams, revealing what was hidden behind these albums which look as wise as they do smooth. He extends his reflections in Tintin and the myth of the superchild (Moulinsart, 2004). With In the skin of Tintin (Les Impressions nouvelles, 2010), it gets closer to the intimate universe of Hergé and the disturbing strangeness of the world to which he gave birth.

Jean-Marie Apostolidès had long been fascinated by the first developments of situationism. The research that led him to write the biography of the movement’s founder, Debord, the wrecker (Flammarion, 2015), correspond to the opening of several archives, which he was the first to explore methodically. Apostolidès insists on the dark side and the heroic mythologies that surrounded the life of Guy Debord. It describes the author of The Performing Arts Society (Buchet-Chastel, 1967) as a great moralist, but also as “an outstanding manipulator”. As he explained to world of books when his book comes out, it is located “at the exact point where private life meets the work” : Didn’t Debord himself judge others on the adequacy between these two types of existence? This incriminating portrait will be violently attacked by several figures of the situationist movement.

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