27 October 2017 A letter from Frédéric Boyer
At the beginning I should like to say how much I regret that I cannot be today with you. I would be more than pleased to participate in the events held in Krakow.
I would also like to thank our Polish publisher, Wydawnictwo Dwie Siostry, for the effort to the publication of the book. Soon it will already be available in ten languages! I also thank the French Institute and the Conrad Festival for the invitation and for the organisation of the meetings and the exhibition in Krakow.
Our adventure began almost four years ago. I am a writer, a translator and an editor; I also participated in the gigantic work on the new translation of the Bible but I have never collaborated with an artist, an illustrator. I must admit that the meeting with Serge Bloch was of great importance for me. I can say that when writing I often wondered how Serge might illustrate the texts. However I had no idea what he would draw, and the ready illustrations that he showed me always surprised me. I could be brooding on that and imagine God knows what, but his drawings and ideas always exceeded my imagination... I must admit that the perspective of inevitable surprise was very exciting and undoubtedly influenced my way of writing.
Very soon the idea and the implementation of the project turned out to be a huge but fascinating challenge: how can two people put the whole Hebrew Bible in thirty five- to four-minute episodes? All began from a crazy vision to create a series of thirty five animated films to cover the entire biblical story... And the book which is the reason of this day’s meeting is in a way a matrix of that project. Each of us told each other how he understands today and reads the old stories from nearly 3000 years ago... We wanted to jointly tell the founding stories of the Hebrew Bible using drawings, pictures and words in such a way that they resonate with the contemporary world. When choosing Biblical episodes, we followed three criteria: their popularity in contemporary culture (Adam and Eve, Abraham, Moses...), their compatibility with existential problems of today, and also if they can surprise us!
The book is indeed a journey through this monumental story; it covers -- from the creation of the world to Daniel’s visions – the successive steps of an Odyssey that might as well talk about us today: expulsion, migrations, split families and communities, hopes, betrayal in politics and love... We did not try to paraphrase the Bible or even translate it in a new way. We wanted to tell the Bible as a contemporary memory, adding our own questions and searching for our own points of reference. Why and how should we today tell the story of the creation of the world? Which stories tell us about desire, violence, a life in the community? How to treat and understand the stories of prophets, the story of Job or Jonah...? The starting points for every episode were questions which are still with us, a reality we know and we must sometimes face even today. A deeply human experience of love, jealousy, expulsion... The stories have passed through many cultures and generations, so they start with the same great questions that we still ask ourselves. What was before me? Why man and woman? How to cope with suffering and injustice?
In this way I worked writing my book. I was studying translation of Hebrew books, reached for old and new commentaries. To tell them anew. Who did not feel the need to tell a story he or she once read or heard? The Bible itself was created in this way – by telling the stories heard throughout history, which have been already earlier shared by someone else. There is no single story in it that was not shared by someone with another person, shared by some people with others, crossing the barriers of times, languages, places and cultures. The worst thing would be to keep what we have heard to ourselves, to close it within ourselves, without taking the risk to tell it to others and with others.
This “strange Bible” can also help us to leave a dead-end of fundamentalist, literal reading of these texts, and to encourage us to discover universal poetry on its pages – sometimes horrifying and sometimes full of tenderness. I must say that Serge Bloch’s work, his lively drawing, his fast, elliptic line, is a reading of the Bible in itself. The pictures it rejuvenate emotions and questions that the old stories still raise today. Without exaggeration and caricature.
The original works completely renewed my reading and my approach to these texts. Once monumental Noah’s Ark that became a tiny, small box on the raging sea, Abraham and his son Isaac as two small, equally lonely figures, and so many other pictures that contributed to rediscovering the meaning of the old stories.
I thank so much for that.