Transforming encounters

Twenty personalities made us think

1975 : Vladimir Jankélévitch, during his course at the Sorbonne, in the lecture theater

« The new art of pleasing is an art of accepting in order to subdue. There is a charm of sympathetic reciprocity that must be carefully distinguished from the irreversible and agressive charm of the magician (...). Penetrating and impenetrable, “these words sum up a unilateral and unjust relationship which avoids with great care becoming a correlation and opening itself to change» * La Bruyère, Les Caractères, VIII


1993 : Henry Mintzberg, at Insead, Fontainebleau

« Strategy doesn’t have to be thought about, it can also just arise, more or less, from a company’s actions. »


1978 : Victor Vasarely, at his home-workshop at Annet-sur-Marne.

« By tracing on a sheet of transparent plastic a very simple network and then overlaying it with another network traced on another sheet, I quickly realised that I was constructing a space that no longer owed anything, either to Euclidian perspective or to axonometric perspective, or to any other perspective... »

2004 : Kenzaburo Oé, at the Japanese house of culture, Paris

« For me, an intellectual is someone who can and should, outside their specialist field, speak as “an amateur”, to remind themselves that there are other ways to see and to conceive reality than those put across by the dominant discourse. »


1983 : Dan Rather, in the editing suite of CBS Evening News, New York
«That's part of our world tonight »

1978 : Jean Giraud, alias Moebius, at the Mutualité room
« Reasoned mental thought, bringing education to the world, does not eliminate the festering life of chaos. Nietsche said that it’s still necessary to retain a modicum of chaos in ourselves if we want to be able to give birth to a dancing star. »


1981 : Hubert Beuve-Mery, at the Le Monde offices, rue des Italiens

« Be boring ! »


1995 : Eugen Drewermann, at home in Paderborn, Germany

« The less someone is honest with themselves, the more they want to escape. It’s always those who are internally most cut up and dissatisfied with themselves who complain about those around them, protest about their way of life and call for an “intolerable system” to be overturned. However, their complaints change absolutely nothing. It’s just like in a game of “beggar my neighbour”, in which the losing card is always replaced without ever being removed from the pack. Whoever really wants to change the world has to begin with themselves and seek out justice in their own heart, instead of expecting others to do it. Only those who have learned to create a bit of order in themselves will find the right words to bring about some good. To do that, it is necessary to accept solitude. Only in that way can one confront oneself without any distraction. If we are to discover the truth about our existence, we must silence extraneous voices. What’s important is not thoughts, advice, congratulations, or the blame of others, but what’s going on in the depths of our being. »


1990 : William E. Deming, in Paris

« Innovation comes from the producer… not from the customer » 



2009 : Chris Ware, at the Angoulême Festival

« After years of work, I eventually understood the true value of fiction: going beyond the details and doubts that have to do with real events and ‘bringing to life’ the essence of a being such as one remembers them. In a way, it’s more or less like the difference between playing a role and creating it; at a certain moment, one abandons oneself totally to what one believes the person to be (which is in fact an inexplicable sediment of memories or thoughts that one has of a person), just as an artist has to abandon themselves to art, without attempting to think or foresee anything beforehand, since art is in itself a completely unique way of thinking. »



2010 : François Jullien, in his office at the University of Paris Diderot

« Of wisdom versus philosophy, the following distinctive characteristics can be determined: whereas philosophy wants to be eristic (agonistic), wisdom is pacific, avoiding all confrontation; whereas philosophy is a dialogue that requires someone else’s approval, wisdom is a soliloquy and even attempts to thwart debate, shuffle with dialogue; and whereas philosophy is exclusive, as truth requires it to be, wisdom is comprehensive, embracing as a matter of principle opposing points of view. »



1988 : Umberto Eco, at FNAC on boulevard Saint-Germain

« The amount of information in a message is also a function of my knowing how much I can trust the person from whom I’m inquiring: when I ask a realtor if the house he’s showing me is damp or not, I get very little information from his negative answer and am still just as uncertain about the truth of the matter. But if the realtor replies in the affirmative, against both my expectation and his own interest, I get a significant amount of information and really know something more about the subject that interests me.»


1992 : Tom Peters, in London

« Excellent firms don’t believe in excellence – only in constant improvement and constant change. »


1988 : Jean Favier, at the National Archives
« Despite earthly colonization, empires are established at sea, from maritime routes and fortified ports. And, since an immaterial empire is far more significant than a material empire, there is no limit to ambition. »

1983 : Michel Foucault, at the College de France

« A certain distinction became established between Hesiod and Plato, separating true discourse and false discourse; a new distinction, since thereafter true discourse was no longer a precious and desirable discourse, as it was no longer the discourse linked to excercising power. This historical distinction doubtless gave its general form to our desire for knowledge. »

1985 : Jean-François Bizot, at Radio Nova
« Disappear by erosion and then return to humus so that something else can grow. »

1996 : Jean Baudrillard, giving his seminar on «critical masses» at the Pompidou Center

« So many other cultures have a more original situation that ours. For our part, we are able to decipher everything in advance, we have amazing methods of analysis, but no situation. We live theoretically well beyond our own events. In a state of profound melancholy. For others, there is a glimmer of destiny, of something they are living, but which remains, whether dead or alive, forever indecipherable. We have liquidated the elsewhere. Other, stranger cultures live in a condition of prosternation (before stars or destiny), we live in a condition of consternation (in the absence of destiny). Nothing can come except from us. And that is in a way absolute misfortune. »


1991 : Richard Saul Wurman, New York

« I would like to quote Carlos Fuentes : the greatest crisis facing modern civilization is going to be how to transforme information into structured knowledge »

1989 : Antoine Riboud, in Berlin with Francois Mitterrand

« Experience shows that the best performing companies are those that have simultaneously changed their technology, the content of their work, and their internal social relationships. »


2003 : Alain Resnais, on the set of «Pas sur la bouche» [« Not on the mouth »]

« I was also attracted by the kind of nostalgia there is in a page of Kundera, at the opening of L’Insoutenable Légèreté de l’être [The Unbearable Lightness of being], where the hero looks at the wall opposite and says to himself that, whatever decision he takes, he will never know what would have happened if he had taken the other one; a life always resembles a sketch, the rough draft of a painting that will never be completed: ‘Only to be able to live one life is like living no life at all.’ Kierkegaard develops this idea further: as soon as one has taken a decision, one regrets not having taken the other, and the less important the decision, the harder sometimes it is to take. »

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