Jacques Brel

The day after Jacques Brel died, Brussels, October 10th 1978.

Jacques Brel died on October 9th, 1978. The next morning in school, my sad-faced friends stood around me, embarassed and uneasy, as if I had just lost a family member. Brel was dead, as much for them as for me, but I guess they knew how close I was to him. And they were right. Brel had opened my eyes and my heart. He had taught me to see and not to be afraid, to dare to live and love with all my might, without reservation and with my heart on the frontline. To hate caution and shyness, to dare to spit up to the heavens, to take ‘a bite out of the stays.’ As a teenager, this was just what I needed. ‘My heart opened its arms, I was no longer a barbarian.’ And ever since then, be it as Jacky, or sometimes Jef, but always as Zangra, I live with this Belgitude that makes bastards of us wherever we are, that makes us mock whatever we do, and that makes us drown our sorrows in beer. Why did I take this photo that night before dinner, thirty-five years ago? I was afraid that now that he was gone, everything that he had given me would disappear; I was afraid of forgetting, of becoming an orphan. One last dinner with Brel.

Jacques Brel est mort le 9 octobre 1978. Le lendemain, au lycée, les copains m’accueillirent d’un air triste, embarrassés comme on peut l’être envers quelqu’un qui vient de perdre un proche. Brel était mort, pour eux autant que pour moi, mais sans doute savaient-ils ce qui me liait à lui. Ils ne se trompaient pas. Brel m’a ouvert les yeux et le cœur. Il m’a appris à regarder, à ne pas avoir peur, à oser vivre et aimer de toutes mes forces, sans réserve, le cœur en première ligne. À haïr la prudence et la timidité, à cracher au ciel, à vivre à pleines dents, à bouffer des haubans. À l’adolescence, ça tombait bien. "Mon cœur ouvrait les bras, je n’étais plus barbare". Et depuis, un peu Jacky, un peu Jef mais toujours Zangra, je partage avec lui cette belgitude qui fait de nous des bâtards où que l’on soit, qui nous fait moquer quoi que l’on fasse, et qui ne se noie que dans la bière. Pourquoi, ce soir-là avant le dîner, il y a trente-cinq ans, ai-je pris cette photo ? J’avais peur qu’avec lui disparaisse tout ce qu’il m’avait transmis ; peur d’oublier, peur d’être orphelin. Un dernier repas avec Brel.

This image is related to : Photojournal.


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