Régis Debray (1940 - ) is a French philosopher, journalist, former government official, and academic.
Régis Debray was sitting in his office in the Elysée looking disdainful and extremely bored. I had arranged to meet him the day before he was to leave the Elysée for another post which, as he had stated in the press, had “no political significance.” This was quite true. Debray’s career has always been a problem for his friend, President Mitterand, because of Debray’s guerilla past in Bolivia and his continuing outspoken resentment of anything American. But the French have the capacity to honor their rebels and eccentrics.
“There are many fools who say that writers never have political positions, and that by definition a writer is a pariah and a marginal, passive type who lives in the catacombs of his attic. All that is pure myth.”
“The intellectuals have always had importance in France since the eighteenth century. They have a power which they have never exercised in any other country. In the States, an intellectual is considered and ‘egghead,’ which is a pejorative term. In England, too. In France, it’s completely different.”
“Only a writer can imagine himself as another, and only a writer can act of behalf of other people. Only a writer can act on behalf of humanity with a big H.”
“A lot of people fee that poetry is a short cut to philosophy, and that, I think, is a disaster. The idea that poetry must be intellectual, that poetry must be understood and not felt. All that contributes to the drying up of the literary scene in France.”
Read the full excerpt from Through Parisian Eyes [PDF]