“War is first. Before trade, before love.”

For this art and war historian, the latter has been ubiquitous since the beginning of mankind. It has been the subject of an artistic-literary work.

Oral work, theWar encyclopedia is built once a month live in front of an audience of enthusiasts during conference performances at the Center Georges Pompidou in Paris (1). A company started by its author, Jean-Yves Jouannais (2), in 2008 “by collecting quotes from war books, quite randomly and in a very empirical way»From antiquity to Hiroshima. Organized by items ranging from “Abattre” to “Zouave”, the collection is rich today with 1312 occurrences. An unsurpassed amount of learning that sheds light on current events.

Miss Figaro. – You mention the duration of the war. Today it is very real.
Jean-Yves Jouannais. – The war has never ended. It is an eternal and enduring fire. She is one and the same since the beginning of humanity. A unique phenomenon that moves and always finds fire on the same ash. War is first. Before trade, before love. Let us not forget Heraclitus’ sentence: “Polemos (battle) is the father of all”. Each time, we pretend to be surprised.

Are you talking about astonishment?
During the first bombing raids on Kiev, we saw residents gathered at the foot of a tower whose fourth floor had been smashed. People were very surprised by what they saw. They thought they were not at war, lived in the shelter of a large European city, and suddenly a building was missing one floor.

On video, a Ukrainian woman plays the violin in a bunker

A building in ruins as a materialization of war?What is a ruin? We think we know what it is. We visit them in Greece, in Rome. The ruin refers to metaphysical questions. Chateaubriand talks about Indians living along the Orinoco who breed parrots who learned their language. After these populations were destroyed by the conquistadors, the parrots regained their freedom. And taught their descendants the words of the Indians. Do these songs in the canopy belong to the family of ruins?

Last book published by Éditions Grasset photo press

Has the destruction of cities throughout history always been a strategic issue?
Everything has been written since ancient times: what to do to lead a campaign, to be successful. It was never written in any military treaty that cities should be destroyed. First of all because we are not going to fight there.

So why do you want to destroy cities?
It’s a tactical aberration, as strategic. A humiliating revelation imposed on the enemy, a mood swing. Guernica, Warsaw, Dresden, Kyiv, for Ukraine, comparable to the caudine forks imposed on the Roman legionaries by the Samnites. It’s a gesture of anger.

We talk a lot about Putin’s eyes. (…) Me, I look at his jaw. His jaws extremely tense. He’s an angry man.

Jean-Yves Jouannais

Vladimir Putin’s peace?
We talk a lot about Putin’s eyes. His blank stare. I look at his jaw. His jaws extremely tense. He’s an angry man. The only angry warrior so far was Achilles. He grinds his teeth, like millstones grinding wheat. Homer thus describes it in Canto XIX by Iliad. Achilles will fight against Hector. And it is said that when he put on his armor, prepared his weapons, he clenched his teeth. But strangely enough, anger, unlike hatred, is not the warrior feeling par excellence. You should understand Putin’s anger. We know the source, which goes back to the price the Red Army paid at the end of World War II, but other parameters come into play … We should look into them.

Putin, and Achilles?
IN Iliad, Achilles is said to be accelerating. Opposite is Hector. Another famous and equally brave warrior, but described as fearless. Propulsion refers to any mechanical movement that is driven to an object and that is performed without consciousness: a falling tree, a flowing stream … Achilles is accelerating, like Ares, the god of war, who even Zeus makes fun of because he is incapable to reason, quick to destroy without understanding what he is doing. The fearless one is the one who does not tremble, who deliberately encounters the threat and supports the violation without trembling.
True courage is the prerogative of the intrepid, not the accelerating. What we pay tribute to the President of Ukraine, Volodymyr Zelensky, is this special quality, neither bravery nor courage, even less splendor, but fearlessness.

You also mention the importance of colors in a war.
We imagine dark, dull, monotonous, repetitive colors. On a battlefield, one army is terribly similar to another army. What gives color to the war are the flags, the pennants, all these properties, which are the responsibility of vexillology. From this point of view, it is fair to say that this discipline is an auxiliary science of history.
I saw this morning in the news a young woman in Kiev painting Ukrainian flags on the walls. A way to make the Russians understand, if they took possession of it, that this city does not belong to them.

(1) Next meeting d the encyclopedia of warin the Center Pompidou, Thursday, March 24 at.

(2) Last work published: MOAB, epic in 22 songsGrasset Editions, 2018

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