Photo by: Davor Žunić
International literary star on life and death
I’m 53 and have two small children; I want to live as long as possible. I’ve travelled the world and asked scientists to tell me how long I can actually survive.
Although he came to Croatia for a very short time, only for half a day, to promote his new novel and, because of prior engagements, had to hurry home the next morning – to the French part of the Basque country, where his home has been since he recently moved from Paris – Frédéric Beigbeder was jovially relaxed that afternoon, a bit like a school-leaver on the first day of a school trip. In the lobby of the Zagreb Palace Hotel, while we are greeting each other, he pushes his head into a rather large bowl of sweets. He fills his hand with four, five, six sweets and says he’s ready now, we can look for a comfortable place to have our conversation in.
The French writer – known until recently as the chronicler of the fashionable life of Paris, and formerly a marketing expert, television and radio presenter, playwright, actor, literary critic – is now in his fifties and is the father of two small children. And an adult daughter. His younger daughter, he says, is three years old, his son has just turned three months, and he will celebrate his 53rd birthday in September: “Everything in my family revolves around the number three. Being a father, having two small children in my fifties, definitely prompted me to turn to science to find out how long I can live,” says he in a way that makes you wonder how serious he really is. He utters most of his sentences in the same vein – halfway between a playful joke and a potential philosophical discussion.
Writing is a kind of game, it’s like looking at the world and life through the eyes of someone who is still innocent. It’s very important for a writer to be able to look at normal, ordinary things as if they were quite special.
In his novel A Life Without End he offers a lot of information about the possibility of life extension, information he has collected travelling in Europe, the Middle East, America and talking to various scientists. Frédéric Beigbeder writes about the possibility of cellular rejuvenation, pig organ transplants, stem cells injection, 3D organ printing, the merging of humans and robots, etc; in short, he deals with topics that, until recently, almost nobody would have expected from him. And even though he has spent his early fifties obsessively looking for answers to the questions whether it is possible to extend life and for how long, and whether a human can expect to become immortal, during our conversation he claims not to see any significant differences between his 40s and his 50s. “In fact, I still partly feel like I was just six or eight. That’s probably why I eat so many sweets.” Laughing, we both look at several wrappers of the sweets he has just eaten, impatient for the food we have ordered a moment ago to arrive at the table.