I just interviewed a character from the Parisian bourgeoisie, with a very extraordinary history of life. Sitting in the living room of this fantastic apartment, where the books serve as wallpaper and some furniture date from the early 19th century, Claude tells me this incredible story.
This February 14, 2019 (Valentine’s Day) will be the first that Claude and Dominique have not spent together since they met early February 1957 in a so formal Parisian dinner. They were barely 20 years old at the time and they never left each other again since. They had all the future in front of them: Claude, whose father was in the army, became one of the directors of entertainment at the ORTF and France Télévisions, specializing in the production of plays for the small screen. Dominique, although originally from one of the many vineyard families in Champagne, was always keen to remain financially independent. “It was an absolute love. I would not have imagined living with someone else”, explains Claude during our interview, on February 11, the first granted to the press since the tragic end of this life together. Dominique was a cultivated soul, elegant, civilized but also fragile and incredibly endearing. Quickly adopted by Claude’s mother, just as Claude is, a little later, by Dominique’s parents.
“We did not see ourselves grow old” adds Claude. Travels in France (the Normandy coasts and those of the French Riviera above all) and abroad (Rome, Zurich, London, New York, Andalusia …) succeed one another but their large apartment in Boulogne-Billancourt (near Paris), with its spectacular panorama of the church of Saint-Cloud, Montparnasse Tower through La Défense and the Eiffel Tower, is their refuge since 1971. This is where Claude wrote in his spare time L’effet television (the Television Effect), a document in which he explains that television should be used for the action and functioning of democracy and where he denounces the risk of uniform culture brought about by the television of tomorrow (video recorder, interplanetary television, pay television, etc.). A premonitory book, for which he was invited in the reference literary program, Apostrophes, animated by Bernard Pivot, on June 13, 1980. It is also in their commune of residence that they marry with simplicity (to age 81 and 82), January 20, 2014, accompanied by their family and closest friends.
A short-lived happiness, because Dominic’s disease triggered in the wake, with growing difficulties to walk and keep his balance. Claude did everything to make his life easier, transforming the shower into a bathtub, setting up a comfortable armchair for Dominique to watch his favorite show, C dans l’air (It’s Up In The Air), or listen to his favorite songs by Georges Brassens.
Keeping a total control of his mind and his mental faculties was the ultimate pride of Dominique, knowledgeable on the filmography of the greatest French and American directors, or on the anecdotes surrounding the shootings. Claude blames himself for not having done enough for his half: “I will always blame myself for not having understood, when I said goodbye in the hospital that particular night, that my love would not be of this world anymore next morning. I would have liked to hold his hand during his last moments”.
On August 22, 2018, the obituary of the daily Le Figaro and Le Monde read the following message: “Claude has the greatest sadness to announce the death of his friend, his companion and his husband. Dominique is buried in the cemetery of Fère-Champenoise “. Dominique was 86 years old. Claude tells us that he thinks that her husband would have been proud of his decision to write this funeral coming out in the national press. I feel his presence by my side, I ask him for advice on the decisions to be made, and I want to travel to places where we have been happy together “. Moreover, Claude constantly sees signs of the presence of the disappeared: “In the house of Fere-Champenoise, Dominique, who adored cats, spent hours caressing one, that ignored me. However, during my last visit, this cat came to rub against me … ”
I think it’s important, in such a difficult time, when the terrible events are unfortunately frequent in the newspapers, to present a story of a love for a couple for 61 years, a love with capital L. Because Love is the choice of the freedom to choose a person and decide to stay with her, accept her faults and defend her in times of joy and pain or difficulty. And it is precisely in the most difficult moments that one more easily becomes aware of loving someone by renouncing something in his favor and happiness. That’s why Love means to give – I do not speak of material things, but of attentions. It is dedication to your other half in little things and every day.
As the journalist Massimo Gramellini says, “if meeting is a magic, the real fairy tale is not to get lost” and here it is really worth saying!
This is my small contribution to this fantastic couple with a very high dignity and inner richness, I had the honor to meet. I am sure that if Dominique could read it from up there, he would say to me with a smile: “Ah, you Italians …”.
Let me finish by saying: “Love, the one with the capital L, is the driving force of everything and no one, I repeat, no one on this earth has the right to judge or stop it!”
Dominique (at the left) and Claude (at the right)