Student: Why do you find beauty in it (Benjamin Peret’s poem, “Hymn of The Patriotic Old Soldier”) if it’s so crude ?
AG: If it’s crude? Well, there’s a certain delicacy. In this sense, he’s parodying an old soldier. He’s like a tough, funny, French, old soldier who’s very frank, who doesn’t give a shit for the army and doesn’t give a shit for patriotism but is an old soldier and won his Legion of Honor and he’s actually exhibiting a certain humanity – “To remember my ribbon of hour/I’ve painted my nose red/and put parsley up my nostrils/for the Military Cross.”
Student: Yeah, it’s..
AG: That’s real speech
Student: (Well, it’s in a) humorous form.
Student: How about..
AG: I find beauty in it.
Student: Yeah, it’s very good..
AG: Human beauty, human beauty. The best beauty is human beauty. Yeah.
Student: It’s very compassionate and humane…
AG: Compassion. Absolutely.
Student: If you balance (it) up against (Louis-Ferdinand) Celine’s vision of that same war
AG: Oh, Celine is just as funny, actually, in a way. The social function of… I said “irresponsibility”, I don’t mean, really, “irresponsibility”, I mean “liberty” – Liberty, liberty – not being intimidated by reality.
Student: How about the comedy (that) we see on television? Is that..
Student (2): What comedy?
Student: …also a belly-laugh to break the Cold War?
AG: There are very few belly-laughs on television.
Student: I think so too.
AG: I haven’t had a belly-laugh on television for years…I don’t remember one single belly-laugh (except for theMarx Brothers on television. I don’t remember. Literally. I’ve never had a belly laugh off a television. Have you actually? Has anybody here actually had a literal belly-laugh, like a total.
AG: ..What was it?
Student: “Saturday Night Live” used to be really good.
AG: Well, that might be. And that was considered a bit progressive.
Student: I mean, I might cry too from television, like seeing a sad story..
AG: Well, tears are equally good. Tears will do to dissolve the fixation, as well (laughter).
Student: “The Three Stooges”
AG: “The Three Stooges” I’d buy. They’re on television, yeah. But the regular program comedy of television hasn’t been very…risible..
Student: I think it’s evil. It makes people escape the whole creation.
AG: Agree. (I’ll agree).
Student (CC): I… isn’t this poem, though, when you say Celine’s description of the same war, then aren’t we ultimately connected to the reality of war and sadness?
Student: ..in that.. oh yes
AG: Well, there’s a certain realism in that, too.
Student: I was just thinking of…
Student (CC): Without much humor
AG: In Celine?
Student: No, I mean in war
Student (2): Journey to the End of the Night
AG: Well, people who have been to war say there’s tremendous comedy in it actually because it’s absurd, finally. Tragedy but also comedy.
[Audio for the above may be heard here, beginning at approximately eighty-seven minutes in and concluding at approximately ninety minutes in]