It was 2000 and Wim Kayzer, of the VPRO, brought a series of television evenings that went against everything commercial. It was called 'Of Beauty and Comfort' and included evening-long interviews with people like Jane Goodall, J.M. Coetzee, Karel Appel and George Steiner. Intellectuals, artists, thinkers.
On 23 November 2023, the day after 22/11, when the Netherlands saddled an open hate preacher, I watched Josse de Pauw speak a selection from these interviews to music by Asko|Schönberg and I experienced happiness. For an hour and a half.
Popular and elevated
Josse de Pauw is a Flemish actor and writer who has been making art out of the everyday all his life. He possesses that rather typically Flemish talent of uniting the vernacular with the sublime. For this performance, he used transcriptions of the interviews by Wim Kayzer to give them to us in his own way, with his own rhythm and musicality. Composer Frederik Neyrinck wrote music for them, ranging from heavenly tinkling to baroque and romantic, performed by Asko|Schönberg.
The beauty of these interviews is that they are not finished, eloquent texts. At a time when our great authors boast of thick books, overloaded with full sentences that linguists snack on, the rambling thinkers De Pauw presents us with are a breath of fresh air.
An oak tree to shelter under
The searching Jane Goodall, the wavering Coetzee and the rattling Karel Appel are united in the great man Josse de Pauw. He turns it into a tree everyone would love to have in their backyard. An oak tree to shelter under when the hail crashes on the city.
Is this elitist art? No. Anyone who accepts the invitation to spend an hour and a half just listening and not having an opinion right away will come out of this evening enriched. Right down to the quantum theorist with whom this session ends. After all, string theory is not yet fathomable to anyone. But what turns out, if you surrender to the flow of thought? Feeling through is possible.
The play ends in darkness. But this darkness was one full of wonder.
Once outside, something was different.