Régis Debray: The writer and philosopher on religion and revolution

Régis Debray worked with Castro, fought with Che, and later advised Mitterrand. Now he salutes, but does not worship, God. Gerry Feehily meets him in Paris.

From The Independent:

DebrayDo all lives lead to and spring from a single moment? An illustration: it’s 1964, and Che Guevara, in the gardens of the Cuban Embassy in Algiers, interrupts a game of chess to flick through Sartre’s review Les Temps Modernes. He comes to an essay on urban and rural guerrilla movements written by a 23-year-old graduate of the prestigious Ecole Normale Supérieure in Paris. Guevara has a translation forwarded to Fidel Castro, who invites its author, then teaching philosophy in drab Nancy, eastern France, to Havana. The young man accepts, and so begins a journey from Cuba to the Bolivian jungle, to Allende’s Chile, even to the Elysée Palace.

Now, 40 years after setting out, the writer and philosopher Régis Debray sits in an apartment off the Boulevard St Germain in Paris. Volumes of Victor Hugo lie strewn on the table, a portrait of Kafka hangs on the wall. The room looks on to the rue de l’Odéon, where Joyce read from Finnegans Wake at the original Shakespeare and Co. bookshop. The friendly clutter within, the tranquil streets inhabited by literary ghosts without, suggest journeys through mindscapes rather than through rebellion and dictatorships.

“I was very literary as a young man, but highly politicised,” Debray says. “Both vocations were stored in strictly separate compartments, with a certain humourlessness. A Communist party member, I was also inspired by Orwell, the great solitary irredentist… Life in France under De Gaulle seemed blocked. Although I now believe my imagination was greater than my sense of reality, your destiny falls into your lap, so to speak, because you would have it so.”

More here.