“My father was a bit of a mythical figure. He was an archaeologist and he used to come back from his travels with pictures of his excavations and objects of incredible beauty. He had a circle of intellectual friends who often met at our house. They talked about literature, botany and especially art. Writers read their texts, painters discussed their works. José Gurvich, a famous painter, drew a profile of me as a child. It was a dazzling period that had a strong impact on me.
But we had a very distant and conflictual relationship. He would’ve liked to have a boy. As a child, he would leave me alone outside at night for 1 hour and say, “You must not be weak”. He shared his knowledge with me but in a very brutal way. After 2-3 days he would ask me a question about what he had told me and if I didn’t remember well… Oh my! It was a disaster!
When I was 20 years old I left Uruguay. My mother had just died, I didn’t have a dime and there was the military coup. I went to Barcelona and then to Geneva. I worked illegally for a few years in the basement of a hotel, ironing sheets. I couldn’t say if it was day or night. Then I met a doctor who belonged to that small circle of Geneva families that could be displayed in a glass cabinet at the Museum of Man [Musée de l’Homme] (laughs)! But he is the person who influenced me the most. We stayed together for almost 8 years and I was thrown in the middle of people who had an incredible culture. I felt like an invisible bug. I was impressed because I was realising the full extent of my ignorance.
And it was like a reminiscence of my childhood, like picking up a thread of memories. At that time, my father had refused to pay for my education and this lack had remained with me. At the age of 30 I was finally able to organise myself to do a Bachelor’s degree in history. But now that I have fulfilled my desire to study, I realise that we are ignorant anyway (laughs)! We don’t know ourselves, we’re champions in the art of denial! We tend to ignore our defects, to hide what we don’t like. Léonie, my dog, she knows me better than I know myself!”
(Bel-Air | translated from French)