22. ilb 07. - 17.09.2022

Valère Novarina

The playwright, theatre theoretician and painter Valère Novarina was born in Chêne-Bougeries near Geneva, Switzerland, in 1947. The son of the architect Maurice Novarina and the actress Manon Trolliet spent his childhood and youth in Thonon-les-Bains in the region of Haute-Savoie, before he moved to Paris to study Philosophy and Philology at the Sorbonne. In 1958, Novarina became an author, and he has written almost daily ever since. His first play »L’atelier volant« (tr: The flying studio) was produced by Jean-Pierre Sarrazac and first performed in 1974. Since 1986 he has produced almost all his premieres, including »La Scène« (tr: The stage) and »L’Acte inconnu« (tr: The unknown act) at the Festival d’Automne à Paris or the Festival d’Avignon, and most recently »Le vrai Sang« (tr: True blood) at the Odéon – Théâtre de l’Europe in Paris.

»Art Brut« inspires Novarina’s works, and he has rightly been labelled the unique voice of the French theatre. His texts are full of references to the circus, to clowns, funfairs and the Japanese Nō theatre. They follow traditions – from François Rabelais to Alfred Jarry. Patrice Chéreau has praised him as the most important contemporary dramatist in France after the late Bernard-Marie Koltès. Novarina’s style is characterized by neologisms and enumerations. His grammar is non-conventional, his pieces incorporate children’s verses and impromptu poetry, they quote advertising and political slogans, and sayings. Novarina excessively uses what ever language offers, and in doing so creates his own and very particular lingo, the mere function of which goes far beyond mere communication. His book »Lumières du corps« (2006, tr: The Light of the Body) features 421 fragments pondering upon drama, space, and the spoken word. With a reference to Antonin Artaud, Novarina focuses on the body as the centre of theatrical presentation. »La chair de l’homme« (tr: The Flesh of Man; including: »Au dieu inconnu«, tr: To the unknown God) was published in 2005 and is, with 525 pages, the largest of his works so far. In »Au dieu inconnu«, the artist tries to prove God’s existence by means of the theatre and, thus, tries to capture – at the boundary of all imagination – the unspeakable in words. For this purpose he quotes authors from Antiquity until today, mystics and clerics representing different religions, believers and agnostics, and takes a stand in view of the new modern religiosity, which he tends to see more an adventure of the human linguistic capacity than as an ideology.

Three feature films are based on texts by Valère Novarina, including Jean-Luc Godard’s »Nouvelle vague« (1990). His plays have been part of the repertoire of the Comédie Française since 2006. He received the Prix Marguerite Duras for »L’Origine Rouge« (2000; tr: The Red Origin) in 2003, and the Grand Prix du Théâtre de l’Académie française. Valère Novarina lives in Paris and his chalet in Haute-Savoie.