Camille de Toledo: "Enough with the past!"

Article published on May 27, 2014
Article published on May 27, 2014

"The past is too pre­sent in the or­ga­ni­za­tion of Eu­rope. What about a lit­tle bit more fu­ture in­stead?" The French writer and philoso­pher Camille de Toledo also throws in his two cents at "A Dis­pute over Eu­rope" on May 2, 2014 in Berlin. He pleads as founder of "Société européenne des au­teurs" for a mul­ti­lin­gual Eu­ro­pean cit­i­zens com­mu­nity. In­ter­view

The French philoso­pher Camille de Toledo is a prime Eu­ro­pean; while his Jew­ish roots lay in Turkey and while his fam­ily has lived in both Spain and Switzer­land over the past cou­ple cen­turies, he him­self was born in Lyon, but now lives in Berlin. His con­cept of "met­alin­guis­tics" as start­ing point for a new Eu­ro­pean men­tal­ity stems out of his own ex­pe­ri­ence of cross­ing bor­ders be­tween coun­tries, lan­guages and cul­tures. Be­cause of this Camille de Toledo can say from the bot­tom of his heart that, "I live in be­tween lan­guages. Je vis entre les langues. Ich lebe zwis­chen den Sprachen." Cafébabel met with the philoso­pher in Berlin at A Dis­pute over Eu­rope.

Cafébabel: Elec­tion day is draw­ing closer, but Eu­rope's youth doesn't seem to be in­ter­ested. Why do you be­lieve that one should be in­ter­ested in Eu­rope?

Camille de Toledo: Be­cause oth­er­wise will be interested in you. (he laughs) It's im­por­tant to ac­knowl­edge that Eu­rope -- in the way it's pre­sented at the mo­ment -- isn't en­tic­ing for the younger gen­er­a­tion. It moves them, how­ever, in a dif­fer­ent way; the youth is con­nected through net­works and friend­ships that cross bor­ders be­cause their cul­ture alone is all-en­com­pass­ing of dif­fer­ent coun­tries. In this re­spect, the younger gen­er­a­tion is a lot more Eu­ro­pean than their pre­de­ces­sors. But one has to ab­solutely dif­fer­en­ti­ate be­tween Eu­roland -- or, the pol­i­tics in Brus­sels and their agenda -- and the pol­i­tics of the younger gen­er­a­tion. If  one doesn't sep­a­rate these two from ea­ch other, then one will con­tinue to claim that the youth is diss­in­ter­ested in pol­i­tics. 

Por­trait of au­ther and philoso­pher Ca­mil­le de To­le­do on Art­net.​fr (2012). 

Cafébabel: To what ex­tent is the Eu­ro­pean youth po­lit­i­cal?

Camille de Toledo: Move­ments such as Movimiento 15-M in Spain or Oc­cupy in Madrid re­veal that the youth is very in­volved with pol­i­tics, but in the con­text of cur­rent in­sti­tu­tions, they don't yet have a voice. The older gen­er­a­tons refuse to lend an ear to his form of "sub­ter­ranean pol­i­tics", as it was re­cently de­scribed in a study by the Lon­don School of Eco­nom­ics. Some move­ments are un­be­liev­ably po­lit­i­cal, such as in areas like the en­vi­ron­ment, data pro­tec­tion, de­mo­c­ra­tic trans­parency, tran­si­d­en­tity, and mi­nor­ity rights, etc. But still these ques­tions aren't enough room to be able to say to the younger gen­er­a­tion, "hey look, the struc­tures are chang­ing be­cause your po­lit­i­cal stances were lis­tened to."

Cafébabel: Can the cur­rent Eu­ro­pean gen­er­a­tion play a de­cid­ing role in Eu­ro­pean pol­i­tics?

Camille de Toledo: I'm con­vinced that if to­mor­row or in ten years a Eu­ro­pean cit­i­zens move­ment were to take place, an un­be­liev­able amount of young peo­ple would take to the streets. For one, cur­rent liv­ing con­di­tions, high un­em­ploy­ment rates and sim­i­lar prob­lems were trig­gered by po­lit­i­cal de­ci­sions in Brus­sels as well as in in­di­vid­ual coun­tries. To start, there has to be a protest move­ment. But at the mo­ment we're just not ca­pa­ble of fo­ment­ing a protest move­ment with a Eu­ro­pean stand­point. 

Cafébabel: Why is trans­la­tion the key to Eu­rope's fu­ture?

Camille de Toledo: In my opin­ion, trans­la­tions is one of the keys to Eu­ro­pean cit­i­zen­ship. When at­tempt­ing to cre­ate a Eu­ro­pean na­tion one is con­fronted with the ques­tion of a mu­tual lan­guage. But in what lan­guage can one be vexed over a "po­lit­i­cal com­mon ground," which it­self is mul­ti­lin­gual and frag­mented. One has to think of Eu­ro­pean cit­i­zen­ship in the con­text of a trans­la­tion be­tween the orig­i­nal and the up-and-com­ing cul­ture, be­tween orig­i­nal and dawn­ing lan­guages, but also be­tween gen­ders, be­tween fem­i­nine and mas­cu­line. These top­ics move the youth of today. 

Cafébabel: What is the goal of the Société européenne des au­teursof which you are the founder?

Camille de Toledo:  The Société européenne des au­teurs (Eu­ro­pean com­mu­nity of au­thors, Ed.) was founded in 2008 as a lit­er­ary and in­tel­lec­tual com­mu­nity that's en­tirely pred­i­cated on trans­la­tion. Up until now, old in­sti­tu­tions and elites in Brus­sels haven't asked them­selves which lan­guage de­serves a pri­mary focus of which sen­ti­ments bind us emo­tion­ally to the po­lit­i­cal realm. If we can't suc­ceed in con­vinc­ing peo­ple in Eu­rope, it's be­cause a mem­ory ef­fect dom­i­nates the scene. We hear de­mands such as "re­mem­ber WWII! Re­mem­ber what hap­pened back then!" That story af­fected the gen­er­a­tion of Mit­ter­rand, Kohl and even De­lors. But today, this mem­ory ef­fect can no longer af­fect the younger gen­er­a­tion. After all, they live in a cul­ture of hy­bridiza­tion, of trans­la­tion and of bor­der-tran­scend­ing na­tions. The past is too pre­sent in the foun­da­tions of Eu­rope. What about a lit­tle more fu­ture in­stead?

CAFÉBABEL BER­LIN dis­putes about eu­rope

Cafébabel Ber­lin is an of­fi­cial media part­ner of A Dis­pute over Eu­rope. Fol­low­ing May 2, 2014, you will be able to read ar­ti­cles cen­tered on the con­gress as well as in­ter­views with the panel mem­bers. More up­dates can be found on Face­book and Twit­ter