Pierre Wittmann: Writings
Pierre: the Writer
I always loved books, I have thousand of them. I have one library in France, another in Thailand. I feel good surrounded by books. Was it written in my genes? My paternal grandfather was a printer, and my father a writer – ‘a man of letters’ as he liked to call himself. He has also been a journalist, a proofreader, a translator and theatre producer.
I not only love to read books, but I like to look at them, touch them, leaf them through, buy them, write them, illustrate them, translate them, create them, compose them, print them, give them away… What I like less is to distribute them and sell them – the commercial aspect is not my strength.
At school, I always wrote my essays and dissertations with pleasure. My first big writing job was my Master’s thesis on architecture. It was just after May 1968, and it was fashionable, at that time, to write about architectural projects rather than to draw them. My diploma partner was more inclined to draw than me. He traced the blueprints, while I did the writing and composition of the texts. This was just as much an opportunity for me to learn to type – a skill that would be very useful to me later on in my life.
I received my architecture diploma during the first economic crisis after the war. Construction projects were suspended, and architects became unemployed. It was quite by chance that I threw myself into the Graphic Arts. I created a company with a painter friend, producing composition and text processing for offset printing. This new technology, which used the first computers, was going to replace lead composition and was soon going to be very successful. To complete the composition service – at that time the computer was only producing rough texts – we created a graphic and advertising design department, and, in the following years, a publishing house and a printing house.
For the next five years, I became familiar with all aspects of Graphic Arts, but realised that the role of a business manager was not my vocation. I sold my shares of the company and settled in the countryside to devote myself to painting and to take up architecture again. During the following years, my passion for books became oriented towards art and architecture. And I found time again for the pleasure of reading.
During my stay in Arizona, from 1982 to 1984, I created my first book, Rocks, with my girlfriend at the time, who was a poet. She wrote the texts and I painted a series of paintings on the subject of rocks, canyons and geological formations of Arizona. However, we separated before we could get our book published. In Arizona, I started to read in English; an excellent way to become more fluent in this language. This was to be very useful to me in later years.
Arriving in Tahiti in 1984, I decided to learn Chinese. It was the Chinese writing that attracted me, and this would lead me later to Seoul and Taipei to study Chinese calligraphy. It was in Tahiti that I discovered spirituality, and in particular Buddhism. This brought with it an inexhaustible source of new readings. Over the years I bought and devoured hundreds of works on spiritual topics. At this time I also began to write a diary (le Journal), which has been my confidant for over thirty years. Externally I was always a painter, but internally the books and the writings became more important to me.
In 1988, I moved to Thailand, spent time in Buddhist monasteries, met new spiritual friends and several monks. Tan Santikaro, who was the translator for Ajahn Buddhadasa, a Theravada master of the forest tradition, proposed that I illustrate the covers of the master's books with my new paintings on Buddhist themes. A year later, in a Buddhist group in Bangkok, I meet Erika Dias, a poet from Sri Lanka. Together we created a publishing house called ‘Wisdom Gift’, and jointly published two books of poems illustrated with my paintings.
So far I had participated in many book projects, some published some not, but I had still not written and published my own book. But this idea was on its way and, in 2002, Le guide du bonheur pour le troisième millénaire was written, published and printed in Thailand. The following year I translated it into English and published A Guide to Happiness for the Third Millennium. Both books sold well in Thailand. But the difficulties of distributing and selling them in the West discouraged me a little in my new role as author and publisher. And the other book projects undertaken found themselves in a drawer.
But the writing demon still dwelled in me and was not satisfied with this chuck out. In 2006, I drafted my first ideas for a novel and started to type the 75 handwritten notebooks of my diary.
In the following years, I took up and corrected several notebooks of my diary from the year 1988, when I left Tahiti and settled in Thailand. This became a new book, Le jardin de la libération, published (in French) in March 2010. In 2008 I took up and finished the correcting of an episode of the 1990 diary. It relates a 28-day inner journey starting with a meditation retreat in Australia. A new book, Le parfum de l'éveil (in French), was published in April 2009.
In 2009, I also published Peinture Peintures, an illustrated book on my paintings, and, in 2011, a collection of poems of spiritual inspiration, Le silence des couleurs, 108 cris du cœur (in French). Having not forgotten the experience of A Guide to Happiness, I published only short runs of these books in digital printing for my friends and my family.
At the end of 2011, I decided to finish Marlène ou le jeu de la vie, the novel I had started a few years earlier, but a shoulder injury forced me to abandon my project. I took it back in October 2012, this time without hindrance and finished it in March 2013. In the meantime I also finished entering all the texts of my diary on the computer.
I started in 2013 the correction of my diary (le Journal) in order to be able to deposit it with the APA (French Association for Autobiography) and I deposited the first episode, that of my arrival in Tahiti in 1984. The correction of my diary became my main activity until 2016, the year when I deposited with the APA the last of the 22 episodes, from 1984 to 2013, as well as a Catalog of Paintings and a booklet of Biographical References. In 2018, I also deposited the 75 original handwritten notebooks of my diary.
In 2013, after finishing the novel Marlène, I started to write short texts of Reflections, Wonders, Regards, on my life, and on life. These texts became a new form of the diary (which continued, however, at a less regular rhythm) and replaced what I called the Dharma Notes. In 2016, I started a blog, where I publish every week a text illustrated with a painting. These texts are either these new Reflections or short extracts from the diary which I call Essence of the Journal. In 2018 and 2019, I published the first two collections of these texts, Regarder la vie 1 and 2, which each include 49 Regards on my Life. A series that will continue, since there are already more than 500 of these texts.
I love to write – there is no lack of ideas – and I aspire, perhaps an utopian dream, to weave direct and magic links between my writings and the potential readers…