The eternal Rita Mitsouko spreads the good news of the work of Alice Mendelson in The Eroticism of Living, a show of poetry, music and gratitude. Conversation with the one who always sang as if she were to die tomorrow.

At the end of the line, Catherine Ringer repeats a familiar tune, but not one of her own. And of all the repertoires of the French-speaking world, it is not that of the Big Bazar that we would have spontaneously bet on. “Sing, as if you were to die tomorrow,” she intones, as we discuss this impulse that often seizes those who have known the worst.

If La Presse spoke with the French rock icon that day, it was not just to benefit from a brief private concert, but in anticipation of his participation in the International Literature Festival (FIL) , where she presents Wednesday and Thursday The eroticism of living, the piano-voice show, half sung, half said, that she imagined around the poetry, hitherto unpublished, of the storyteller Alice Mendelson.

Aged 98, Alice Mendelson knows a chapter about the worst: of Polish Jewish origin, she and her mother narrowly escaped the Vel’ d’Hiv roundup in July 1942, while her father was deported to Auschwitz , memories that she evokes in Youth under the Occupation, recently published by Grasset.

The singer met him in the late 1980s, after seeking to meet friends of her late father, the painter Sam Ringer.

“Let my tongue bring you entirely back to the present”, for example, writes Alice Mendelson to a “lickable man”, a verse representative of the playful tone of her poems, written in spare time from the 1950s, and which she never never had the ambition to go public. “She talks about physical love with passion, but she talks about lots of other things, just as luminously, just as passionately. »

Well educated in the invigorating properties of pleasure received and pleasure offered, Alice Mendelson’s work is therefore less about gratuitous lechery than about gratitude: that of having a body and of power, thanks to it. here, welcome a new day every morning.

Never rush to live: this is the poet’s maxim. What does this mean for Catherine Ringer, 65? “Be present,” she replies, “awake, not giving in to boredom, to routine, and then if there is an opportunity to do something interesting, dive in. [Pause] And for you, what does that mean? »

Several times during the conversation, the interviewee will refer her questions to the interviewer, less out of evasion than, probably, out of a simple desire to engage in dialogue. The interviewer, a good sport, ends up admitting that the subject of what we devote our time here on earth obsesses him.

“But Alice Mendelson is, first and foremost, an optimistic person,” she continues. If she has pain in her left side, she will say: How lucky not to have pain in her right side! »

In 2019, a complete collection of Rita Mitsouko’s work was released, followed by a major tour celebrating the 40th anniversary of the duo’s founding. But for the partner of Fred Chichin, who died of cancer in 2007 at the cruel age of 53, there is no question of handcuffing herself to this repertoire.

“I can’t, no. I will always continue to do Rita, but I would die out if I only did that. » Silence on the line. “You know, I still miss Fred, at times violently, but I’m not nostalgic, they’re two different things. I am happy to move forward in life, to taste, see and hear everything new. It’s not the past that I miss, it’s him. »

She is, he is told, the magnificent proof that there is happiness after loss and mourning. “Thank you,” she replies with something solemn in her voice, and without it being clear whether, at this moment, she is speaking to the journalist, to her fans or to life.