La vie appelle la vie: The animated poetry of Frédéric Back

Libérer la vie, libérer la vie des prisons … c’est ça resister.

Gilles Deleuze, Abécédaire

 Art for me is just a natural reaction. I just try to share this reaction to what I love, and want to share. The pleasure is to give out what you like the most. If you do it just for yourself, it is not really creativity. Creativity, for me, is mostly something that can be shared and appreciated by others.

Frédéric Back

In the world of Frédéric Back, we speak and live with animals and gods; the separations of our progress and modernity are preceded and forever grounded in a more primordial “chaos” of life, where individuality possesses no distinct boundaries, where with whom or with what we are is of far greater significance than who or what we are.  Life is a flow, a perpetual movement, a river, like Back’s great St. Lawrence, with shapes and forms intermingling and interlacing with each other, and forever changing.  The illusion is to want more, to seek to domesticate and dominate the energy of life, its rivers and lands, its plants and animals, even its gods; the illusion of sovereign separation from that we which ourselves are, living nature.  We walk blindly into the shining lights of progress, seduced and silenced, happily building the prisons of our own incarceration.  In Back’s Illusion, an Eden like vision of innocent childhood happiness expresses in an almost utopian manner the earthly passion of the Man who planted trees.  But it is not an eccentric neo-primitivism that resonates in his films, but rather the celebration of life, even life moulded by human hands, as the rocking chair in Crac!  Our tragedy is not that we have forgotten and abused nature; rather it is that that nature which we have touched and made ours with all that lives, we have cared nothing for.  All living beings (and everything that interacts with us lives) change the natural-artificial world.  The point then is not to cease to so effect it, but to endeavour to do so in ways where we may cherish that with which we live and that which we create.

For Frédéric Back …

We share below two interviews conducted in english with Frédéric Back, along with an english letter (posted on fredericback.blogspot 25/02/2007) …

Frédéric Back: The Man Who Planted Trees An interview by Rod MacIver

Frédérick Back was the first interview in the first issue of Heron Dance. His work has had a profound effect on the publication, who he is as a person has had a profound effect on me. Frédéric is in his late seventies. He has white hair and an eye patch – he lost an eye to an accident with a chemical used in film editing. He is both muscular and frail at the same time – the products perhaps of years of planting trees and working on the farm which is his second home. He talks slowly, gently and puts obvious thought into his words. The overall impression one is left with is of a deeply compassionate, principled and spiritual man. With some edits, and most of my questions removed, here is all the text we’ve preserved, which is eighty percent or more of our interviews.

I was born just after the Great War of 1914-1918 in Brittany, in what is now the west of France … As a young child I was surrounded by people without legs, without arms. Blind, or with one eye, or walking with crutches or in a small cart because they had no legs. There was a lot of suffering by animals too. Many horses worked very hard all their lives with bad masters; many with war wounds made by bad harnesses. When they can’t pull enough, they just take them to the slaughterhouse. All my life I am mad and sad about so much violence. I try to express that always in my drawings. And make as many people aware of beauty, of the need for more kindness, comprehension. I was fourteen when the Second War started. I was nineteen when it finished. I was in hiding for a while because the Germans wanted me to work on propaganda. But I was not discovered. Several of my cousins and uncles were put in German uniform and sent to Russia. Many became prisoners. Several did not come back. Our houses were bombed many times. I often had to help find people after bombing under the fallen houses. It was a normal activity for all the students. Finding people who were under the rubble. It was an experience to live that, to know that. It was not as terrible as for people in the north of France, or in Belgium or in Germany. It was an important experience to know how ugly people can be to each other. One was killed in front of our house by the Germans. It was a very terrible sight. For this I use drawings like a tool. I don’t pretend to be a great artist. I see so many people do much better than I do. But I am happy, even if I cannot do better. But what I have done has helped people become conscious about life and beauty. By working on film, I knew that thousands of people would see my drawings and maybe the message can go on, even if there are no words attached to the message.

I start very late in animation. Before I did mostly illustration, set design for films, interior decoration. It is Herbert Tison, the producer, who created the animation studio in Radio Canada in 1968. He invited me to work with him full-time in animation. For me, working in a place like Radio Canada, who reach many, many people, I found that The Man Who Planted Trees was a story that should be known by everyone. It is not only about trees, it is about a way of understanding our role in life and in nature. Our relationship to other people. The trees are really symbolic. They are really trees, but they are also symbols that are important to understand. When we are born, we are born among a kind of beauty and richness. We should preserve or replace so that the generations to come will get something as beautiful or maybe even more beautiful than what we discover when we are alive. So I found the image of the film is really very positive. The film is about the power each one of us has to improve or to destroy.

How has the story affected how you live?

I am not living like a shepherd. Many times I am bothered having so much things that are of no use. We can live without that. I like the simplicity, but all the time we are surrounded by people who give a false view of what is important. So it has taken a good deal of time before I understand what is important. For that, I found a good and fantastic surprise of how much this story was appealing to young people. I found as soon as you know a story like The Man Who Planted Trees, you understand a lot of things much better. You have to look for years to find a story like that and to understand what is really important in life. Instead we run after mirage who are empty and destructive. You need a story to understand what you have to do to find happiness and a feeling of accomplishment without getting a lot of things around you. There is a lot of contradiction about the life we have taken since civilization. And what is really important. It is not something new. On the side of my mother, I was very low caste people. Peasants. On the side of my father, we were engineer and architect and artists. But I always felt that the only people who are really needed on Earth and important — it is the peasant. He is self-sufficient, and he even gives away some of his production to make other people live. And now this peasant world is disappearing everywhere, and you have a lot of people who are filling up the cities and are doing a lot of things who are not necessary, or even like poisons. But people feel the need to be poisoned and embark on this kind of civilization that is really destructive. And which destroy every possibility of quality of life in the world. For me, the overpopulation and the abuse of power is very bad.

What is the role of art in life?

I had a very fine teacher in art who was a very generous person. And he tried to communicate his love of animals and hard-working people. All his paintings are of people working with animals. I really felt immediately at ease because his view and his will to describe the beauty of everything. He did many study of plants, of animals. He always described this in a very strong, appealing way. I tried to do the same in my work. So I tried to work in television and communicate my respect and my love through my drawings of plants and animals. I tried to make my work as positive as possible, to transmit through image, to communicate my love of humanity and nature, to make my work as positive as possible, to communicate my understanding and love of nature. Against war. Against all the aggression of mankind. I never expect to have any reputation. I just tried to make good work. To be a peasant with my painting. We have a small farm for twenty years. We plant ten thousand trees. We have bees, and raise ducks and geese. And we make a swamp and have wild ducks. And snakes. And animals coming back to our place. I really tried with my work as artist to make people aware by demonstration what is possible. I helped found an organization that planted trees along many of the highways of Quebec and along the St. Lawrence River. The islands — a promoter wanted to build high-rise on the islands. We tried to show the importance of the protection of the islands. Make the people aware of the beauty of the St. Laurent, and the need to protect and preserve all the vegetation. The islands have a cleaning effect, because they slow down the speed of the river and make the pollutants settle down. Finally the poisons may be covered by new sediments, and not in contact with living elements. The islands exist because the trees exist – the trees capture and hold the soil.

What is the role of natural beauty in our quality of life?

I think the search for beauty is an important element to reach for something interesting and could be a solution. In too many things you find more search for ugliness, for violence, special effects who are easy to produce but have a very negative consequence. The search for beauty is very demanding, takes a long time, but it has a beneficial effect on people. If people want to enjoy life, most of them go into nature, because when you go in nature, everything is beautiful. Every leaf of a tree is a work of art. I think we should go more to a kind of creation full of learning, fantasy, and cinema should play a more important role in helping people to find solution to problems by information. Films that give not only the highlights on the disaster people make in the world, but also what positive things people make to help others, and help nature. To overcome the impact of our lack understanding of what are the problems of people or nature. It takes time. Beauty isn’t achieved easily. It isn’t the first pencil stroke that is maybe the kind of line you need. It is always a search. Without end. It is very important. Too many people don’t look for beauty. More and more people look for ugliness. They find a kind of enjoyment in making bad looking film or scene or drawings. It is easier to capture attention. Jurasic Park is a great financial success, but it is so empty, so stupid. With all the money involved in that, and the subject itself, it could have been something really amazing, strong and inspiring. But it is just a deadly joke. So stupid. I am so sorry because it is really a financial success. It took about five years to make the film The Man Who Planted Trees. Continuous work. There are about twenty thousand drawings in the film. Even the last film I did – The Mighty River – I worked for four years to make it closer to the message it should carry. I find it is fantastic to spend a long time writing a book or working on a piece of art. If you want a book to be something who really gives, who is a kind of gift to humanity, you should work on that a long time. Not just write and push it to the publisher. Jean Giono, a prominent author, took twenty three years to write The Man Who Planted Trees. It ended up to be only 7 pages of typewritten text. If you work too fast…time is much more than money…time is the most precious thing…no money can buy time. It is not only the drawing. I threw a lot of drawing in the garbage. And I had to plan the camera angles and shooting. That is why time is important. When you come to the end, when you see the beginning very different. You have to change many parts of the book. You make a kind of psychic work on your book or on your film. I think that is important. If you produce too fast, I think it is better to go less at speed, but think more over, and take more out, in order to make the thing more useful and positive. We must have hope, otherwise we just let go and everything will fall down. Many people have hope and work very hard to make people know. Many things have been created, and you cannot know the effects of what you do and knowing what should be done, you shouldn’t have solution. Now a Society (a conservation group) is created that helps industries see the effects of what they intend to do, and avoid the negative effects. You can have the information and avoid the negative effects of what you try to do. You are not destroying. Each day it costs more to fight against pollution. It is important to react as fast as possible. We must react. After it is done, it is too late and too difficult to clean up. The Man Who Planted Trees is an illustration of the power each of us has. If hands and minds come together to fight, it can have an important, beneficial effect. We have children and we have grandchildren. We are motivated to react. Every reasonable person should have a reaction of this kind. To care for the future. Otherwise it destroys.

You cannot say the American Indian were ecologists. They were limited in their power of destruction. They didn’t really respect nature. They destroyed in pre-historic time, killed what they could get the easiest way. So many species disappear in pre-historic times. Since white men came, the expiration of species has accelerated. Just in the St. Lawrence, five species of bird that were very abundant have disappeared. The passenger pigeons. Five hundred million birds. They are no more. For the cod it is the same. We must try to proportion the people who are just for money, and the people who want to enjoy life. Life is more important than money. Quality of life is more important. The only thing people can do is try and make a balance. And hope the balance will go a different way. It is a traditional attitude of men to go the wrong way. We cannot go this way a long time. If young people try something and if they don’t succeed, they say, “I go in the wrong direction, I should change and go in the other.” But it is important to be steady, if you have the conviction that you are making the right thing, you should keep to the project, and keep on, and with time, by experiencing always in the same direction, finally you find the way you should do it. And you gain some of the affect you want to have. It is not good, if you do not have the effect you want in one direction, to change and try another one, and try another one, and you turn around and always you are in front of the same problem. You must keep on if you know something good. And the effect of your work will have good effects on others. You must keep on and try and try and try. Someday you will be surprised with the effect your work has done.

The Man Who Planted Trees has been presented in sixty countries in the world, and is still used in many countries. The text has a biblical quality because it gets to the root of happiness and what is really important in life. I had made some scene in which people go to the St. Lawrence and take some trash that was thrown into the river. Each year now young people clean up the beach along the river, and plant trees along the shore. That is a kind of reaction. Now people learn little, and it is very important, and their work will have a positive effect.

From the Second interview:

What makes a work of art powerful?

It is an interpretation of reality. It isn’t reality. Since thousands of years, the cave paintings, we see that man has a need to represent nature and interpret nature from afar. It isn’t very realistic but it is very evocative. It is a way to fix for some time a very strong impression of reality. Now it is easier with a photograph. But a photo is not as strong a representation — a drawing or a painting or sculpture — is strong because it gives a kind of interpretation. The story by Jean Giono was a beautiful text so it was much easier to follow the text and give an image. There is some flexibility. But the purpose of the image is to make people discover the quality of the text. In The Mighty River the text was made after the image. There was so much, maybe too much information given by the words. Some people are overwhelmed by too much information, words too, so you have to work with the film in order to understand the story. It is not anecdotic and pleasant. And quiet like The Man Who Planted Trees. It is much more strong, appealing and a confrontation between the film and the onlooker. So it is more exacting. But I am glad to have done it because until then nothing of this kind has been made about the St. Lawrence River, which at one time was a huge estuary with massive, massive life. So I hope some people will have a chance to make a better one than mine. And see that there is an interest in this type of film. Many artists and people involved in film were very worried about the fact that The Mighty River didn’t win an Oscar like The Man Who Planted Trees because in many ways The Mighty River has a stronger message. The French text is heavier than the English one. The English version has fewer words so the viewer has more time to relax between the text.

Too many people just make art for the mode of the time, art for special occasion. But even this kind of creation, you have art that can survive for a very long time like the works of Toulouse-Lautrec who did posters and sketches. His work is still, after so many years, a beautiful work of art. They were made in a few minutes and were made for a futile occasion, are so interesting, so beautiful that there is no time for the appreciation. In the Toulouse-Lautrec Museum I had the opportunity to see the paintings that Toulouse-Lautrec could see when he was seventeen or eighteen years old. It is amazing. It is really an inborn talent. And very strong and very subtle too. He did many portraits of his mother in the garden and they are so beautiful. So kind. You feel the love in the painting, the love and respect of his mother. And the beautiful horse and carriage. So beautiful. He really possessed his art. I always dreamed to make an exhibition about animal painting. But for such a long time I have not painted. I write too much. I am losing dexterity and quality in drawing. I am very sad because of the treatment made to animals. Poultry, pork, dogs, cats. Mostly animals are raised for meat. Or horses kept for premarine. The pregnant horse kept in stalls that have no possibility of laying down to move, and they have an ugly element to capture the urine. I would like to make an exhibition. I will not sell any paintings, just make exhibition about the way people don’t care about animals. It is amazing. Each day millions of animals are killed after having no way of having a normal life. They are raised to be killed. They have no enjoyment of life because they are in conditions in which they cannot move. They can’t enjoy sunlight and liberty. That is really an obsession for me. Each day I receive information about this. It is very sad about the situation of mankind, but in many cases the people speak out about that, and revolt against that, but about animals everybody seems to feel that it is a normal condition. That is one of the reasons that I want to make something about the Haida because even if they killed animals for food the use of pelts, they made a relation between animals and man. They had ancestors who are related to the Eagles, to the Bear, to the Whales. There is a kind of respect even if it is not true, but there is a kind of interrelation with animals. But in our world no more, it is just humanity and all the rest is to be used without any respect for liberty, for the need to have a normal life. By the population explosion, never so many people have been put in camps and prisons and tortured and never have so many animals have been kept just to use as meat without any respect. Art plays so many roles. It hides reality. It keeps people from seeing reality because it is kind of a dream like way of looking at reality. It is a possibility of manifestation or revolt or accusation of the way humanity behaves or the lack of justice who exist in mankind and in nature. That is why I admire artists like Goya or Peter Bruegel. Bruegel was such a fine artist and he was so inspired and so openly painting against the terror of the Spanish Inquisition. If you consider several people looking at a beautiful woman, one will just admire for what she is, another will like to go with her overnight, maybe another will like to marry her in order to make her happy and have a nice life with her and have children, and another will just want to touch her and use her like a prostitute to make money. I think in art, you have all this kind of attitude toward beauty. People will buy a van Gogh not because it is a van Gogh but because it is money. It is an investment. Another will buy van Gogh because they want to share it with others. Other will buy it because they want to put it in a safe. It is a very big variety of admiration. If fifty people look at a work of art, you have fifty different reactions. Or a piece of music each have a different feeling depending on his character. From his experience in life. Of his sensitivity at that moment. They are interesting because when you see the drawing, you feel the intelligence because you feel the association in their drawing. It is not just a presentation. You feel the character of the person they are drawing. You feel it in the drawing itself. It is a kind of representation that I never expect in my own work. I feel myself very low the world of art. I am very surprised by the reaction I get. I am very happy if it can be helpful. But I don’t understand, because if I compare with the work of my master, or several other artists, I see where I fall short…. As higher you are, the higher your expectation. I found many interesting drawings, paintings in your last issue of Heron Dance . Very simple. Sometime I find it very difficult from a kind of photographic presentation. It is interesting subject, but when it is made from a photograph in which you try to put every detail it is not so interesting because it is much better when you do it simple. Sometime I am surprised when my art looks good. Many time my brain is not working. It is the hand that makes the work. That is why it is important to draw very often. I receive so many demands and so many other types of activities. This Haida film could be an invitation to draw more and refuse some invitation to speak. So many people speak well and know how to talk in many fields of which there is a need for help and understanding. My best way to help an organization is through drawing. I feel if they make me speak, I am competing with their own capacity. But if I am doing drawing, maybe I can be more interesting, in order to defend what I feel is most important.

You are a great inspiration to me.

No, it is giving me too much credit. I do my best. It is not enough. Really I hate myself on so many occasions. Even in success, I am always surprised. I see too much the weakness of my work. I am always surprised that many people don’t care about the weakness. I have very few critics. The strongest critic comes from myself. By chance, I had a fantastic master, at the same time, during the war. Maheut. And he sent us out to paint and so I did drawing and painting and meeting with very ordinary people. Making wooden shoes or going out on the sea with fisherman. Or I had the opportunity to go down in coal mines. That is all a very fantastic way to give a dimension on a different way of life. I appreciate for myself the condition in which I found myself. It helped me not get too ambitious about power. To know that you can be happy living without the obsession of money, money, money. For me money was never a motivation to accept or refuse work. When I was young money was always a problem. When you have no money, money is a very important element. I felt you must never be slave of money. You must be free of money. I came to Canada, I had just thirty dollars. And a bicycle. I do not want to stay too long at the parents of Gylaine’s home (Gylaine is Frédéric’s wife), because they had eight children and they stayed in a train station. I don’t want to be a burden for them. I was painting in the country around, looking for work, and I was engaged for work by a farmer, working his farm, and he paid me $1 a day. I had two hours a day for painting a drawing….I did more painting then. I am sorry when people make money so important an issue. They are ready to do anything for money. And they make a choice between two situations, mostly for money, but not for interest of the kind of work they could do. I was surrounded with people getting more money than I was making. I had to loan them with money for a week or a few days because they had no money in their pocket. In Radio Canada. During the war, my father had no work. Almost no work. Very little money. My mother worked because she was carrying merchandise for peddlers with a small carriage and I help her very often because it was very heavy for her. I never complain because all this make an experience with life. People who don’t experience misery, who have no contact with what really is the bottom of life cannot paint, cannot write with the same depth as people who have experienced.

If they find an artist who has a style of drawing or painting in a style that sells, the galleries pressure him to do that. I could never enter that. I always try to adapt my way of drawing or painting to the subject. I try to find a way to make the drawing adapted to the subject.

I am not an intellect. I feel myself like a little peasant in painting. I met Herbert Tison in 1968. I was upset because many time I had to make drawings for programs with which I was not at ease. I was not in harmony with the kind of subject. We dreamed about making one day a kind of short film. I tried to make an animation for the Indian legends. It starts from them. I never expect to make a film that has any kind of reaction at large. I never expect to have any kind of reputation. I just try to make interesting films on interesting subjects. It was really a discovery to see that The Man Who Planted Trees had an impact. I can say millions of trees have been planted and many other activities have been inspired by The Man Who Planted Trees. Even now. I just came back from France. Over there, many people are amazed by the story. We were invited by a village and cities to speak about film and animation. I tried to convey as much as possible the motivation to young students about making film that corresponds to interests at large. I find you may make a book about your own life, but it must be interesting at large for other people. You must share as much with the others or keep it for your self.

Many people objected to The Man Who Planted Trees because it did not follow the story lines of previously successful animation films. Many people were against it. It took over a year before the project was accepted. The Mighty River was another challenge because we could not forsee that the film would be good. It depends if the audience would enjoy seeing this kind of subject. Each film, each time was a challenge. The problem is the training of people. Too few people are able to make interesting drawing. It has no character. No quality. We have no more teacher. We have a lack of talented teacher, teacher who are exacting, demanding, strong work, hard work, who are inspiring for student. You could see people with special kind of costume related to their work. In fields, you could see people work, but you don’t see anymore. You have no more animals in the fields, you have just a machine or a truck or a machine does the work in a few hours that before took weeks. Much attitude, costume and inspiration for artists has disappeared. At that time there was still traditional costume. People did work with horse in the field.

It is fantastic if you see the number of great artists van Gogh met in his short life.

I try to give items of spirituality. I did many interior decoration of churches because I find that find for humanity it is an interesting way to come out of materialism and think about spirituality. I did my best to make churches very inviting and interesting and appealing for the people who tried to represent the Christ or God, in order to help the people to communicate with spirit. Myself, I was Protestant during the war. I was hidden in the home of a Catholic who was working hard at me to convert to Catholocism. Finally, I agreed, but I never had any conviction.

Do you go to church now?


You design churches, but you don’t go to them?

It is a place where you can find the silence inside. And thinking of something more interesting than the materialistic. I don’t need to go to the church. I go to the forest and I have the same feeling. Art is a way to express your inner world. I am not enough spiritual. Most of my scenes are not spiritual, they are based in reality, in the material world. Maybe I am not aware of my spirituality.

Most of what I do I do by instinct, I cannot explain. Anyway, you know many artists that speak well of art and philosophy and of a kind thing like that, but when you see what they do, many times it is disappointing. It is not rich. They are better speakers than they are artists. I find it very difficult when I was teaching for five years, I was very uneasy about speaking about art. I had no beautiful theory. No fantastic explanation about art. Art for me is just a natural reaction. I just try to share this reaction to what I love, and want to share. The pleasure is to give out what you like the most. If you do it just for yourself, it is not really creativity. Creativity, for me, is mostly something that can be shared and appreciated by others. What I find so interesting in visual art is that you represent things as far as people can identify the subject and find out what you try to represent, they are very free to give interpretation to it. In writing, you are very precise. It is very much more difficult to give an interpretation to what people have written. In visual art, what is fantastic is the liberty you give to people. You give them elements to think of art. They are free to think in relation to their own experience, they own feeling. And give it each time a different meaning. What I find fantastic was the chance to have Maheut as a master. He represents so well all I lack, that I would have liked to represent, because he has such a great devotion for life, for beauty, and he really was able to put in one composition, he was able to put everything together, to make it richer. I tried to follow his steps. He was a very kindly, enthusiastic, and very generous man. I can show you a book his grandson has written about him. I had always great admiration for peasant life. I felt that they are the only kind of people who were living a useful life, because they were able to sustain themselves and produce enough for other people. Many people, even artists, are creating for their own needs or their own pleasure. People must think of the pleasure and enjoyment that they can give for other people. Creativity is something that can be shared with others. Otherwise it is just for very experimental or egoistic. I am not so intellectual and complicated to give good answers. I do art it simply because it is the only reaction I can have. I tried to do it the most positive way.

From Issue

Frédéric Back’s art (The Man Who Planted Trees, The Mighty River) embodies seeing for me. His films have won prizes all over the world, including two Oscars and the Grand Prize of the Annecy Film Festival. I think that in two hundred years, Frédéric’s art will be recognized along with that of Van Gogh and Rodin. When you see a huge cod hauled out of the ocean by steel hook, its eyes wide and mouth gasping for oxygen, for life, you know the artist sees the soul of that animal. Or when you see a dog trotting along through a field beside its master, its tail wagging and tongue hanging out, you know that Frédéric has connected both with the dog spirit and his own spirit. Frédéric and his wife Ghylaine visited me a few months ago. While they were here, I showed them some photographs of a canoe trip last summer in northern Ontario, Canada with my sons (ages 6, 9 and 17). Some of the pictures were of large fish they had caught, including one on the ground beside my foot. It did not occur to me at the time, but I became increasingly uneasy about whether or not I might have offended Frédéric. A couple of months later, I wrote him about my concern: Dear Frédéric, I’ve thought often about a conversation we had when you were here in Burlington. Thought I’d write you to try to get it off my mind. It had to do with that picture of a dead pike beside my foot. I want you to know that I eat fish a couple of times a year. I don’t like to fish — consider it mean-spirited — but take my sons fishing as part of my efforts to interest them in the natural world. I would like to apologize if I offended your sensibilities. If not, please ignore this letter. I admire so much your integrity and kindness toward the natural world. With love, The letter that Frédéric wrote in response inspired a great deal of thought. I thought I would share some of it with you. Frédéric is French-speaking and I could have edited his words, but they mean so much to me that I do not like to alter his writing in any way.

Dear Rod, I thank you for your kind letter. It is always a pleasure to hear from you, but I feel sorry if for so long time I am an obsession in your mind, and make you feel bad. Everything in life is a form of compromise, but I think the most important is to always reflect on any action and balance what is the most important. Too many people follow first what they are pleased to do, without any regard for suffering or destruction caused by their activities. With our children I felt often the contradiction of letting them do what their instinct of predator pushed them to do. Making them sensitive to respect other beings was important, but I felt also they would be more fragile, and probably suffering from the violence that occupies a so important place on earth. Appreciation, compassion and charity have some kind of compensation that dominant and egotistic people will never experience. Fishing and hunting are primary activities, but as you say, they are a way to introduce your sons to interest in nature. I suppose, relatively soon, you will be able to use such interests in favor of a more complex and serious-minded relation to a world in which every form of life is the result of a miracle, a series of miracles, who are much more fantastic to study, and to know, than putting an end to it, too many times uselessly…in vain. Please do not feel bad about me, if you eat sometimes fish or meat, but about the animal who died. Sometime I am, too, in situations in which it is very difficult to refuse a piece of meat or fish. So I do my best to express my regrets to the poor animal, and pray for his soul. I think you do some alike too. I enjoy always receiving your publication …. I thank you for having published an article about Rachel Carson who did so much to make people aware, but had so little success.

Good bye! Yours sincerely with many thanks for all the good things!


To learn more about Frédéric Back and his work, click here.

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