Journalist, writer, globetrotter, declared a pilgrim before the Lord after his Paris-Moscow trip in 1990 “to theTurcomana”, that is, in relief with two horses (Le Pérégrin emerveillé, Actes Sud publishing house, 2012, Renaudot Pocket Prize), Jean-Louis Gourand is a figure of French cultural landscape “of the horse”. Curious, sometimes a little provocative, insatiable and indefatigable, he has published as editor, for different publishing houses close to the subject and cause (Favre, Rocher, Actes Sud, etc.), a good number of authors and almost two hundred titles, of which about twenty are in his own handwriting.
In spring 2018 he published the bibliography (“Bibliographie Équestre”) and we learned, simultaneously with this event, that he had donated his collection of books and documents to the Deauville media library. Two good reasons to look for more information.
For the inauguration of the World Horse Library, the choice was left to our hands.
Since when are you a collector?
JLG. Since maybe forever…
What kind of collector are you? Opportunist? Compulsive?…
JLG. Actually, I have never considered myself a collector. I have neither the obsession nor the comprehension that a true collector may have: the complete works of a certain someone, or the complete thirty editions and reissues of such another. I’m not a bibliophile either: you know, like those people who give extreme importance to original editions, to beautiful period bindings or dedications… No, I am rather a documentary maker, that is to say, someone who has sought throughout his whole life to collect a maximum of works on the subject that interests him: if you’d like, a reflection of a journalist rather than a librarian.
What are we talking about when we refer to its fund? How many books? What are the rarest? The most unexpected? The most “expensive” (also understood affectively)?
JLG. As the field that interests me is so vast, this ended with the sum of many books. I don’t know how many exactly yet…
The employees of the organization to which I donated are conducting the inventory. Surely several thousand. Two thousand, three thousand?
I’ll tell you soon because the huge inventory work and the creation of a catalog creation is in the works.
What is this vast field about? From the relationship between man and horse through history, across the world. That means: the equestrian civilizations in Europe of course, but also in Africa, in the East, in the Americas … The horse in mythology, in religion, politics, literature, in the arts. As you can see, the limit is very flexible and can be extend almost to infinity because the links between man and horse are numerous and almost universal.
Hence why my astonishment and dismay are evident at seeing these ties weaken with the course of the time. Not only because of the effect of modernization, but also because of the pressure of those new “animalistic” movements that believe they are doing good by advocating the suspension of any relationship between animal and human species. What madness! They are capable of causing irreversible damage! (but that is another subject).
Why donate your “horse” Library to Deauville and not to another fund?
JLG. I have long wondered what use my descendants would put to this cumbersome library. It should be mentioned, without sounding reproachful, that neither is interested in the subject.
Then I learned that the municipality of Deauville was interested in creating a large specialized media library. Excellent idea for a city that has two racetracks, a horse-riding center and that organizes famous sales of pups. As expected, their collections were mainly related to the world of racing. So, it seemed to me that my files would bring a good balance to the content of the future media library that was being built in the old Franciscan convent. Mayor Philippe Augier and the manager of the media library gave me such a welcome that they finally convinced me that this is where my books should be, available for on-site consultation, but also present in the inventories and repertoires of the BNF that supervises operations, such as also, of course, in the World Horse Library in the process of constitution.
Wouldn’t you have stayed with some?
JLG. (Smile.) No, I wanted to play fair and I didn’t keep any of the books in the collection. Except some copies that I wrote or edited myself.
Interview by Xavier Libbrecht