Etre authentique ou ne pas l’etre

This is a guest post by Anais Pirlot.

Anais is my oldest niece. She joined me in Split some days ago, and since then we have been travelling throughout the countries of Former Yugoslavia. Anais is half portuguese half french. She was raised in France, and, as she was growing up, she used to spent almost all her holidays in Portugal with me and the rest of the family. She currently spends most of her time in the United States, so this has been a precious occasion to enjoy her company that I love so much. She has proved to be the perfect travelling companion. Not only she is sweet and funny, but, above all, she is an acute observer, acquainted as she is to live with people of different cultural origins. The questions she makes me about the region, its peoples and its problems are helping me find the best way to make my perspective accessible to people with no previous knowledge on the region.

She wrote it in french and we decided to keep it in french. I apologise to the non-french readers.

“Voilà enfin des gens AUTHENTIQUES” me dit ironiquement Sarah dans le bus qui nous mène au centre de Sarajevo. Je rigole car elle fait référence à une anecdote que je lui ai raconté à propos de certains clichés.

En partant pour l’Europe de l’Est, j’appelle mon père une dernière fois depuis l’aéroport. Il me félicite de voyager tant et me fait cette remarque qui m’est restée en travers de la gorge comme une arrête de poisson: “Ah, bah là au moins tu vas rencontrer des gens authentiques” (c’est à peu près ce qu’il m’a dit). Sachant que ces 6 derniers mois j’ai passé le plus clair de mon temps à voyager à travers les États-Unis, il faisait allusion à ces américains tellement globalisés, consommants, consommés et industrialisés qu’on se demande s’ils sont encore humains.

Mais quel stéréotype ignorant! De tout ce que j’aime des États-Unis, ce que je préfère ce sont justement les gens; leur enthousiasme, leur convivialité, leur liberté qui leur permet cette informalité si chaleureuse. Sans parler de leur respect du travail.

Que c’est drôle alors de constater la difficulté d’obtenir rien qu’un sourire ou un bonjour d’un serbe ou d’un croate, ces gens si authentiques*… Mais voilà qu’a Sarajevo, oú les gens ont tant souffert, tout le monde sourit et est heureux de voir que l’on apprécie leur ville. Les gens sont enthousiastes et aiment vivre ici. C’est sans doute ce qui fait que leur ville est si belle aujourd’hui. Quant à savoir si cela fait d’eux des gens authentiques, j’en laisse le soin à d’autres, moi ça ne m’intéresse pas.

Photos: Above, an ‘authentic’ kid playing hiding with Anais on the bus from Belgrade to the suburb of Sarajevo called ‘East Sarajevo’. Bellow, an ‘authentic’ old man riding his bike in the centre of Sarajevo.

8 Comments

Filed under Bosnia, Joie de vivre

8 responses to “Etre authentique ou ne pas l’etre

  1. Salut, Anaïs! Olá, Sarah!

    Este post deixou-me a pensar no que significa ser “autêntico”. Quem diz “autêntico”, talvez possa dizer “genuíno”, “verdadeiro”, “sincero”, ou mesmo (em português mais “autêntico”) “Pão, pão, queijo, queijo”.

    Fiquei a pensar nas dificuldades da língua (nos obstáculos e mal-entendidos causados pelas diferenças culturais e linguísticas) e na impossibilidade de tradução de alguns sentimentos…
    Fiquei a pensar nos portugueses. Nos portugueses residentes no estrangeiro e nos estrangeiros residentes, ou de passagem, em Portugal.

    Lembrei-me da história da avó de uma amiga minha.
    Ao conhecer o namorado alemão que a neta trouxera para o almoço de Domingo em sua casa (uma casa “pobre, mas asseadinha”, em Camarate, com um quintal com vista para uns estaleiros “abarracados”), a avó, levantando um copo de vinho tinto, gritava: “Patrick, é boa a pinga! Prove!”. Uma das netas (a minha amiga) disse-lhe: “Ó avó, ele é alemão, não é surdo! Não é por gritar que ele a vai entender!”. A avó, contente por quase ter conseguido “falar alemão”, respondeu: “Entende, então não entende!?! Olha para ele a rir-se… vê lá se ele não me entende?!”

    Serei eu uma pessoa autêntica, será que conheço pessoas autênticas? Será por ser simpática e boa anfitriã que uma pessoa é mais autêntica? Será o alentejano, mais desconfiado à primeira vista, menos autêntico que o nortenho, coradinho e bonacheirão, que me convida logo a entrar em casa? (por falar em estereótipos, esta era só uma provocação…)

    Obrigada por partilharem as vossas experiências e impressões e por me terem feito pensar sobre este assunto!

  2. Anaïs,

    Um post bem autêntico. Gostei muito.
    Acho que todos somos autênticos na medida do possível em que ser autêntico é respirar a todos os momentos, olhar e ver, pensar e sentir.
    Mas não é menos autêntico quem olha o mundo de forma tão diversa que nos parece estranho porque são precisamente as diferenças e a sua compreensão que permitem que a vida e o mundo permaneçam autênticos…

    Miguel

  3. Owen

    It seems to me that being “authentic” is being straightforward. Not everyone has the same way of being straightforward. But the essence of authenticity lies in treating other people as equals whom you respect and don’t try to gain an advantage over. (Desculpem, the comment has to be in English since my efforts at Portuguese might be autenticos but would probably be incomprensiveis!)

  4. Owen

    Cyclists who ride on the pavement aren’t authentic, they’re menaces.

  5. Sarah Franco

    🙂

    Owen, not this one cyclist. What inspired my niece into writing this was the fact that, after one week in Split and Belgrade, where people are not exactly what we call ‘simpáticas’, she was very impressed with the difference in the attitude of the Bosnians.

    This has nothing to do with ethnicity, because we came from Belgrade to ‘East Sarajevo’ and the passengers on the bus were Serbs. The fact is that, at least in our case, the people from Sarajevo proved to be extremely warm in the way they received us.

    The contrast is enormous. My experience in Belgrade tells me that usually the people there is very reserved towards outsiders. However, once they accept your presence they change and become very warm too, but in a very different way.

    In Portugal we are used to people being warm and nice to outsiders. In France it’s the opposite…

    But the essential in this small post is that she tries to dismiss the idea that some peoples are ‘more authentic’ than others.

    In your comment you brilliantly define authenticity. I consider it to be an individual, rather than a collective characteristic.

    Considering the ‘balkanics’ as more authentic that, say, the americans (to use her example) is an ethnocentric prejudice and I am glad that Anais is sensitive to reject that.

  6. Bravo Anaïs, brilliant guest post (good observation must be a family trait). And I agree also with your last comment, Sarah, there are no people more authentic than others, just different ways to approach strangers.

  7. Anaïs

    “Considering the ‘balkanics’ are more authentic that, say, the americans (…) is an ethnocentric prejudice…” Thanks Sarah for putting scientific words on my observations.

    And thank you all for your positive reactions to my first post ever posted on planet Internet.

  8. Sarah Franco

    Gracias, Elia!

    I am ‘pressuring’ Anais into opening her own blog, because she has lots of things to say and she has talent. Meanwhile her posts will be more than welcome here.