English Translation: Christopher Tolkien interviewed by Le Monde
Original in French: Tolkien, l'anneau de la discorde
A few highlights:
What is so special about this interview?
It's a rare, if not exceptional case. In an era where most people would sell their souls to be talked about, Christopher Tolkien has not expressed himself in the media for forty years. No interviews, no announcements, no meetings-- nothing.
During all these years of silence, his life has been one of incessant, driven, almost Herculean work on the unpublished part of the oeuvre, whose literary executor he is.
From this mess Christopher Tolkien cobbled together The Silmarillion, Unfinished Tales, the twelve volumes of The History of Middle-earth, etc.:
He also received his father's papers after the death: 70 boxes of archives, each stuffed with thousands of unpublished pages. Narratives, tales, lectures, poems of 4000 more or less complete lines, letters and more letters, all in a frightening disorder. Almost nothing was dated or numbered, just stuffed higgledy-piggledy into the boxes.
"He had the habit of traveling between Oxford and Bournemouth, where he often stayed," Baillie Tolkien recounts. "WHen he left, he would put armfuls of papers into a suitcase which he always kept with him. When he arrived, he would sometimes pull out any sheet at random and start with that one!" On top of all this, the handwritten manuscripts were almost indecipherable because his handwriting was so cramped.
Christopher Tolkien’s misgivings about the published version of The Silmarillion:
First in England, then in France, he reassembled the parts of The Silmarillion, made the whole more coherent, added padding here and there, and published the book in 1977, with some remorse. "Right away I thought that the book was good, but a little false, in the sense that I had had to invent some passages," he explains. At the time, he even had a disagreeable dream. "I was in my father's office at Oxford. He came in and started looking for something in great anxiety. Then I realized in horror that it was The Silmarillion, and I was terrified at the thought that he would discover what I had done."
Christopher Tolkien’s comments about Peter Jackson’s adaptation of The Lord of the Rings:
Invited to meet Peter Jackson, the Tolkien family preferred not to. Why? "They eviscerated the book by making it an action movie for young people 15 to 25," Christopher says regretfully. "And it seems that The Hobbit will be the same kind of film."
Christopher Tolkien’s reaction to the popularity of his father’s work:
"Tolkien has become a monster, devoured by his own popularity and absorbed by the absurdity of our time," Christopher Tolkien observes sadly. "The chasm between the beauty and seriousness of the work, and what it has become, has gone too far for me. Such commercialisation has reduced the esthetic and philosophical impact of this creation to nothing. There is only one solution for me: turning my head away."