The Political Context
In his books, Laurent La Gamba shines a light onto the issues of the day by choosing controversial philosophical and political issues to form the backdrops to his stories through his characters. This provides a controversial commentary on contemporary society. Issues have included: religion, television, history, science, ethnology, racism, immigration, politics, sectarianism, nationalism, terrorism, fundamentalism etc...
From The Estheticon to the Monlywood Trilogy Laurent La Gamba keeps highlighting institutional archaisms, pettiness, contradictions and administrative tetany of the artistic and literary French intelligentsias in a humoristic, satirical and thought-provoking manner. Monlywood is also the pretext for the creation of a vast French society pandemonium, from the ghostly Vichy to the sacrosanct TV era.
The path from the artist to the writer: from La Gamba to Superlakan
From the very first self-portraits, the first camouflage works to the Superlakan character Laurent La Gamba keeps creating a sociological trompe-l'œil which will ultimatly give birth to the controversial Book of Superlakan in 2015.
Laurent La Gamba was first strongly influenced by André Malraux on whom he wrote a paper on archeological lexicon in the author's Antimemoirs at the Sorbonne, before starting to focus on the first clinical cases in psychoanalytic history, which naturally led him to tackle Jacques Lacan's Seminars.
There is not much difference between in the artist's painted self-portraits characters and the creation of Superlakan's portmanteau-character...in La Gamba's work, visual arts and literature are solidly intertwined.
Laurent La Gamba's Literary influences
Long before travelling abroad especially to Los Angeles, where he stayed over long periods of time, Laurent La Gamba says he has always been strongly influenced by American Literature, notably works by Jack London, Richard Brautigan, Scott Fitzgerald, James Crumley, Ben Hetcht, Tennessee Williams, John Cheever or P.G. Wodehouse.
His painting was also influenced by the American school of photo-realism before he started working on his in situ camouflage installations that established him as a prominent contemporary installation artist.
Laurent La Gamba was strongly influenced by French author François Rabelais who tackles religious and philosophical issues by creating an entire satirical literary universe to avoid censorship. In several books, La Gamba refers to the"picrocholines wars", one of the most famous episodes in François Rabelais' famous novel Gargantua (1534) Picrochole is a fictional character who attacks the Kingdom of Grandgousier in the novel and gives his name to the war he fights: la guerre picrocholine.
La Gamba has expressed his fascination for this author many times and has said he approached his work in a similar manner by creating the imaginary city of Monlywood.
The influence he received from psychoanalyst Jacques Lacan is more complex to define because it involves both his art and literary work. His profound knowledge of psychoanalystic prose is always an issue when you read the author because it is hard to find out when he is playing with it or not. There is a difference between texts such as "Metallakan" or "Puzzles with the effigy of Superlakan", where the content is both ironical and thought-provoking and texts such as "Le grand Vulgaristeur" or "The Drudge got it wrong" in which the author makes a comment on a specific subject.
Moreover It is not by chance that La Gamba keeps referring to Flaubert. It was at the time La Gamba graduated from University that the unexpunged version of Flaubert's The Journey to the Orient was published, more than one century after its publication, finally updated with all the sexual scenes that had been methodically and heavily expunged by his inheritress. This is also the idea that he tackles in his work, this putrid moral and religious censorship that are still grangreening contemporary society and literature.
La Gamba said: "How can we forget Emma Bovary or Baudelaire's Les Fleurs du Mal scandal and trial for being contrary to public morals? Flaubert and his friend Du Camp had rid the book of certain passages with sexually explicit or implicit scenes that were not tolerated at the time."
"Fuck the French! was not written in the tradition of French bashing..."
"I like to shock and provoke and there is nothing that I hate more than bad faith and pettiness." Laurent La Gamba
If Fuck the French! is a funny, dark-humoured, sharp-witted and farcical book about French society, let's not forget that it is also a thought-provoking, disturbing and controversial book.
The book starts with a quote from the second tome of the author's Monlywood Trilogy entitled Monlywood Encore, a text from the inaugural text called "Le temps de la haine passée" which introduces the various themes that the book tackles, notably a critique of the media hype around religious problems in the TV era.
When the book was released in 2015, Laurent La Gamba summed up the book as follows:
"Instead of being continually fooled by the different forms of xenophobia that television keeps churning out tirelessly, let's have a close look at the profound contradictions that constitute French mentality and tackle the existential crisis French society is going through, let's underline its pettiness, its institutional archaisms and its moral compromises. I prefer confrontation than rumination. The book is less aggressive than it was in the first place."
"We discussed many issues related to certain texts that my translator found slightly "over the top" as she put it, so I decided to rework some of them. We even discussed the issue of using the full expression of Fuck the French for the title instead of "F...* the French!", she said that the title of the book in England might be more problematic because the English are more francophile than the American who have a tradition of openly bashing the French."
La Gamba said: "The book found its roots in my own education, in my gut, and in the never ending dead ends that I had to put up with during my whole professional career as a visual artist with French institutions, the French press and journalists, and I knew I would have to go through all this again with my books."
He added: "But this book has nothing to do with fashionable French bashing, it is about how French institutions really work, with their contradictions and lethargy, with their attention turned towards what is coming from abroad neglecting the creativity that exists within the country, a spirit strongly marked by a potent heritage of fear, jealousy and delation itself inherited from centuries of petty catholicism."