“He offers me a mirror in which I recognize myself”
Dorothée de Monfreid, designer and writer, 48 years old, great-granddaughter of Henry de Monfreid
“My great-grandfather was a writer and adventurer. He traveled the world at a time when this was very rare, crisscrossed the Red Sea on a dhow, was an arms dealer and a writer. I am one of the few cousins of my generation to have a photo of me with him. It gives me a sort of privilege. I also carry his name, which is another point in common. However, I believe that we all live with Henry de Monfreid, without it being voluntary. For my part, I think of him because he offers me a mirror in which I recognize myself. We share certain character traits, including a spirit of independence, non-conformism and a real problem with authority.
He was also a painter and the son of a painter. I owe him for having instilled in my family this artistic culture in which I flourished. However, I also want to claim myself from another person, his second wife who was called Armgart Freudenfeld. This young German left everything, on the eve of the First World War, to follow this Frenchman to Africa. My children also see it as a beautiful feminist figure. “
“He meant a lot to me”
Guillaume de Monfreid,71 years old, grandson
“I would say that my relationship with my grandfather was that of a completely atypical old man with an ordinary young man. It was necessarily asymmetric. How to compete with a fascinating adventurer?
Since his death, I have the feeling that a friendship of a new type binds us because I have become his literary agent. He indeed died when I was 24 years old. And the family nominated me for this role. So I found myself facing several cubic meters of documents, texts, photos, drawings. It took me forty years to go around it, classify it, give it to the archives, exhibit, publish, etc.
Today, I have the feeling that I know Henry from A to Z. He also bequeathed me his features, his frenzied individualism. It even seemed to me sometimes that he winked at me from his grave, when my job as an architect took me in his footsteps, in countries where he had lived. He is therefore an invasive ancestor, who meant a lot to me but without weighing. “
“At 24, I read his books”
Lionel Latham,48 years old, great-grandson
“I heard about Henry from my grandmother, who was his eldest daughter. She had kept from her adventurous childhood in ways that impressed us. For example, she never used washing-up liquid, because there was none in Ethiopia, where she had grown up. But I did meet Henry by reading four or five of his books, especially his Letters from Abyssinia. He tells about his setbacks when he arrived in this country. This book became a source of inspiration for the young man that I was then and who was looking for his way. I thought it was nice that he was able to endure so many failures without getting discouraged before becoming a legend. “