Jean-Pierre Lacloche

Olivier Larronde's muse
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The Independent Online

Jean-Pierre Lacloche, editor: born Paris 28 January 1925; married (one son); died Grealou, France 16 June 2006.

Cyril Connolly never forgot his first sighting of the young Jean-Pierre Lacloche in London in 1945, with his inseparable companion the poet Olivier Larronde, both of them of incomparable beauty - Jean-Pierre, dark and grave, Olivier, cherubic, blond and tender, incandescent with life. They seemed like a happy augury from Paris, proclaiming:

Le temps va ramener

L'ordre des anciens jours.

These young French faces were a delight to the war-weary.

Nor did they lack admirers in Paris, for they were befriended by Christian Bérard, Jean Cocteau, Jean Genet and Peter Watson, the angel of the magazine Horizon, and made welcome in the sophisticated salons of Marie-Louise Bousquet, Marie-Laure de Noailles and Louise de Vilmorin.

Born in Paris in 1925, a scion of the jewellery family Lacloche Frères, Jean-Pierre Lacloche was taken by his American mother to the United States in the early years of the Second World War, and sent to Exeter Academy in New Hampshire. Always a rebel, he and his younger brother François fled this élite school and after an arduous journey to Halifax in Nova Scotia took ship to London in order to join the Free French Army.

In 1945 Lacloche met Olivier Larronde, two years his junior, and this extraordinary young couple became essential to each other, Larronde, the precocious and brilliant poet, depending on Lacloche, who would be both Larronde's muse and his protector.

After the publication of Larronde's Les Barricades mystérieuses (1946) the two companions travelled in Egypt and North Africa and settled for a period on an island in the Seine at the foot of Château Gaillard, spending summers on the Bassin d'Arcachon in south-west France, where they were joined by the dancers Jean Babilée (famous for his role in Roland Petit's Le Jeune homme et la mort, 1946) and Nathalie Phillippart and their enchanting families. These halcyon days ended with Larronde suffering the onset of epilepsy. Opium, ominously, was found to be the therapy.

Lacloche and Larronde retreated to an apartment in Paris, high rooms heavy with black hangings excluding all daylight, a new country invented by Lacloche to nurture the poet, a landscape of strange, exotic furnishings, a vast Chinese bed on which to repose, marmosets chittering from the pelmets, only close friends allowed entry.

Alberto Giacometti supplied 30 drawings for Larronde's second book of poems, Rien voilà l'ordre (1959). Lacloche meanwhile continued his arcane studies into Elizabethan literature and science, taking in the occult and alchemical researches of the Renaissance magus John Dee. He was visited frequently by André Malraux and by Emmanuel d'Astier de la Vigerie, the owner of the newspaper Libération, both admirers of his political acumen and erudition.

But gradually the two lives drifted apart as Larronde, increasingly reliant on alcohol, frequented the bars and cafés while Lacloche embarked on a more worldly life. Olivier died suddenly in October 1965, aged 38. Forlorn, Lacloche would live to oversee the posthumous publication of L'Arbre à lettres (1966) and to stand ferocious guard over Larronde's work.

Facing an alcohol problem of his own, he moved to the Lot, where he finally found contentment in rural life, in his books and with his beloved wife, Vera. As a last tribute to Larronde he edited (with Patrick Mauriès) L'Ivraie en ordre: poèmes et textes retrouvès (2002), an extraordinary collection of unpublished poems, drafts, marginalia, fragments and photographs that complements the Oeuvres poétiques complètes which came out in the same year, prefaced with a brief memoir by Lacloche. Thus the muse repaid the poet, generously.

Jean-Pierre Lacloche is survived by one son, Olivier Massart, and is to be interred beside Olivier Larronde, and close to the grave of Stéphane Mallarmé, in the small cemetery of Valins near Fontainebleau.

Anne Dunn

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