'Portrait of an Artist'

22 May 2005
It's one of the most unusual books in the canon of U2 literature.
French journalist Michka Assayas has recently published an extended series of
conversations with Bono.

The conversations, took place over the past three years in different locations around the world. Assayas sees the book as an extended inquiry into the creative process, not documentary or biography.

Assayas, who has known Bono since he first reported on U2 in 1980, had the idea for the book after reading a book of conversations between the young film critic Francois Truffaut and then legendary director Alfred Hitchcock.

'There is a tradition of books which are quite different from anything you usually find in the rock and roll genre. I think this is the sort of book you would normally associate with a writer, a painter or a film director - but Bono is a very unusual rock star.'

The result of the 'conversations' is a 300-page literary journey from family life to songwriting, from the relationships within U2 to the relationship with Bono's father, from raising kids to campaigning for justice for the worlds poorest countries.

Reflections on fame jostle with those on global injustice, anecdotes about celebrities come cheek by jowl with arguments about theology. As the conversation proceeds, not only is the creative process illluminated, so is the chaotically creative nature of the subject at the centre.

'It was like being invited to make a series of sketches and paintings of a great contemporary figure and he was happy that I invited him to be part of such an experiment, that's the surprising thing to me.'

Not that the process was trouble free. There were times when Assayas had to
remind himself that Bono was a man of his word, that the conversations would
continue, that the book would be completed.

'Sometimes I thought it would take ten years to complete. Sometimes he was
totally unavailable for months and I would have no idea where he was!'

And what is his hope for the book? He cites the experience of visiting The Louvre in Paris or the National Gallery in London and studying the portraits of famous faces from history.

'Sometimes the way they stare at you .. you realise the painter has captured this extraordinary impression of truth in their subject. In my wildest dreams I hope that people who read this book in years to come will get that same feeling about my 'painting' of Bono ^ how did he manage to capture that look ?,


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