When someone notes that it is a strange family name for a Frenchman, he points out that his father's family was Russian. That's what he says, but he's not sure himself if it's correct, because Federman often confuses Poland with Russia in his mind as well as in his writing. Federman never studied geography when he was in school, he never got to that subject, he was forced out of school, for reasons which Federman is always reluctant to elucidate.
Federman never seems to notice that Federman is a pretty strange name for a Russian, too. [How ignorant can a guy be?]
The name Federman is a polylingual pun. Feder is German for feather, and so Federmann would be featherman -- der Mensch von Feder. In French, since Federman often speaks to himself in French, feather is plume which, of course, is also pen or porte-plume -- but that's too obvious.
By a rather roundabout linguistic route [known as the leapfrog technique] Federman becomes the penman [homme de plume for those who know him only in French, hombre de la pluma for those who know him in Spanish]. The Penman, a very joycean name which contains within it Federman's vocation as a kind of etymological guarantee. No, rather, a very beckettian name, because of the cringing scatological humor that surfaces from this transatlantic leap into the reverse of farness, as Old Sam Beckett once put it. Farterman, as some of his friends call him.
Federman -- a name, a pun that contains within it not only his vocation, but Moinous' misfortunes, too. Moinous -- the secret name Federman gives himself when he pretends to be a spy, or a musketeer, or a paratrooper, or a jazz musician, or a French lover, or an experimental writer.
Yes, that's what Federman sometimes calls himself, Moinous, and if you ask him, who is Moinous? he tells you: oh just a word, a name I made up. It means, me/us. By the way, it's also the name on the license plate of his wife's car.
His wife, when people ask her, who is Moinous? always answers: Moinous! That's the guy who bought the car.
Moinous is o-m-i-n-o-u-s.
But the feder/feather/plume/moinous/etc. also has about it a sense of flight, of voltigement and lightness, a birdlike quality, of escape, of escapade, of disappearance and reappearance within itself, of being both present and absent at the same time. Of being here and elsewhere and everywhere. Now and always and forever.
From Federman to Namredef [another name Federman is fond of using] there is but a stroke of the pen -- la plume -- yes, a little reverse twist of the wrist, and voilà, Federman is here and there at the same time, laughing madly because, once again, Federman succeeded in doing a little linguistic somersault in his own name. A great leapfrog over the Atlantic. That's how much Federman loves his name.
He would do anything for it, anything to preserve it, even if it means breaking his neck doing linguistic somersaults within his own name. That's how flexible the name Federman is.
After all, Federman will tell you, my father was not only a Russian, he was a Russian Cossack. Perhaps the only Jewish Cossack in the entire Russian Cossack Army ever. And in Russian they called my father: Dimitri Fyodor Konstantin Merdov Ivanovitch Federmanov.
And he will even tell you that one of his ancestors was nobility, the Baron Nicolas von Federman, a 16th century German Conquistador, who died an unfortunate death by drowning while paddling a rowboat down some infested river in the jungles of the New World -- a rowboat full of treasures, gold, precious stones, ancient statues, bibelots, even money, or whatever rare currency was used for money in those days. Yes, Federman's glorious ancestor, Le Baron Nicolas de Féderman, as he was known in France when he resided at the court of Henry IV, before he sailed to the New World in conquest of fame and fortune, drowned rowing down some infested river in the jungles of some yet unnamed country. That's what Federman will tell you, if you ask him where the name Federman comes from, and what it means.
His wife [whose name shall not be investigated today, a name loaded with beautiful possibilities -- Hubscher was her maiden name, which means more beautiful] always tells him that Federman does not mean Penman, that it has nothing to do with la plume and his vocation as a writer, that the name simply came from what his ancestors were doing back in the old country. And what were Federman's ancestors doing in the old country? his wife explains, plucking chicken feathers in the steppes of Russian or the Ghettos of Poland. That's all you are, his lovely wife always tells him [not sarcastically, not meanly, no, on the contrary, gently, lovingly, affectionately] -- a featherplucker.
But Federman gets mad when people call him a featherplucker. I would prefer to be a chickenfucker than a featherplucker, he shouts angrily at them. And he really means it.
That's how much Federman loves his name. Federman would kill the guy who would fuck with his name.
He gets so mad when in the German Press [where his name often appears because of his reputation as a famous Schriftsteller -- yes, Federman is a famous writer in Germany, that's the cringing irony of his life] they spell Federmann with an extra n. That really bugs him to be so easily assimilated into German Kultur -- with a K.
Federman is proud of his name. Even if you offered him a million dollars, ten million dollars, he would not sell you his name, he would not change it. That's how proud he is of his name, how much he respects his own name. But Federman is worried, because he is the last Federman in his family. The end of the line. All the other Federmans have already changed tense. And Federman has no son by that name.
Ah, but he has a daughter, and his daughter -- the kid as he calls her, or puce, or pipsy, or mademoiselle Federman, or Professor Federman [yes, Professor Federman, his lovely daughter is also a professor, but that's another story which has nothing to do, or perhaps has everything to do with the name Federman] -- even though she is now old enough to tell Federman what she thinks of him [and she often does], his daughter is so proud of the name Federman, that she will never, never, she says, even if she were to be tortured, change that name, or assume another name. She is all Federman. That is why Federman loves his name and loves those who carry that name.