Érik Satie (1866—1925) was a French composer and pianist. Satie was a colorful figure in the early 20th century Parisian avant-garde. His work was a precursor to later artistic movements such as minimalism, repetitive music, and the Theatre of the Absurd. In 1879 Satie entered the Paris Conservatoire, where he was soon labeled untalented by his teachers. Georges Mathias, his professor of piano at the Conservatoire, described his pupil’s piano technique in flatly negative terms, “insignificant and laborious” and “worthless”. Emile Decombes called him “the laziest student in the Conservatoire”.
Erik Satie was attacked by fever and gout repeatedly in his later years, caused his doctor Finot great distress, especially when he refused to eat, claiming that he was already dead, and that the dead did not eat. Yet if he had not eaten, he would have died for a fact. But he could never be persuaded that he was alive, and consequently, that he should eat. Finally Finot and another doctor who attended him decided to agree that he was dead, but to argue that some dead persons ate.
They offered to show him some, and brought in several persons they could count on, and who said they were as dead as he was but still went on eating. This device did the trick, but he would only eat with the other “dead” and Finot. His appetite was good, although Finot despaired at the persistence of his fantasy. Finot would double up with laughter, however, when recounting the otherworldly conversations that took place at these meals.
Erik’s doctor Finot always told him to smoke. He even explains himself:
“Smoke, my friend. Otherwise someone else will smoke in your place.”