Beyond Words – Full Line-Up and Programme

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Institut français has announced an impressive line-up of author events and films screenings for the inaugural Beyond Words Live French Literature Festval.

2017 has been a busy year for translated fiction, with an exceptionally dense list of books coming out in English translation, and a flurry of European writers attending UK festivals. Amongst an unusually rich French contingent of books published this year, there are no less than four Goncourt prizes (Lydie Salvayre, Alexis Jenni, Mathias Enard and Laurent Binet) one Renaudot Prize (Delphine de Vigan), and three selections for major UK prizes (Maylis de Kerangal shortlisted for the Wellcome Trust prize, Mathias Enard and Alain Mabanckou longlisted for the Man Booker International 2017).

The Beyond Words Festival will be showcasing these works and other recent books with a relevance to France, through an entirely bilingual series of guest writer appearances, panel discussions, staged reading performances and film adaptations. The festival opens on Thursday 11 May

Venue: Institut français, 17 Queensberry Place, London SW7 2DT – Info & bookings: www.beyondwordslitfest.co.uk

Programme – at the Institut français

Thursday 11 May 2017

David Bellos: Victor Hugo revisited

Victor Hugo’s Les Misérables is the most loved, most read and most adapted novel of the nineteenth century. Prizewinning biographer and translator David Bellos argues that it outshines even its most illustrious contemporaries— for War and Peace, Madame Bovary, Great Expectations, Crime and Punishment were all published within a few years. His talk will bring to life the extraordinary story of how Victor Hugo managed to write his epic work despite a revolution, a coup d’état and political exile; how he pulled off an astonishing deal to get it published, and set it on course to become the novel that epitomizes the grand sweep of history in the nineteenth century. This biography of a masterpiece insists that the moral and social message of Hugo’s novel, its plea for a new sense of justice, is just as important for our century as it was for its own.

5.30pm -6.30pm – £10, conc. £8
In English

The End of Eddy by Edouard Louis

“Before I had a chance to rebel against the world of my childhood, that world rebelled against me”. The festival opens with an exceptional staged reading of a book which took the French literary scene by storm. Translated into twenty languages and now into English by Harvill Secker, Edouard Louis’ The End of Eddy (translated by Michael Lucey) tells the life of a young gay boy growing up in a French town crushed by misery, alcoholism, racism and homophobia. Giving a voice to the voiceless, it is a painful and vibrant story of escape and revolt. How to reinvent what has been forced upon us? How to get the better of a life not chosen? Adapted to the stage by French director Richard Brunel, director of the Comédie de Valence National Theatre, with Henry Pettigrew in the title role, and actors newly graduated from the Manchester School of Theatre.

7pm – 8.30pm – £15, conc. £13
In English

Friday 12 May 2017

Michael Rosen: The Disappearance of Emile Zola

Discover the incredible story of Emile Zola’s escape to London in the aftermath of the scandalous Dreyfus Affair. Michael Rosen, Children’s Laureate and author of more than 140 books enjoyed by children and adults alike, offers an intriguing and personal insight into the mind, the love, and the politics of Zola in a book published this year by Faber & Faber. He will take you behind the scenes of the famous “J’accuse” that forced Zola to leave Paris in disgrace.

6pm – 7pm – £10, conc. £8

French Poetry Live

Poems are to be shared, embodied, whispered and spoken out loud, and our poetry libraries are full of fragments of wisdom and beauty waiting to be re-read. Come and bring to life an exciting selection of French poetry from the National Poetry Library’s collection, by Baudelaire, Cendrars, Apollinaire, Vénus Khoury-Ghata and more. A collective performance led by Erica Jarnes – no preparation necessary, just bring your voice and ears.

6.30pm – 7.30pm – £10, conc. £8

In English and French

Alexis Jenni and Hisham Matar: Rewriting History

To celebrate the UK launch of The French Art of War (Atlantic Books) and the French publication of The Return (Penguin/Gallimard), we welcome Goncourt prize winner Alexis Jenni and PEN America 2017 laureate Hisham Matar. Jenni’s novel spans essential decades of recent French history, from the aftermath of the Second World War in the 1950s, to the decolonisation and Algerian war of the 1970s. Meanwhile, Matar tells his illuminating journey to find his father, kidnapped and handed over to the Libyan regime in 1990, and retraces his steps to rediscover his country after years of exile. Both authors will be joined by their translators, French writer Agnès Desarthe and Frank Wynne, for a discussion on writing, generations, history and violence.

7.30pm – 9.00pm – £10, conc. £8

Corniche Kennedy
Film
FRA | 2016 | dir. Dominique Cabrera

Adapted from a novel by Maylis de Kerangal, Corniche Kennedy follows a group of adolescents from the working class neighbourhoods of Marseille who defy the laws of gravity in this ode to youthful sincerity and blue summers by the Mediterranean sea. Maylis de Kerangal has just been shortlisted for the Wellcome Trust prize for Mend the Living (MacLehose Press). Followed by a Q&A with director Dominique Cabrera.

8.40pm – 10.30pm – £12, conc. £10
In French with English subtitles

Saturday 13 May 2017

Truth and Fiction

For this special festival edition of our Café Philo, come and discuss the question of truth and fiction. In times of PostTruth and alternative realities, what do we hope for when we read fictional stories? To what extent do fragments of reality impact the imaginary quality of the narrative? What narratives and fictions seem most relevant to today’s concerns?

10.30am – 12pm – £2
In English

Emmanuelle Pagano and Ananda Devi

Join Emmanuelle Pagano, Ananda Devi and the brand new Librairie Caravanserail for an afternoon of readings and more. In Trysting (And Other Stories), Emmanuelle Pagano presents a myriad of minutely choreographed vignettes on love and desire. Ananda Devi sets Eve out of her Ruins (Les Fugitives) in her native island Mauritius, telling the loss of innocence of four teenagers against the backdrop of postcolonial fin-de-siècle. Pagano and Devi will talk about their work and the influences of other voices and art forms. The talk will be followed by a festive moment to celebrate the launch of Caravanserail.

3pm – 4pm – £10, conc. £8
In English and French

A Woman’s Life
Film
FRA | 2016 | dir. Stéphane Brizé

In this compelling adaptation of Guy de Maupassant’s A Woman’s Life, Jeanne, a young noblewoman, copes with the loss of her ideals as she sets out on the path of adulthood and gradually experiences the harsh realities of a woman’s life in the nineteenth century.

4pm – 6pm – £12, conc. £10

In French with English subtitles

Mathias Malzieu: Diary of a Vampire in Pyjamas

“To have had my life saved has been the most extraordinary adventure I have ever had” says Mathias Malzieu. Best known as the lead singer of the French band Dionysos, Mathias is now also an acclaimed writer. He will join us – possibly with some music – on the occasion of the UK launch of his latest book, Diary of a Vampire in Pyjamas by Quercus. Insightful, tragic and funny, it is the memoir of one who lives to tell the tale of his close encounter with death, and of his addictive wonder at the triumph of the human spirit.

5pm – 6pm – £10, conc. £8
In English and French

Man Booker International Readings

Mathias Enard’s nocturnal and musical Goncourt-winning novel Compass (Fitzcarraldo Editions, translated by Charlotte Mandel) spans the restless night of an insomniac musicologist drifting between dreams and memories of the Middle East, of Aleppo, Damascus and Tehran, as well as of various writers, artists, musicians and orientalists. Meanwhile, Alain Mabanckou’s Black Moses (Serpent’s Tail, translated by Helen Stevenson), a larger than life comic tale set in 1970s Congo, shows the struggle of a young man obsessed with helping the helpless in an unjust world. Storytellers Alia Alzougbi and David Mildon, accompanied by oud player Rihab Azar, invite you to celebrate these two novels, both longlisted for the 2017 Man Booker International Prize.

6.30pm – 7.30pm – £10, conc.£8
In English and French Related

Sunday 14 May 2017

Sophie’s Misfortunes
Film
FRA | 2016 | dir. Christophe Honoré

Christophe Honoré’s recent adaptation of the Comtesse de Ségur’s classic collection of stories about mischievous little Sophie will delight kids and young at heart. Far from being a model little girl, she’s constantly up to no good, cutting her mother’s fish into tiny pieces, making chalk tea or torturing her wax doll.

11am – 1pm – £5
In French with English subtitles

Hiroshima mon Amour
Film FRA | 1959 | dir. Alain Resnais

One of the most influential films of all time, Alain Resnais’ Hiroshima mon amour features Marguerite Duras’s clear, minimalist and haunting prose and revealed Emmanuelle Riva to the world as a French actress who engages in a brief, intense affair with a Japanese architect in postwar Hiroshima.

2pm – 4pm – £9, conc. £7
In French with English subtitles

Lydie Salvayre: Cry, Mother Spain

Goncourt Prize-winning Cry, Mother Spain takes us to the heart of the Spanish Civil War, as seen through the delicate transcription of a politically, emotionally and linguistically charged conversation between mother and daughter. Montse is fifteen as Franco’s forces begin their murderous purges and cities across Spain rise up against the old order. Those troubled times, both the happiest and most miserable years of Montse’s life, are set against darker extracts taken from the contemporary account Les Grands Cimetières sous la lune by Georges Bernanos. Lydie Salvayre will be in conversation with her translator Ben Faccini.

4pm – 5pm – £10, conc. £8

Delphine de Vigan: Based on a True Story

Based on a True Story by Delphine de Vigan is a prize-winning, sophisticated and chilling novel of suspense which continually blurs the line between fact and fiction. Just published by Bloomsbury in a translation by George Miller, this unputdownable book takes the reader into a nightmarish story of master manipulation. Rarely seen in London, Delphine de Vigan will tell us more about the boundaries between reality and fantasy, friendship and fascination, and a little too about her previous bestselling books No and Me and Nothing Holds back the Night.

5.30pm – 6.30pm – £10, conc. £8
In English and French

Tuesday 16 May 2017

Laurent Binet: The Seventh Function of Language

February 1980. Roland Barthes is knocked down in a Paris street by a laundry van. History tells us it was an accident. But what if it were an assassination? What if Barthes was carrying a document of global importance? A document explaining the seventh function of language – which gives whoever masters it the ability to convince anyone, in any situation, to do anything. Who can you trust when the idea of truth itself is at stake? Laurent Binet, author of the bestselling HHhH and winner of the Goncourt first novel prize, will be presenting this brilliantly erudite comedy, published by Harvill Secker, in discussion with British author and journalist Alex Preston.

6.30pm – 7.30pm – £10, conc. £8

In English and French

Programme – at the British Library and Dulwich Books

Dulwich Books: France Country of the Month

A discussion with Alexis Jenni, Emmanuelle Pagano, Mathias Malzieu and Ananda Devi led by British author, historian and French literary critic Graham Robb. Dulwich Books, shortlisted for the British Book Awards 2017 Independent Bookshop of the Year, celebrates France as their country of the Month this May.

Sunday 14 May
3 – 5pm – £5
Venue: Dulwich Books Bookshop
6 Croxted Road, West Dulwich
London SE21 8SW
www.dulwichbooks.co.uk

Le Grand Tour: The Best of Contemporary French Fiction

Join the crème de la crème of French authors, Alexis Jenni, Lydie Salvayre and Delphine de Vigan at the British Library, where they will showcase their newly translated works through readings and short performances.

Monday 15 May
7 – 8.30pm – £12, conc. £8

Venue: British Library Knowledge Centre Theatre
96 Euston Road
London NW1 2DB
www.bl.uk

Beyond Words – Live French Literature Festival

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Institut français has announced it will host a Beyond Words, brand new festival celebrating French literature. A six-day programme of events packed with guest appearances of French-language writers recently translated into English, and English-language writers who have a special love affair with France, including Delphine de Vigan, Alexis Jenni, Lydie Salvayre, Laurent Binet, Hisham Matar and Michael Rosen.

The festival opens on Thursday 11 May with a staged reading of Edouard Louis’ The End of Eddy with Henry Pettigrew in the title role. Star speakers Michael Rosen and David Bellos will talk about Emile Zola and Victor Hugo and their relevance to our times. Meanwhile, Goncourt Prize-winning Alexis Jenni, just published in English (The French Art of War), and PEN award and Pulitzer prize winner Hisham Matar, just published in French (The Return), will meet to discuss the Re-writing of History, accompanied by their translators Frank Wynne and Agnès Desarthe.

Hugely popular in France, prize-winning writers Lydie Salvayre, Delphine de Vigan, and Laurent Binet will be making exceptional London appearances to talk about their recently translated novels (Cry, Mother Spain, Based on a True Story, The Seventh Function of Language), both at the Institut français and at the British Library where a special evening on contemporary French fiction takes place on 15 May. To celebrate the 2017 Man Booker International Prize, a performance of staged and musical readings of Mathias Enard and Alain Mabanckou’s longlisted books (Compass, Black Moses) will take place at the Institut français on 13 May. Dulwich Books will also be hosting an afternoon session with festival guests on 14 May.

French poetry will not be forgotten, with an original collective live reading experience led by Erica Jarnes in partnership with the Southbank Poetry Library. Nor will philosophy, with a special session on truth and fiction. Other highlights include talks with Dionysos lead singer Mathias Malzieu who will be launching his Diary of a Vampire in Pyjamas, Emmanuelle Pagano and Ananda Devi, both recently translated into English this year (Trysting, Eve Out of Her Ruins).

There will be on-site booksellers and book signing sessions throughout the festival, as well as a special selection of film adaptations including Corniche Kennedy (Maylis de Kerangal), A Woman’s Life (Maupassant) and Hiroshima mon Amour (Duras).

Venue: Institut français, 17 Queensberry Place, London SW7 2DT – Info & bookings: www.beyondwordslitfest.co.uk

Totally Serialized – Interview with Caroline Proust

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Caroline Proust, star of Spiral, visited Institut Francais and revealed behind-the-scenes secrets of France’s most successful police series to more than 200 fans.

Frequently compared to The Wire, Spiral’s hard-edged view of French policing introduced British audiences to Gallic Noir. Now in its fifth season, a sixth will be produced later this year, this gritty drama tackles issues facing contemporary France through the eyes of its justice system.

The latest series has been the most successful to date in the UK. Critics have responded with levels of fervour not seen since The Bridge and ratings have topped the million mark.

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Making her début at a British event, a visibly delighted Proust admitted to being surprised at Spiral’s popularity in Britain.

‘We just knew that there’s been a million viewers for this season,’ she says. ‘Gregory (Fitoussi – Pierre Clément) told me. He worked here on Mr Selfridge and he told me that it was a big success here.’

Fresh from delivering a masterclass on how the show is made and her approach to playing Laure. Proust posed for photographs and signed autographs for over 200 fans.

She recently joined Facebook and has connected with over 3,000 enthusiasts.

‘I opened a Facebook account because I wanted to know what was happening in other countries,’ she explains. ‘This is very interesting for me to hear from Italian, Greek, American, and English fans. There are many English fans.’

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A classically trained actor, Proust was primarily known for her work on the stage when she joined the series. In between seasons she returns to the theatre. Would she be interested in appearing in the West End?

‘I would really like to do that. Maybe I can come with a French play. I came years ago with the play Game of Love and Chance.’

Spiral’s popularity is on the rise. Might now be the time to capitalise on its success and make a feature film?

‘We were wondering. The producer asked us if we want to do a cinema movie. First time we said yes, yes we want to do that and we said I don’t know if it’s a good idea,’ she says. ‘The thing which is very interesting is that you can show how complex human beings are. In the movie you only have one and a half hours.’

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Institut Francais have posted a podcast containing extracts from Caroline Proust and Anne Landois’ panels:

For information about future events please contact:

Institut Français, 17 Queensberry Place, London SW7 2DT

Info & booking: 020 7871 3515

http://www.institut-francais.org.uk/

Spiral – Series 5 can be ordered from Amazon:

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Spiral-5-DVD-Gr%C3%A9gory-Fitoussi/dp/B00SBA4LRY/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1424559750&sr=8-1&keywords=spiral+series+5

Event Review: Totally Serialized – Decrypting Spiral

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Shining a light onto the finest TV currently being produced on both sides of the English Channel, Totally Serialized returned to Institute Francais for a fourth season of discussions and exclusive premières.

Launching three days of festivities, Spiral’s showrunner Anne Landois spoke to James Rampton from The Independent about her career, how the series is made, and its popularity in France and the UK.

Now in its tenth year of production, Spiral is seen in 75 countries. Created by Alexandra Clert and Guy-Patrick Sainderichin for French cable network Canal+, it’s the station’s longest running drama series. Transforming the network’s fortunes, it re-positioned the station into a French equivalent of HBO. Seen in 75 countries, Spiral is the most widely sold series in the history of French television.

Canal+  is committed to ensuring the programme has a long-term future. A sixth season has been commissioned and is due to go into production later this year.

Writing professionally since 1996, Anne Landois joined Spiral’s scripting team for the third season. The series currently airing on BBC Four is her first as head writer.

With a track record for writing series and TV movies grounded in realism alongside a long-term interest in policing and judicial process, Landois was a perfect choice to become the new creative force behind Spiral.

As showrunner Landois oversees the series’ artistic vision. In conjunction with a co-writer she crafts a detailed document that encapsulates the season’s main story, subplots, and character developments. This blueprint is then distributed to writers of individual episodes.

The production team uses a core group of advisers comprising police officers, lawyers, and judges throughout the scripting to guarantee the series is rooted in reality. Anne acknowledged the importance of consultants and emphasised the need to have good writers on board to create gripping drama.

Asked how writing has changed this season Landois replied that over the last decade viewers had become close to the main characters and now was the time to concentrate on their personal stories.

She compared the officers interrelationship to a blended family with Laure Berthaud as a surrogate matriarch of the household.

French television drama is currently experiencing a creative renaissance. In addition to Spiral, Braquo, Hard, JO, Maison Close, and The Returned have enjoyed success and acclaim outside of France. Anne said that French drama had been asleep but is now wide awake. The industry has studied shows coming out of English speaking territories, learning techniques in production and applying the lessons to home-grown series.

Explaining how a series is scripted and produced, Landois provided an accessible account of a showrunner’s working methods and differences between French and British television cultures. Fans of Spiral left Institute Francais with an enhanced appreciation of the writer’s craft and an increased understanding of the many production decisions that are made to bring their favourite French crime show to the screen.

For information about future events please contact:

Institut Français, 17 Queensberry Place, London SW7 2DT

Info & booking: 020 7871 3515 – http://www.institut-francais.org.uk/

ENGRENAGES Saison 5 PHOTO PRESSE

Event Review: William Boyd & Marc Dugain – The Great War, Memory & Fiction

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Commemorating the centenary of the First World War Institute Francais invited a pair of acclaimed writers to talk about the conflict and it’s enduring literary legacy.

Inspired by his great grandfather’s experiences during World War One Marc Dugain wrote The Officer’s Ward in fifteen days. An instant critical and commercial success, it won several literary awards including the Prix des Deux Magots.

Wounded early on in the conflict, Dugain’s grandfather suffered extensive facial injuries and spent the remainder of the war convalescing in a hospital. He had to undergo nineteen surgical procedures in an attempt to repair his face. For the rest of his life he had trouble speaking, was only able to eat liquidised food and developed an ability to pull his tongue through the reconstructed nose.

Dugain’s moving account of a soldier spending several years in the Val-de-Grâce hospital rebuilding his life whilst beyond the institution’s walls millions were losing their lives in a bloody conflict waged across the continent is now studied in French schools.

A feature film adaptation was released in 2001. Nominated for nine César awards, it was submitted as the official entry at the Cannes Film Festival.

Dugain acknowledged that the First World War has greater resonance in contemporary French culture than the second due to the nation not yet having come to terms with atrocities committed and allegations that some citizens may have collaborated with invading Nazi forces.

Offering an alternative to conventional historical narratives, Dugain expressed his belief that events between 1914 and 1945 was a single war with a lengthy interlude. He suggested a complex series of events including the Treaty of Versailles made a resumption of hostilities inevitable.

Discussing the writing process Dugain stated that it’s his duty to create a fiction firmly grounded in reality.

A future project will be a script about the role played by Chinese Labour Corps in the conflict. With China not officially involved in hostilities until the decoration of war against Germany in 1917 battalions were restricted to non combatant duties. Under-represented in film and literature, the experiences of those who dug trenches and carried bodies is a story, he feels, has to be told.

Members of fellow panellist William Boyd’s family were also injured in the line of duty. His grandfather was wounded in the back at the Battle of Somme and kept the shrapnel as a souvenir. A great uncle was wounded at Paschendale.

One of Britain’s most successful novelists. Boyd’s work has been translated into more than thirty languages. In a career lasting more than three decades he has written the screenplay for Chaplin, authored a biography of fictitious artist Nat Tate and enlisted the aid of David Bowie in a playful hoax that fooled New York’s art critic community.

Boyd made his debut as director in 1999 with the feature film The Trench. Starring a pre-Bond Daniel Craig, the movie focused on a platoon in the hours leading up to the Battle of the Somme.

Currently living in France, Boyd spoke with passion about how the conflict has influenced his writing, differences between French and British commemorations, and the creation of historical myths.

Boyd suggested that in trying to understand events of one hundred years ago we may be distorting key political moments by trying to see them through a twenty-first century perspective. The creation of a historical narrative may have prioritised specific steps in the road to war and devalued instances which were regarded as significant at the time.

In common with many school children, Boyd was taught the War Poets at school. The horrors described in Sassoon’s verse were too much for a fellow pupil who fled from the classroom.

Boyd noted a tendency in war literature to make combat noble and heroic. He expressed a belief that writers and filmmakers have a duty to demythologise the conflict and show the true extent of horror experienced by those fighting in the front line.

When writing about the past he strives to strip away false glamour and heroism. His historical novels are written to challenge false assumptions about the eras and give the readers a greater understanding of the events without exaggeration or sensationalism.

An enlightening and engaging debate offering an insight into the workings of two highly successful novelists, how family experiences in the First World War continues to influence their work and the role they are playing in making sure the fallen will never be forgotten.

For information about future events being staged by Institut Français please contact:

Institut Français, 17 Queensberry Place, London SW7 2DT

Info & booking: 020 7871 3515 – http://www.institut-francais.org.uk/

Event Review: Noir is the Colour – Crafting Crime Fiction

Fielding a team of crime writing talent comprised of players from either side of the channel the third event of Institut FrancaisNoir is the Colour festival put together a package of talent proving that Europe is an unbeatable world champion in the Noir stakes. Alongside Barry Forshaw’s recently published Euro Noir, this celebration of the potent contemporary scene offers up a melange of the familiar and unknown. Authors new to UK readers sit alongside more established names discussing common ground and differences in stylistic approaches, influences, and working methods. For those who prefer the allure of the printed page to a soccer tournament the opportunity to sit in an enchanting reading room and see four of Europe’s most vital current writers talk about their craft and careers before that all important first publication was a fruitful experience. Akin to a camp fire conversation, an informal and inviting commemoration that embraced newcomers and rewarded long term enthusiasts.

Current co-director of Books by the Beach festival and former crime critic for The Observer, Peter Guttridge is the author of the well received Brighton mystery series and a remarkable account of The Great Train Robbery. His latest novel Those Who Feel Nothing has been published by Severn House, a review will be posted on this blog at a later date. A visible passion for the genre, familiarity with the European scene paired with an informal style of questioning that set the tone for an evening in which the panellists were made to feel completely relaxed and the audience were stimulated proved Institut Francais had picked the right person to referee the opening match between the World Cup and literature.

Playing for team Europe were Nicci French and Bernard Minier, unlocking the secrets of writing and confirming that within a crime book are moments every bit as dramatic as the action on a Brazilian soccer pitch.

Published in 2011 Bernard Minier’s print début The Frozen Dead was met with a warm reception, this tale of murder in a snowbound valley became an instant best-seller. The UK edition was issued in 2013 to widespread critical acclaim. Growing up at the foot of the Pyrenees Minier knew that the landscape was an incredible environment which would make the perfect backdrop for a Noir crime novel.

A lifelong love of literature was formed during primary school after hearing a teacher read Robinson Crusoe to the class. Entranced by the written word’s power he spontaneously decided that his life would be dedicated to crafting narratives. Cutting his literary teeth writing short fiction, he submitted stories to contests. This confidence building exercise replayed over many years sharpened his talent to the point that after completing a six hundred page draft of his première novel he was able to submit it to publishing houses with accompanying evidence of a clear vision for exciting future literary projects.

Describing himself as a “young, old writer” he worked as a civil servant whilst composing his first book. The product of two and a half years creating the cinematic vistas so elegantly described in The Frozen Dead was a lonely experience. With nobody to bounce ideas off he toiled away in relative isolation and wouldn’t allow anybody to see the product of his work before a publisher had given its verdict.

The sequel novel is currently being translated into English, a third has been released in France and a TV series is in the early stages of pre-production.

 

Former journalists Nicci Gerrard and Sean French write together under the pseudonym Nicci French. Masters of the genre, this husband and wife team, best known for a series of novels featuring psychotherapist Frieda Klein, have authored eighteen books. Thursday’s Child their most recent publication sees the analyst turned investigator confronting some painful demons as she returns to her home town.

Revealing a few tricks of the trade, Sean French admitted that sometimes the ideas which light the blue touch paper of the creative process are comparatively simple. The work begins when along with his writing partner he evaluates this creative seed to ascertain if it has potential to grow into something which will excite them over the many months of sculpting a narrative they hope will enthral their readers. Armed with that initial plot point they discuss why it needs to be written and once both are animated the hard work of translating it into compelling prose begins.

As Nicci Gerrard explained, the evaluation process doesn’t stop with the writing of a first draft, sometimes only after they have a finished manuscript in their hands is it possible to appraise the core concept’s worth. She once scrapped an entire novel after falling out of love with it but instantly got back in the saddle after becoming excited by a new story concept.

Currently working on the fifth Frieda Klein book, Nicci offered an insight into an author’s mind when she revealed that for most writers reaching the end of a book is a terrifying experience because of the fear that never again will be they be able to recreate the alchemy of transforming an idea into a dramatic book that readers are unable to put down. With acute perception Sean French noted that Stephen King’s two most terrifying novels concern writers; Misery and The Shining.

As London settled down to watch the première match of the soccer tournament Institut Francais provided an arena for some of the most distinct writers in Europe’s contemporary crime fiction scene to reveal details about their working methods, personal backgrounds, and approaches to genre. A relaxed and informative evening that gave those who were fortunate to attend an increased awareness of the precise disciplines required to create a book length manuscript.

The latest titles from all the authors appearing at Noir is the Colour can be ordered from Amazon:

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Those-Who-Feel-Nothing-Brighton-based/dp/0727883607/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1403567624&sr=8-1&keywords=Those+Who+Feel+Nothing

http://www.amazon.co.uk/The-Frozen-Dead-Bernard-Minier/dp/1444732269/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1403567685&sr=8-1&keywords=the+frozen+dead

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Thursdays-Children-Frieda-Klein-Novel/dp/0718156994/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1403545727&sr=8-1&keywords=Nicci+French

For more information about Noir is the Colour contact:

Institut français, 17 Queensberry Place, London SW7 2DT

Info & booking: 020 7871 3515 – http://www.institut-francais.org.uk/

 

Event Review: Noir is the Colour – Simenon and Monsieur Hire

Building on the success of an enlightening and rewarding launch event, Institut Francais‘s second programme of its Noir is the Colour festival was a screening of Patrice Leconte’s adaptation of Monsieur Hire’s Engagement followed by a free and frank discussion of the film and Simenon’s legacy chaired by biographers Pierre Assouline and Patrick Marnham.

One of the 20th century’s most prolific and widely read authors, French-speaking Belgian novelist George Simenon’s prodigious output consists of 193 novels under his own name, numerous short stories, and an estimated 200 books written under a variety of pseudonyms. Effortlessly crossing the divide between literary and mass-market genre fiction, he is best known by English speaking readers for the seventy five Maigret novels which are now being reissued by Penguin on a monthly basis in newly translated editions.

Writing professionally since fifteen, his talent for producing page upon page of concise prose at a rate that astounded his peers and would entertain millions of people across the globe was honed in the competitive worlds of a newspaper’s crime desk and the pulp fiction industry. Two years after arriving in Paris he embarked on a literary apprenticeship producing erotica, romances, crime and adventure novellas under a variety of pen names including Germain d’Antibes, Christian Brulls, Jacques Dersonne, Jean Dorsage, Luc Dorsan, Georges Gom Gut, Georges d’Isly, Georges-Marin, Jean du Perry, Plick et Plock, Georges Sim, Gaston Vialis, and Poum et Zette.

A master of publicity and subterfuge, in 1927 he signed a contract with entrepreneur Eugene Merle to write a novel whilst locked inside in a glass cage. An opportunity to publicly demonstrate his gift, giving fans a literal window into the creative process along with a chance to influence the book’s outcome. Conceived as a launch event for a newspaper, the terms of Simenon’s arrangement with Merle specified that he was to provide the publication with an exclusive book which would be serialized over several weeks. Members of the public were to vote on the book’s theme and its title. Paid a princely sum of 50,000 francs upon signing the contract with the promise of a further 50,000 once the completed manuscript was delivered, the attendant media interest boosted Simenon’s profile. Over the next few decades this incident became a core part of the mythology which had grown up around the author.

In the 1990s after reading about accounts of an author so confident in his industrious output that he turned the writing process into a public spectacle science fiction writer Harlan Ellison decided to repeat the experiment. X-Files creator and showrunner Chris Carter was enlisted to supply Ellison with a sealed envelope containing the story’s theme. As each page was completed it would be plucked from Ellison’s typewriter and placed in the store window for passers by to read. At the day’s end Ellison could bask in the glory of having a completed draft in his hands and feel satisfied at following in his literary hero’s footsteps. Some time afterwards he learnt that Simenon never got to write a story in that glass cage. Eugene Merle’s newspaper Paris-Matinal went into liquidation before the publicity stunt took place although under the terms of the contract Simenon kept the advance payment of 50,000 francs. The confusion about this incident’s occurrence (or lack of) grew, in part, because the author sensed a good publicity opportunity and when confronted with people who claimed to have witnessed him toiling away in that cage never corrected them.

A gigantic figure in the pantheon of 20th century European popular culture. Penguin’s exhaustive work in ensuring that only the finest translators bring his prose to a new generation of readers in the year in which long time fans will mourn the 25th anniversary of his passing brings the spotlight firmly back onto his unrivalled literary legacy. Compared by Paul Theroux to Albert Camus. Simenon’s admirers included Ian Fleming, Dashell Hammett, Somerset Maugham, and Henry Miller.

With a fresh edition appearing on the shelves of the nation’s booksellers each month new found converts to his intensely atmospheric paintings with words may become ever more curious about the man who gave life to Maigret. An enigma every bit as perplexing as those investigated by the pipe smoking detective, Georges Simenon’s life is shrouded by a sea of misdirection, inaccuracies, and falsehoods, some of his own creation. More than twenty volumes of memoirs contain either vague or contradictory information leaving the task of peeling away layers of a densely constructed public persona to diligent biographers.

Commercially successful and critically acclaimed, the Maigret novels raised the question of whether genre fiction could be treated as serious literature. Harbouring a yearning for “respectability” he wrote stand alone psychological novels alongside the steady stream of populist detective fiction. Melancholic and filled with the trademark Simenon immersive descriptions, these texts which he referred to as romans durs (hard novels) were existential angst ridden depictions of men confronted, and often corrupted, by greed and lust. Physical, spiritual, and emotional torment were constant companions of the doomed protagonists in these fatalistic fables.

Two years after Jules Maigret lit his first pipe his literary parent wrote Monsieur Hire’s Engagement , a gritty account of obsession and murder. Adapted for the big screen in 1947 by Julien Duvivier and released as Panique the film’s depiction of an angry mob hounding a man to his death struck a chord with a country coming to terms with all that had occurred during wartime occupation. In 1989 Simenon’s novella returned to the cinema courtesy of a claustrophobic re-imagining by Patrice Leconte.

Best known to UK audiences for The Girl on the Bridge and Man on the Train, Patrice Laconte had been making films for two decades by the time Monsieur Hire was released. Displaying a chameleon like ability to work within a variety of genres his craft demonstrated an understanding of the form along with a precise individual signature. Sympathetic to the material being filmed but never fawning, his style is based on an inherent ability to know when a sequence requires cynicism or compassion, sometimes setting these two oppositional approaches upon each other within a single scene.

Georges Simenon’s tale of obsession and isolation is in Laconte’s hands filtered through the prism of Alfred Hitchcock and Fritz Lang with a tip of the hat to German Expressionism. A concise novella translates into an equally precise motion picture that with a running time of seventy seven minutes never outstays its welcome and yet still manages to make viewers feel as though they have experienced a myriad of emotions.

The body of a murdered young girl is found and the Inspector (André Wilms) assigned to the case is convinced he has found the guilty party after hearing reports of a man fleeing from the scene, seeking refuge in an apartment block. Statements from neighbours lead the investigating officer to Monsieur Hire (Michel Blanc).

A loner, uncomfortable in his own skin and deeply unpopular with his neighbours Hire spends each night gazing at Alice (Sandrine Bonnaire) who lives just across the courtyard. One evening she catches a glimpse of her stalker and soon the balance of power is shifted… Exploiting his affections, she makes him feel impotent and it is not long before Hire is completely under her spell.

Simenon’s tale of fatalistic flaws, compulsion, repulsion, and misanthropic star-crossed pessimists is merged with Laconte’s exploration of scopophilia, paranoia, and erotomania. Highly intelligent filmmaking that plays games with the audience’s passivity, making the viewer experience the sensation of being complicit in the dark deeds whilst sharing in the pain of the inevitable downward spiral that Alice and Hire are dragged into.

Newcomers to Simenon’s legacy may have initially been unsure about the film’s place within his significant body of work. With the audience concentrating on reading subtitles a live DVD commentary explaining key plot points and recurrent themes would not have been a viable option but Noir is the Colour had the perfect solution… As the lights rose two leading Simenologists took to the stage fielding questions from neophytes and purists. Simenon’s career and life away from the printed page was dissected with the precision of a master pathologist. Shining a light into every aspect of the public and private persona, the lack of consensus about the man is something biographers have wrestled with for decades.

An afternoon that for those who were lucky to attend was a curtain raiser to many months enjoying Penguins reissues and for some the beginning of a quest to discover who was the real Simenon.

Pierre Assouline and Patrick Marnham’s Simenon biographies are currently out of print but second hand copies can be ordered from Amazon:

http://www.amazon.co.uk/The-Man-Who-Wasnt-Maigret/dp/0747508844/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1402436373&sr=8-1&keywords=Patrick+Marnham+simenon

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Simenon-A-Biography-Pierre-Assouline/dp/0701137274/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1402436336&sr=8-1&keywords=Pierre+Assouline+simenon

Monsieur Hire can be ordered from Amazon:

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Monsieur-Hire-DVD-Michel-Blanc/dp/B000ETR71C/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1402436445&sr=8-1&keywords=monsieur+hire

For more information about Noir is the Colour contact:

Institut français, 17 Queensberry Place, London SW7 2DT

Info & booking: 020 7871 3515 – http://www.institut-francais.org.uk/