- Art & Creation -
« Writing brings boundless freedom»
With his subtle, sharp and exceptionally elegant penmanship, David Foenkinos glides across the spectrum of human paradoxes and universal gravity, without ever suffering from weightlessness.
Isn’t writing the freest form of artistic expression? Facing a blank page or screen involves no particular constraints and thus places no limits on the imagination?
You’re absolutely right! Especially since I’m also a film director and thus acquainted with this other form of expression that involves dozens of people. It always means moving mountains, whereas writing requires nothing. It is a boundless type of freedom, a kind of parallel world in which we take refuge.
Paradoxically, it seems that you acquired this taste for the freedom to invent at a time when you were “imprisoned” in your body, in a hospital room, at the age of 16. Writing was therefore a liberating means of escape at the time?
I did not come from a cultural background at all. When I became seriously ill at the age of 16, and spent months in hospital, books accompanied and even saved me. I could escape through words. And the closeness of death also made me more sensitive, more inclined to be touched by the beauty of language. All sick people know this sense of being drawn towards beauty or sensuality, or simply a need to go straight to the essence of what moves us.
How do you feel about the blank page that contains all manner of possibilities? A sense of power, dizziness, euphoria or anxiety?
A bit of everything and it also depends on the period. I haven’t written for a year now and I don’t feel the slightest anxiety about it. On the contrary, it’s quite strange, but I take a lot of pleasure in not writing. A novel can sometimes be tyrannical!
In which role do you feel most free, as the author of Delicacy, or as the director of the screen adaptation of that novel?
Definitely in that of the author, because there are so many constraints in cinema: time, money... But what is wonderful is the sense of community. In this film for example, it was magical to see Audrey Tautou play Nathalie, creating the character in her own way. It’s impressive to see an actress like this perform.
Is writer’s solitude an additional freedom? You are in control of your personal organization, your inspiration, your rhythm, which is not the case for the director or the musician, who have to work with a team?
I like to alternate solitary and group-related phases in life. It’s a chance to go back and forth between these two feelings. I enjoy spending months in the solitude of writing a novel, and afterwards it’s very pleasant to be able to travel to meet the readers.
Does the very positive reception of the public towards your novels make you more confident and more liberated?
No, I don’t think so. I’ve gained a great deal of independence in my life, and I know how lucky that makes me. But for me, nothing is certain. I always feel like I’ve got something to prove.
How do you work? Do you have any special rituals or fixed schedules?
I love writing on trains, or when traveling. But I have the feeling that a novel is not limited to working hours. It’s always buzzing around in one’s head. It’s like incessantly committing adultery against oneself.
What kind of reader are you? What types of books or writers appeal to you?
I read a lot. I always need to have books around. There are my bedside authors, from Philip Roth to Milan Kundera, but I am also very sensitive to contemporary literature. I necessarily read the work of my friends, the writers I know, who are like my work colleagues! I was recently dazzled by Les choses humaines*, Karine Tuil’s latest novel.
*Published by Éditions Gallimard
Based on an interview by Michèle Wouters