I don’t often get the chance to attend literary events , but when one is happening it’s usually in Paris and I try my damnedest to get there. Tuesday night, the 11th of July, I had the pleasure of listening to Edwidge Danticat and Marie Darrieusseecq in promotion of Freeman’s The Best New Writing on Home at Shakespeare & Company in Paris. This is the third literary anthology of Freeman’s and I’m really excited to discover some new and interesting writers that maybe I’m not that familiar with.
The evening began with waiting in line for seats. I was accompanied by Manika and Silje both Booktubers you should check out and while waiting we couldn’t help but exchange on bookish topics until we were finally shown to our seats. Lucky for us we weren’t too badly placed. The weather was nice. A cool breeze with a hint of rain settled us all into our seats awaiting the commencement of the event. It started just after 7pm. John Freeman officiated the event, of course, and drove the talk with precision, asking and making pertinent questions and statements. I was amazed to see that these two authors as different as they are, race and background, that they share some common ground in the themes they choose to write about.
Marie Darrieusseecq is a French author originally from Bayonne in the Basque region of France. I was happy to discover her up close and personal since I have heard so much about her but have never read any of her books. Her novels contain many recurring themes – belonging and identity which both authors talked a lot about that evening. Her latest novel, Being Here: The Life of Paula Modersohn-Becker was released this month in English translation by The Text Publishing Company. An excerpt of the novel can be found in Freeman’s if you’re interested in discovering her work before embarking on a full novel. Darrieusseecq assured me that The Text Publishing Company translation is the best for Being Here: The Life of Paula Modersohn-Becker. Just to get you a bit more interested in it, here’s the blurb on the front cover, “A burning intelligence and a fierce hold on what it meant and means to be a woman and a artist.” J.M. Coetzee. 😉
Edwidge Danticat is a Hatian-American writer who lives in Brooklyn. She also writes a lot about identity and belonging, as well as mother-daughter relationships and the diaspora. Some of her more well-known novels are Breath, Eyes, Memory (her first novel), Krik? Krak! (short stories), and The Dew Breaker, among so many more. Known and loved for her short stories you can find the story All the Home You’ve Got in Freeman’s. The Art of Death: Writing the Final Story is her newly released novel (July 11, 2017) which focuses on Danticat’s mother dying of cancer and how death is treated in other novels by authors.
After a series of questions from John Freeman and discussion back and forth between the two authors, the floor was opened for questions. I couldn’t think of anything to ask because my mind was racing with all the great things they’d said previously. However there were a few great questions from the audience. What was great was the lovely natural discussion and humor from both of these ladies. They played off of each other and that was humorous.
This is the second time I’ve been to a literary event with discussion between two authors and I really do think this should become more of a regular occurrence because it brings to light even more profound discussion of literature, writing, and existence. Wishing that I had taped this event so that I could go back and compare once I’ve read more of their works, I happened upon the podcast version of that evening which I’ll link here. Shakespeare and Company has a podcast of all of their author events at the link I posted.
Of course the evening wouldn’t have been complete without purchasing a few books and getting autographs. Thorough as I am, I brought 4 books by Danticat to be autographed from home, which she graciously did. Meanwhile we had a very interesting conversation about reading books out of our comfort zones yet finding that they parallel some of the same themes we usually like to read about. She also agreed with me about author events with 2 different authors that write about similar themes in different ways.
We finished off the evening with cocktails and more bookish conversation and anticipating our next literary event…. Shakespeare and Company will surely deliver.