By Cédric Duroux
This week, The Villa Gillet and Le Monde, in partnership with France Inter, hosted The International Forum on the Novel. Raphaëlle Rérolle and Guy Walter are the co-directors of the event. This is an event where writers, translators and the literary press come together for discussions about contemporary literature. Yet other fields such as the sciences and philosophy are also incorporated into events during the week. The majority of events are held at Les Subsistances, an international ‘research laboratory’ dedicated to artistic creation, new forms of performing arts (dance, theatre, circus, etc.) and the creation of a multidisciplinary space in which to work, experiment, create, and develop a dialogue with the audience.
This year, authors came to The Forum from all over the world: France, The United States, England, Italy, Israel, Nigeria, Russia, Haiti, Cuba, Spain, Brazil, China, Germany and more. Authors attending include : Norman Rush, Richard Powers, Emmanuel Carrère, Marie Darrieussecq, James Frey, Dany Laferriére, Aharon Appelfeld, A. M. Homes, Boualem Sansal, Wendy Guerra, Paul Holdengraber, José Manuel Prieto, Marilynne Robinson and many more.
The 4th International Forum on the Novel is titled, “The Novel : To Tell Everything ?” The Forum consists of round tables, interviews and public book readings. The round tables are centered around a theme or question and three or four authors are invited to discuss this theme. Every round table has one French and one foreign moderator. This year questions include : Why do we choose to write in the first person? How does madness enter into a text? How can diary-writing add to literary work or inspire it? In what way do novels represent urban space, and how are they structured by this space ? Each author writes an original text related to the theme and it is from these texts that the discussion begins. The round tables bring together international authors that would not usually appear together, thus creating a truely unique literary experience.
Throughout the week there are also live radio transmissions on location. This year Sefi Atta, Paul Holdengraber, Luiz Ruffato, and A. S. Byatt were interviewed on France Inter. Other authors give readings at libraries and bookstores in the city and the Rhone-Alpes region. At these more intimate events, the public has the opportunity to ask questions during the readings and usually speak individually with the authors afterwards. These readings allow the public to get to know the authors they admire in a very special way. The events organized by The Villa Gillet are rigorous literary debates while maintaining a pleasant and inclusive atmosphere.
As part of The International Forum on the Novel, The Villa Gillet organizes a wide range of events for students. There are readings by the authors for elementary students, middle and high school students read the works of authors invited to The Forum and university students participate in writing workshops with individual authors. These student centered events provide young people with a window into the literary world as well as making literature in general very approachable.
The variety of events and interdisciplinary topics, as well as the diverse backgrounds of the authors who attend, make the The International Forum on the Novel a unique cultural event. The Villa Gillet, in partnership with multiple American organizations, is also organizing a series of events that promote French and American cultural exchange. These events will begin January 2011 in New York.