What is your relationship to Provence?
For the last 30 years I’ve been living in the village of Uchaud, a few kilometers from Avignon. I love this place because it is very small. As I speak, I am looking at the cobblestoned alley from my window. Nothing moves, everything seems calm.
I was born in the Dauphiné region, a misty place, and growing up I was overtaken by the urge to go South. I fell in love with this house, a place to write, as I did with the village where it’s located, near the mountains. This is my harbor, like the one sailors always return to.
Why do you like this region?
I would say for its light that changes with the seasons. Today, it is overpowering. It almost seems like it shrinks the houses. But the beauty of the evenings is unparalleled. Early mornings in Avignon also, where you can enjoy a coffee on the café terraces. You’re almost within reach of the true good life, yet nature can be violent. It is an ensemble of contrasts: the racket of cicadas while nearby nothing moves.
Does it inspire your writing?
When I write a novel, it is always set in a place I know very well. It’s physical, almost sensual. I have this need to feel the geography on which rests the story, to imagine the life of my characters. This may be due to my rural roots.
In my novel ‘Love is an Island,’ I describe Avignon during the festival. This walled city, almost like an island with its ramparts. It is true that I am more attracted by the cold for writing, but it’s here in Provence that I like to put the finishing touches to my texts.
For you, what are the essential qualities of a great book?
Emotion. It must be true and useful as much for the person who wrote it as for the people who read it. It must find its place, its reason to exist among all the others. When I read a book, I want it to touch me, for it to put into words how I feel without ever having managed to express it.
Sometimes it is also a great story. You will likely forget it, but you will have had a good time reading it, and that does you good. Whatever the case, a great book is one you will reread and that will bring you something at different stages of your life.
What Provencal author do you especially like?
Giono is one of the best. He was able to speak of landscapes and people here like no one else. Pagnol also had this amazing banter. We don’t talk the same way in Provence as elsewhere. It is this authenticity, this truth, that is at the heart of their texts. And we must admit that putting words together, to manage to describe so many images in words, is simply beautiful. It still resonates today.