Colpaert: How did you come up with the
idea of the neighborhood restaurant that occupies such an important
place in your novels?
Sylvain: I lived near
the passage Brady in Paris, a long time ago. This is a street
where the smell of exotic spices is very strong. This sense impression
of an exotic Paris stayed with me for a long time. When I wanted
to introduce Lola Jost, a protagonist known for her appetite,
I naturally thought of this quarter in the tenth arrondissement,
which has remained both working class and exotic because of all
the different cultures there. I came up with the restaurant, Les
Belles de jour comme de nuit, placing it
in a passage where there are only Indian restaurants. I think that
the fact that I am a French citizen living in Asia played a role.
No doubt it's a transposition.
Jost eats meals prepared by Maxime Duchamp, at a place she calls “her
but we never actually see her cook. Is this a paradox, or not?
has passed the age of nurturing others. As she often says, she has
given, and more than her share. In a way, since she quit the police
force, she has been at loose ends. More often than not, she gets
depressed, enclosed in her burrow in the rue de l'Echiquier. Her
visits to the restaurant, and her encounters with the chef/owner
Maxime Duchamp, one of her best friends, are essential for her. It
is not just because she loves to eat and eat well, but it is also
her need for human contact. Lola the bear comes out of her den, and
rediscovers the world of the living. It is also in this restaurant,
too, where she encounters Ingrid for the first time. This is not
Lady Mba's table, Lola Just enjoys another cuisine besides French.
Will you continue to take your readers on exotic, gastronomic journeys?
D.S.: I don't know yet. The next
adventure will take place in New Orleans, where Lola will try jambalaya,
but she is difficult to please, as she is something of a Francophile
when it comes to food. Ingrid is there to open her horizons, but
not just gastronomically.
now you've introduced us to detectives without much interest in food.
for example, keeps himself fueled on protein bars; Louise Moravan
shows no interest in what she eats. As for Alex Bruce and Martine
Lewine, they are seen eating even less often than the other two.
Why this renewed interest in food?
D.S.: For the new Ingrid and Lola series, I wanted warmer characters.
More earthy. Only food could best evoke this. And, I put a bit more
of myself into these two characters. I'll admit to being a gourmand.
For me, a good meal is a voyage. My previous characters were more
interested in sex. This is a difficult subject to broach, particularly
in a detective novel. But I keep coming back to it. In the next story,
Ingrid will have her share of erotic adventures. All because of the
arrival of spring and a handsome cop. As for Lola, she is always
as hungry as she is thirsty.
S.C.: Any translation projects coming up?
D.S.: The series has already been translated into German, Dutch, Finnish,
Russian and Japanese. I've recently met my Japanese translator, and
I was amazed by his incredible attention to detail.
S.C.: Do you have any idea how readers in foreign countries are responding
to your work?
No, not yet. The German and Dutch translations are still
in progress. Passage du Désir and La Fille
du Samouraï will be
published in Japan at the end of 2006 (Shogakukan). As for the
novels that have already been translated in Finnish (Like) and
Russian (Inostranka), I don't have any news, outside of the fact
that these two publishing houses continue to follow my work. But
it is true that living in Japan, I am a bit isolated from the nerve
center of the publishing world.
S.C.: What about adaptations for the cinema?
D.S.: A producer has expressed
interest in Passage
. We're at the negotiation stage. But what really bothers
me is that I rarely see French comedies that make me laugh the
way an English comedy does, for example. Or American comedies
of a certain caliber. In France, you either have broad comedy,
or very intellectual, arty comedy. But nothing in between. It's
annoying. I really liked Belle-Maman with Deneuve and
Lindon, and Les
grands Ducs with Marielle, who was wonderful, and Rochefort.
I thought those films were amazing but apparently they didn't
do well at the box office. To be honest, les Bronzés is
really not my cup of tea.
critique of Manta
corridor, the latest in the series, will
appear in the sixth issue of Europolar.
note: dish from the Southern United States, similar to bouillabaisse
or paella, containing sausage, ham, Cayenne pepper, peppers, shrimp