F.I.R.N 2009 - interview with Michel Gueorguiefftranslated by Rosine Lang
The 12th edition of the FIRN will take place in Frontignan (France) from June 22nd to 28th. The Festival of Noir Fiction has year after year become one of the inescapable Must of the crime fiction world. Amateurs and pros together enjoy gathering there to take advantage of the round tables and of the meetings with writers. An occasion for crime fiction fans to discuss with stars like Elmore Leonard, Dennis Lehane or John Harvey, but also to discover less famous but no less talented authors. Michel Gueorguieff, creator of the festival presents us with the 2009 theme and main guests.
Q: As every year, the Festival will revolve around a common theme, which for 2009 is « Borders ». What made you choose this theme?
The theme of Borders seems to me central to the current problems of modern society and is therefore a favored theme in today’s noir fiction. And so not only in the geographical meaning of the word allowing writers to work on the questions of exile, immigration and foreignness; we are including all kinds of borders: social, cultural, ethnic, legal and maybe even literary. As a matter of fact, addressing the fragile line separating order and disorder, law and illegality, madness and reason or good and evil, means that you cover the whole subject area of noir fiction.
Q: Each edition allows you to innovate and try to find new activities. What’s new this year?
Not much new in our global philosophy which aims at gathering authors from many different surroundings around a significant theme and confront famed writers with unknown novelists. On the other hand, we go on opening the Festival to ever more numerous audiences. While the event itself is still located in Frontignan, many events will take place in Sète, Balaruc and some other towns around the Bassin de Thau, as well as in Montpellier. Besides, this year we are introducing a move to involve the prisoners of the Villeneuve-lès-Maguelone prison, by offering them the books of some of our invited authors. After reading them, they will award the "Derrière les Murs" (Behind the walls) prize to two authors - one for a novel and one for a comic book. The winner will meet the prisoners on June, 25th.
Q: Every year, the public is happy to be able to meet many writers coming from all walks of life, and sometimes rather unknown in France. How do you select your authors?
The two main conditions are first of all the quality of their books and next the fact that their work would match the chosen theme. Every year, we also have opportunities and favourites. This year the opportunity is featuring Tim Willocks whom I have been chasing for the last five years. A favourite this, amongst others, is Anne Secret whom I didn’t know a few months ago, and whose last book I truly loved. Generally speaking, we take into account the coherence required for each debate.
Q: Among others, you have this year invited Tim Willocks, why this writer?
Willocks is an amazing author offering an exceptional depth, virtuosity and « noir » quality. I discovered him a few years ago through "Bad City Blues" and "Bloodstained Kings". Since then I have been trying to have him come to Frontignan. It was absolutely impossible to contact him. This year, thanks to the publication of "La Religion", a dense, baroque and very brilliant work, we finally succeeded in getting into contact with him. He has enthusiastically accepted our invitation and that made us very happy. He is well-read, crazy and subtle, all at the same time. The few French readers who have read his books have usually become fans. Indeed, today he is a real cult author ( refer to the Europolar’s article on Tim Willocks )
Q: As far as the European authors are concerned, you have invited José Ovejero, a Spanish author whose book "Parallel Lives", a novel taking place in Brussels, has been published in French with Moisson Rouge. Is it a book you wish to stand up for...
Of course, I stand up for "Parallel Lives" by José Ovejero, a Spanish author living in Brussels. It is a very dark, very strong novel, fully in line with the theme of Borders such as I see it.
Q: Another invited writer is British, Tom Rob Smith, with his thriller "Child 44" published with Belfond in February. Do you think thriller represents an unavoidable aspect of the crime fiction genre?
Thriller counts for an important part of today’s crime fiction, especially with the general public. Of course, in all fashion movements there is a good side and a not so good one. But Tom Rob Smith’s first novel "Child 44" belongs to the good ones. What’s interesting in this book is the description of how scaring a machine the Soviet system was. The novel is not only a thriller, but also a book on how man confronts totalitarianism.
Q: The FIRN also welcomes many American writers. This year’s are Don Winslow and Thomas H. Cook. How do they come in line with your chosen theme?
First of all, both Thomas Cook and Don Winslow are, in my opinion, major writers. Their whole work is indeed about a confrontation between good and evil, folly and reason, and a very talented one. They very rarely come to France - Winslow never has before, as far as I know. The fact that they have accepted our invitation is an honour for our Festival.
Q: I know that you have put a lot of care into your program and that no invitation is done at random, but that they are all favorites with you. I will therefore not ask you to point out for us one writer in particular, but I would still like you to say a few words about the Iranian writer Naïri Nahapetian.
Naïri Nahapetian’s first novel "Who killed Ayatollah Kanuni?" is the first Iranian crime book. Not only has it, for the French, some kind of exotic charm, it also describes a society where values may surprise or even revolt us. This young Iranian woman left her country after the Islamic Revolution and now lives in France, where she is a journalist. If there is someone who can speak about cultural border, it is she.
Full program: http://www.polar-frontignan.org