French author Hélène Gestern meets Belfast based writer Gerard Brennan. When not writing her novels Gestern teaches and researches in the field of linguistics at the CNRS (Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique) and sits on the editorial committee of a literary review dedicated to autobiographical writing. When not writing his, Gerard Brennan is a member of the International Crime Fiction Research Group and prepares a PhD at Queen’s University.
Both authors have already a considerable output and have received many accolades.
The People in the Photo, Hélène Gestern’s book, is published in English by Gallic books (in June 2014) and translated from the French by Emily Boyce and Ros Schwartz. It was her first novel, published in France 2011 and a real hit, receiving excellent reviews. It won more than 20 literary awards. It draws upon her interests in photography and archive. It was recommended by the French Le Magazine Littéraire as ‘A wonderful book about the archaeology of memory’ . Her second novel already published in France, with the same publisher, Arléa deals too with memories and post-memories. Its polysemic title La Part du feu is revealing : ( literally the part of fire, figuratively in French, cut your losses). It is about retaining and letting go, about looking for light and facing the risk of being burnt. Both novels are investigations made by adults on the years of their childhood, on the spirit and the politics of a time when they were not yet born or they were too young to understand. Both engage with patterns of the mystery genre, in a way Patrick Modiano novels do, linking a search for a missing person with that of a bygone area and with questions about identity. The archive is an all-important paradigm. Both Gestern’s novels to date are testimonial in nature; both ask questions on the legacy left by the protagonists’s parents. While the second novel is more explicitly dealing with uncovering an old crime, the first probes more the crime genre’s boundaries by mixing it with, notably, the epistolary novel, and the email novel. This hybridation achieves interesting effects in terms of suspense (caused for example by the uncertainties and the delays between exchanges). Continue reading