The Painted Bridge has won the ‘English first novel prize – 27th edition of the Festival du premier roman de Chambéry, France.’ The winning novel is selected by a vote by members of reading groups.
I had the great pleasure last weekend of going to Chambéry for the Festival du premier roman, May 2014. My first event was on the Friday evening, meeting readers at Espace Larith, a small art gallery in the city. Despite the fact that my flight was delayed, resulting in my arriving an unavoidable one and a half hours late for the event, we had a full house and a great discussion of some of the themes and characters in The Painted Bridge. I was very touched by the enthusiasm of the readers and their deep knowledge of the novel.
I stayed in the Hotel des Princes.
And woke to this amazing view.
I was given a brief tour of the city in the morning by three chic and charming guides, Chantal, Colette and Genevieve. Great readers all, they were such enjoyable company.
In the bookselling tent in the main square, I signed many copies of both novels. I also chatted to a number of people who said they’d like to read The Painted Bridge, from what they understood from the jacket copy, but couldn’t manage it in English. I was glad to be able to tell them that The Sacred River will be available in French next year, published by Presses de la Cité. It has also been selected by FRANCE LOISIRS book club as an Avant Premiere read for summer 2015.
In the afternoon, I took part in a discussion with Alexandre Postel, whose novel Un Homme Effacé, won first prize in the Prix Goncourt first novel category this year. It was good to meet Alexandre and to discuss themes of false accusation, guilt and innocence in front of another full-house audience, at the city’s premier arts venue. We took numerous questions from a very engaged audience.
Immediately following this discussion, I attended a translation workshop at the Université de Savoie. Led by literary translator Julie Sibony, the event was again very well-attended. The participants spent almost two hours working on three paragraphs at a very dramatic point in The Painted Bridge, working keenly to try and arrive at the most faithful translation. It was a great experience for me, to witness in action the French passion for language, literature and meaning.
In between events, there was just enough time to take in the Fontaine des Éléphants, known as the Quatre sans Cus, the Four without Arses.
Walk along the main street to this ‘statue of a sturdy woman’. (Not many of those in Chambéry.)
And take in the weekly market -
and the castle.
Huge thanks to Daniela Faraill and the other organisers of the Chambéry festival du premier roman, and to the Anglophile readers, for making it such a rich and memorable visit.