Interview by our correspondent in Tunis
Punctual and precise. Punctual despite media demands are increasing, despite precise June 1 whose battery runs out, which is really not the time. Voice calm, peaceful, young writer for 70 years (at this age, Henri-Pierre Roché had not yet released Jules and Jim ) crowned with one of the most prestigious awards the literary season with the French. Hédi Kaddour, cordial and relaxed, savoring this price. At the dawn of a media-trading whirlwind vampirisera his agenda, among tour trays and signatures in bookstores, the author evokes Thomas Mann, its saturated mailbox, the hypothesis of the Goncourt and other curiosities. Waltenberg , 2006 Goncourt first novel, the overriding , portable interposed by meeting with an apostle of “novel world.” Born in Tunis, he does not deny his roots, but says that “life separate.” His book, set in 1922 in a small imaginary town between Morocco and Tunis, evokes the reactionary lobby that has scuppered the project of emancipation of the French colonies
The Point Afrique. You inspire this price
Hédi Kaddour: This is great. I always struggle to respond to hot. I felt a lot of fun to be had with Boualem Sansal, by the French Academy this afternoon. It is a beautiful tribute, a beautiful thing. It’s very exciting, granting this award to the heart of the Academy.
What is your relationship with Tunisia?
I am born in Tunis. I spent my first twelve years, which are perhaps the most important. Then I worked in Paris. I am both a product of Parisian high school and an apple and chips couscous. For thirteen years I have been cooperating in Morocco. Tunisia, these are family ties and life separate. It did something to me that it could spill over part of my childhood.
Do you follow the Tunisian news intently?
I the’m very closely. Today, any news is transmitted immediately. I am just as much what is happening in Morocco, Algeria and elsewhere.
How this book was he born ? Is it a novel of ideas?
No. The trigger was writing a novel-world, mixing the 1920s, France, England, Germany … I was not sure at first. Digging through archives in the United States, I have read articles that told of film crews settling in North Africa. That was the trigger in a society where the colonial order reigned. A reactionary society, a society cut off between strength and domination.
Balzac returns repeatedly in your characters. Is this your literary vein?
The works that I prefer are not necessarily those representing the European classicism. Like Faulkner, Claude Simon … When I write, writing that I use is similar to that of a reporter. It is not baratine, no editorialised. I have no taste for the Kalashnikov sentence. A few words, a point. And start again. I am conscious of writing, but these contemporary affectations, this very brief sentence. I like the change in pace. Like Russell Banks, Underworld Don DeLillo. In my novel, I wanted a crossroads of cultures, cultures interpenetrating, a mixture of contacts.
Speaking yesterday, North Africa 1922, do you speak of today?
I need time. A small century is perfect. Thomas Mann said, “murmuring the utterer imperfect”. For me it is the right distance for writing. A historical distance. I’m comfortable as well.
Your novel is set in an imaginary small town Nahbès. Why?
I am torn between two “Arab”. I have two dialects in the throat: the Tunisian and Moroccan. When I speak, I do not know if this expression is Tunisian or Moroccan. And what interested me was the issue of the protectorate. In France, the mission of development. But in 1922, the Taittinger project against protectorates, signed by Maurice Barres to my astonishment, was torpedoed by the reactionary lobby overriding . The colonial lobby has frustrated this project, which was taken for thirty years longer relevant countries. With pain all the stronger as the number of lost years.
Have you read the novel by Boualem Sansal, 2084 , with whom you share this award?
No. I am caught in a media whirlwind when I read the books of authors who I am invited in emissions. This makes each time more courteous novels that I consider to have read. I have not shared anything with Boualem shelf.
Will you be translated into Arabic?
I signed an amendment to my contract to Gallimard the book to be sold cheaper to export. For translations, it starts to happen.
You sold so far, 28,000 copies …
It is beyond figures my first novel Waltenberg . My new novel is more transparent, shorter. I worked on clarity, what Orwell said: “Good writing is like a window.” It allows to forget, to see beings, their movements …
Do you write a third novel?
Yes. I feel so good when I write. But with this price, I have to respond to many requests. And I have this at home Gallimard, which published my poems at a loss for many years. They lost twenty balls twenty-five miles each collection. I owe them that. Today, I can not write an hour, half past one day. I will not complain.
What is your view on the French press towards the Maghreb?
There are always good things: stories, portraits. When I was in Morocco, the correspondent of World was very careful, because the goal was not to get kicked. But when a reporter came, it was perfect. The right people, the right analysis. Thanks to the correspondent. Today, few newspapers can afford to have full-time correspondents, which raises the question of the economic situation of the PQR particular.
Are you going to come to Tunisia the occasion of this price? Have you received congratulatory messages from Tunisian political s?
There are things in preparation. Gallimard will take care. This is likely in early 2016. As for the official reactions, I do not know. My mailbox is full, more than 150 mails fell in two hours, the same for SMS. I do not know.