Interview by Lauren Elkin/

Publié le par Blogsarah
Resistance Fighter

In her new novel, Tatiana de Rosnay challenges France's hero complex

by Lauren Elkin
Tatiana de Rosnay
In Tatiana de Rosnay's ninth novel, and her first written in English, the writer takes on one of the most taboo events in French history—the rafle du Vél d’Hiv, in which nearly 13,000 Jews were rounded up by the French police and taken to the Vélodrome d'Hiver, a former cycling arena, where they were detained before being transported to Auschwitz. Discussion of the episode is so verboten that de Rosnay's longtime publisher, Plon, declined to publish the book. Picked up instead by the newly-created Editions d'Heloise d'Ormesson, Sarah's Key has been a runaway success in France since its March publication, with Le Figaro pronouncing it "bouleversant," shattering.

The novel begins in 2002, when Julia Jarmond, an American journalist living in France, is assigned to cover the 60th anniversary commemorations of Vél d’Hiv, of which she's never heard. In the course of reporting the story, Julia discovers that her French husband's family has a connection to Vél d’Hiv through a 10-year old named Sarah, one of many children rounded up that day. De Rosnay weaves scenes from Sarah's harrowing experience into Julia’s investigation. The horror of the arrests is personified by Sarah's little brother, whom she locks into a secret closet in the family's Marais apartment to keep him safe.

You wrote Sarah's Key in your native language, English, although all of your previous books were written in French. Why?

English is a language that is more immediate, that comes from my guts, because it's my mother tongue, it's linked to my mother. My mother is British and my father is French—actually he's not very French, he's Mauritian and Russian, so I'm not that French after all. I was born in Paris, but English is the first language I learned.

Also, with Julia Jarmond being American, I couldn't envision her speaking in French, it would be like seeing a dubbed movie.

If your mother's British, how do you explain your American accent?

My father was sent to teach at MIT in computer sciences; I lived in Boston for three very formative years, when I learned to read and write, so when I came back to France I had forgotten all my French, and was put in a bilingual school, where I kept up some classes in English and some in French. I passed my baccalauréat here, and then went to the University of East Anglia where I majored in English literature. Then I came back in the early 80s and got my first job as Paris editor for Vanity Fair.

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Publié dans Publication USA

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