Montreal writer Dany Laferrière became "Immortal" in 2015, when he was inducted into the Académie française, the highest honour in all French literature - and the first Quebecer and only second Black writer to receive such an honour. In these wide-ranging interviews with Adam Leith Gollner, portions of which were originally published in The Paris Review, Laferrière reveals how his life and his writing are inseparable, discussing everything from his breakout debut, How To Make Love To a Negro Without Getting Tired, to the extraordinary success of more recent novels such as The Return and I Am a Japanese Writer. Brilliant, comedic, and full of insightful advice for writers and readers, these conversations also serve as the definitive introduction to one of our greatest storytellers.
About the author
Adam Leith Gollner's first book, The Fruit Hunters (Scribner, 2008), was a national bestseller and was adapted into an award-winning documentary film. His follow-up, The Book of Immortality (Scribner, 2013), won the QWF Mavis Gallant Prize for Non-Fiction. His writing appears in The Paris Review, The New York Times, Vanity Fair, Smithsonian, and The New Yorker online. He lives in Montreal.
Excerpt: Working in the Bathtub: Conversations with the Immortal Dany Laferrière (by (author) Adam Leith Gollner)
You often write about identity--but what are your thoughts on the word "race"?It's an anachronism, something old that is no longer really used. In a dictionary context, at the Académie we'd say that the word race is used in the sense of a group of individuals of the same skin colour. And employing that meaning is archaic. It's old-fashioned and no longer relevant. Its general usage has ceased. Surely not everyone sees it that way? It depends on the country. In Haiti, according to our constitution, everyone who lives there is a Negro. So there's no problem. Even if you're blond or Japanese, if you are Haitian, you're a Negro. That's that. Some of my readers may read me as a black writer, but I wasn't black for the first 23 years of my life. In Montreal it's one way, in the rest of Quebec another. In America, yes, they're still in it. No group can say that the debate over race is over in America.
"I've translated ten of Laferrière's novels and a good deal of his other writings, having met him in the mid-1980s, and I thought I knew all there was to know about him. Not at all. Adam Gollner's portrait of the man and the writer opens up the landscape to the fullest, adding a more reflective side to Laferrière. Not without playfulness, of course, but Gollner has managed to draw out something graver behind the legendary artful humour. His willingness to follow Laferrière to the various places where he has composed his books shows his true commitment to his subject." -- David Homel, Award-winning author and translator."Dany Laferrière, a member of the Académie Française (thus nicknamed an "immortal"), is one of my favourite writers, so Adam Leith Gollner's Working in the Bathtub: Conversations with the Immortal Dany Laferrière (Linda Leith) was always going to interest me. What I was not expecting was to enjoy most Laferrière's commentary on finance. And it is true, what he says (I paraphrase): Banks don't understand money. You want to understand money, you ask a writer."Jade Colber, 20 Oct 2020, The Globe and Mail