Quebec writer Brigitte Pilote reads a lot, even going so far as to start several books at the same time. While waiting to hear her on Saturday at 1 p.m. as part of the Writer’s Confidences at the Montreal Book Fair, she talks to us about her favorite novels.
Of all the novels you’ve read, which are your top favorites?
I limited myself to the titles I read when I was very young, which were instructive for me, on a personal level, as well as to develop my own style. So there is :
- In Search of Lost Time, by Marcel Proust. I was 18-19 years old when I read this magnificent work, which still lives in me today, more than 30 years later.
I read all the volumes, giving myself the right to skip the ends on the Dreyfus affair! It was not at all in the CEGEP program where I was going and a teacher even told me: “Huh, why are you reading this? It made me feel almost guilty for loving this literature …
- Anais Nin’s Journal. This is the diary she kept from childhood. She took more than 30 years to find a publisher for this voluminous work (she was then in her sixties). I read the 1939-1944 volume in early adulthood and have kept it. It is all the more precious to me today because it is the copy that my mother received as a gift in 1976, where she indicated on the first page a list of passages that touched her. It is a remarkable work, for anyone interested in the New York of those years, in psychoanalysis, in human relations, in the quest for oneself, in creation.
- The delight of Lol V. Stein, by Marguerite Duras. Young, I dedicated an adoration to Marguerite Duras for her style and her unique characters. This novel is my favorite of the dozen or so novels and plays by her that I have read. I don’t want to describe the story, because I don’t think you read Duras for the story. In any case me. It is for its singular style that we read it.
- Northern gannets, by Anne Hébert. I really like the work of Quebecer Anne Hébert and this novel is my favorite. I like its construction, the multiple voices, its poetic prose. I even reread it recently.
Over the past few months, which book have you not been able to drop from cover to cover?
Sassy girls, by the English writer Doris Lessing (Nobel Prize for Literature), published a year after her death in 2013. Much of the book is about her parents’ youth and their meeting. I find it fascinating when writers explore the lives of their parents. It’s a short book, which I devoured.
Is there also a book that managed to capsize you completely?
A woman running away from the ad, by Israeli David Grossman. A very beautiful character of woman, Ora, who fears to be announced the death of her son, gone to do his military service. To ward off bad luck, she leaves her house so that we can no longer reach her, and goes on a trip with a childhood friend. It’s a superb, poignant novel. What upset me was to learn that during the writing of the book, David Grossman himself had been told that his son had been killed during his military service.
Can you tell us about your most recent big, big crush?
Annette, an epic, by Anne Weber, published this year. The book is inspired by the life of Anne Beaumanoir, a French resistance fighter who became a psychiatrist, who is almost a hundred years old today. She also said that she did not recognize herself at all in this book! The author has used the literary form of the heroic epic to create this portrait of an extraordinary woman, it gives a very lively story. The author, Anne Weber, writes all of her books directly in two languages (French and German), which is very rare. So the same book, she writes it twice!
This year, which author or which novel did the Montreal Book Fair allow you to discover?
Feminism is one of the themes of the Montreal Book Fair this year. The round table “Being a young woman in 2020” made me want to read the books of the authors who take part, in particular Where I hide by Caroline Dawson, published by editions du remue-household.
All genres combined, which book would you have really liked to have written?
Any of the books by French writer Marie NDiaye. I have great admiration for him. I buy all his books. I would like to write like her! The one of his novels that I prefer: Rosie Carpe (2001). The story of a young woman who loses her footing after giving birth to her little boy, alone, without support. The novel takes place in Guadeloupe. Rosie and her son Titi are among the characters that I have continued to cherish, long after I closed the book.
If you were a bookseller, what book would you recommend to people to help them smile?
The book Learn to be, by Marcia Pilote, which has just been published. My sister Marcia has the right words to help us find our way back to the joy of living, and her book puts us back on our feet!