A very nice story born from a lack of inspiration? This is what the French writer David Foenkinos proposes to us with The Martin family, its 17e novel.
When you’ve been writing novels for almost 20 years, there comes a time when you wonder what kind of story you’re going to invent. At any rate, this is exactly what the narrator of The Martin family. Narrator whose name will never be known, but who could very well be David Foenkinos himself.
I love fiction and, unlike Christine Angot or Emmanuel Carrère, I don’t talk much about myself in my books,” explains the writer, who was reached in Paris in mid-November. But now, it’s as if I needed to take a break from invention. I felt like reality, like giving my imagination a rest. »
So as we’re about to find out by reading The Martin familyThe narrator will take to the streets and approach the first person he meets with a simple directive: no matter what happens, that person will become the heroine of his next novel. Yes, yes! And by an incredible stroke of luck, he will come across Madeleine Tricot, an old lady who once worked in the fashion world, notably with the famous fashion designer Karl Lagerfeld. Better still, this old lady also has a daughter, Valérie Martin, and it’s this girl who will very quickly steal the spotlight from her mother. For she may lead a frankly ordinary life, but she will have plenty to tell. About her job as a history and geography teacher, for which she has grown weary, about her sister Stéphanie, who moved to the United States a long time ago, and about her couple who, mired in routine after 25 years of living together and two children, are unfortunately starting to lose their way.
An ordinary novelist
I realized that people love to talk about themselves,” says Foenkinos. Every time I do book signings, people come to me not to talk about my book, but to talk about them, to say, “You should tell my life story!” »
“The starting point of The Martin family is therefore quite real,” continues the writer. Out of tiredness of inventing stories, I really approached a woman in the street who worked in fashion and who later introduced me to her daughter. But afterwards, I allowed myself a few liberties and the novel is a patchwork of everything I’ve been able to collect. My last two books [Vers la beauté et Deux sœurs] were quite dark, painful, and I wanted to get back to the playful side: I found it amusing that readers could wonder whether or not this or that had happened in reality. »
It is important to know that at the base, David Foenkinos believes that there is a great romantic force in the ordinary. I feel that it’s all about point of view, that everything is potentially interesting,” he says. Including lives where almost nothing happens. For example, the wear and tear of the couple is a very classic, recurring theme. But it’s an intimate tragedy, and for those who experience it, it’s not insignificant at all.”
Welcome to the Martin family
For the purposes of his novel, the narrator will soon meet Valerie’s entire family. First Patrick, her husband, who is under enormous stress since the arrival of a new manager at the insurance company he works for. Then there’s Lola, 17, and Jeremiah, 15, who are much like all teenagers that age: lazy and not very talkative.
But even if the Martin are very commonplace, you won’t be bored for a moment in their company. The moment a novelist joins their family, everything will go wrong fairly quickly because each of them will want to be interesting,” says David Foenkinos. All families have flaws, mysteries, secrets, and I took the opportunity to talk about themes that I am passionate about, such as adolescence, awakening to love life, harassment at work, or the loss of autonomy when you become old and others decide for you. »
The result is a true novel that gives immense pleasure.