Tuesday, June 27, 2023

Q&A with Antoine Laurain


Photo by Pascal Ito


Antoine Laurain is the author of the new novel An Astronomer in Love. It was translated from French into English by Louise Rogers Lalaurie and Megan Jones. Laurain's other books include The Red Notebook. Also a screenwriter, director, and journalist, he is based in Paris.


Q: What inspired you to write An Astronomer in Love?

A: An article I read on a train a few years ago. It was about an astronomer - whose existence I had not known about - who had traveled so long, and so far, to observe an eclipse, without succeeding.  I found this destiny incredibly powerful and incredibly poetic. But I didn't want to write a biography, or an historical novel.


So the story stuck in my mind...until I thought there could be two stories. A romantic comedy and the other story, the real one, that of the astronomer. Two stories, two men, one love.

Q: Guillaume le Gentil, one of the characters in your book, was a historical figure who served as an astronomer to the French court. How did you research his life, and what did you see as the right balance between history and fiction as you wrote the book?

A: Everything I say about the astronomer is true. I really care about that, everything is true, even his marriage at the end. Guillaume le Gentil wrote two memoirs: two books of 400 pages each. Everything is there. You're lucky you don't have to read those, you can read An Astronomer in Love now and know everything!

Q: How did you create your character Xavier Lemercier?

A: I wanted Xavier to be a very modern, very contemporary, very urban man. Almost banal. He doesn't know anything about astronomy. He is the opposite of Guillaume, he lives 200 years after Guillaume, in today’s world.


But he's a sensitive, romantic man. And that is what they have in common. They're looking for love and they don't know it. So the story can start...

Q: What intrigues you about the Transit of Venus, which is part of the novel?

A: Poetry. The fact that it happened, once, then eight years later, then...120 years later. And so on. And Venus is the planet of love. Look at the pics on the www, it's beautiful.

Q: What are you working on now?

A: I am finishing a forthcoming book.


Q: Anything else we should know?

A: Know how to look at the stars in the sky. The brightest of them all, the one you always see, is... Venus. Did you know that?


--Interview with Deborah Kalb. Here's a previous Q&A with Antoine Laurain.

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