Antoine Laurain and Le Sonneur are the author and illustrator of the new book Red Is My Heart. Antoine Laurain is a novelist, screenwriter, director, and journalist. Le Sonneur is a visual artist, painter, and author. They are both based in Paris.
Q: How did the two of you end up working together on this book, and how do you think the art and the text work together?
Le Sonneur: Antoine and I have been friends for a few years. We met one day when Antoine contacted me to buy one of my pictures, of a cat watching you through a keyhole. We made a plan to meet one winter night at a bar in Pigalle and got to know each other over a couple of drinks – Antoine, the cat and I.
A year or two later, walking through Paris one evening, I sent a text to Antoine to tell him I was pondering a series of drawings and would love for him to write some text to accompany them, to create a book together. I didn’t give him a theme or show him any drawings; I didn’t tell him anything. He blindly said yes.
A year later I sent him all the drawings for Red Is My Heart, in a precise order, and explained my idea to him: the story of a person in love whose beloved has left him, who roams Paris and the world looking for her. Antoine created a story around the drawings, his own story crossing with mine.
Antoine Laurain: I agree with everything Le Sonneur said; we did indeed meet via one of his works, which I see every day on one of my walls. And we’ve been friends ever since – which is a beautiful, rare thing.
The drawings predated the text for Red Is My Heart, which is very important. Ordinarily, drawings illustrate the text – but that’s not the case here. My words echo the drawings; they came after.
The finished product creates a uniqueness between the text and the drawings. And it is up to the reader to reframe them into an emotion, in their own poetic universe. I think that has never been done – until now, anyway. But mainly, the book is about emotions, pasts, presents, futures. Above all, it’s about undying love.
Le Sonneur: Red Is My Heart is not one single story about love, its disappearance or its rebirth. The book offers two stories on this theme, two personal variations. The first, told through my drawings, in a symbolic, mysterious and strange way. Then Antoine’s story collides with it, breaks it up, gives rhythm to it, anchors it in reality, in the form of what could be called a lover’s logbook.
Antoine Laurain: There you have it… Le Sonneur’s drawings exist in their own right. They are there. I tell a story. Is it a real story, or not? It doesn’t matter – what is important is that it touches you. Le Sonneur has images, whereas I have words, narration. Above all I think the book is very accessible. Easy.
Q: How was the book's layout designed?
Le Sonneur: The story narrates a walk, a wandering. The journey of our character is one of a long crossing. It’s a story of movement, through movement, which I also drew whilst on the move, in Indian ink in seven small black notebooks, over the course of a year’s worth of walks.
Sometimes I even played with the jumps and starts of the journey, in a taxi or on a train. I made hundreds of drawings, fragments, emotions, on my long walks in Paris; sat at a terrace, or in a square; in cars, or even on planes, between Paris and New York. The long journey of the character is my journey, too.
Antoine Laurain: I’ve admired Le Sonneur’s drawings for a long time. There was a moment where I thought I couldn’t do it – that no text would be up to scratch. That no text could have any resonance with the images. And then I thought of the first person singular: I. I asked myself: what if it was a sort of diary? And that’s when it began to work.
Q: What do you hope readers take away from the book?
Le Sonneur: Red Is My Heart is a book for people to wander around in, a book they will want to come back to. A book that delivers a certain idea of romanticism, of excess, of passion, of those huge emotions which we all experience. Red Is My Heart is an invitation to remain forever young, passionate, idealistic, and incandescent.
Antoine Laurain: The emotion. The drawings. And certain lines of the text which move you. Maybe we have articulated emotions that you have felt before. Here you have a book that you can read them in. You can open it, and seek out a drawing, or a phrase.
Q: What are you working on now?
Le Sonneur: A book for which I created both the drawings and the text; an exhibition of drawings that will run in Tokyo this year; the Japanese translation of my last book, Le Poisson de Monsieur Carassin [Mr. Carassin’s Fish], and yet another book…
Antoine Laurain: Another novel.
Q: Anything else we should know?
Le Sonneur: Perhaps that for a few days now, we have been working on another book project together – we started talking about it over a few gin and tonics! It could be a follow-up to Red Is My Heart, or another story entirely…
Antoine Laurain: Absolutely, and it would be wonderful to take on another project together. To find our form. We will find it. Red Is My Heart is very special. You don’t see a book like that every day, believe me!
--Interview with Deborah Kalb. Here's a previous Q&A with Antoine Laurain.