Monday, September 12, 2022

Q&A with Serge Joncour


Photo by Jean Luc Bertini



Serge Joncour is the author of the novel Human Nature, now available in an English translation from the French by Louise Rogers Lalaurie. Joncour's other books include the novel Wild Dog. He lives in France.


Q: What inspired you to write Human Nature?


A: What inspired me to write Human Nature was the memory of the storm of 1999, a few hours before the year turned to 2000. It was a double storm, which destroyed whole areas of France and tore down forests.


That day I found myself in a house in the country beneath the trees, and we were without electricity for several days. New Year's Eve was thus spent by candlelight, without even a telephone line. I saw this as a sign, and I see it that way still: nature announcing it was coming to take its revenge.


Q: How did you research the novel, and did you learn anything that especially surprised you?


A: My research for this book consisted mostly of reading old newspaper articles to confirm and expand upon my own memories of the main events of the time, like Chernobyl, the mad cow disease epidemic, the storm of ‘99, the heatwave of 1976…


The surprise was in discovering that all these events, which seemed unique and unheard of at the time, are in fact now repeating, from extreme heat to epidemics spread from animals to humans – or even meteorological events and threats linked to nuclear power plants. And every time these events present themselves it's as though we are discovering them for the first time. How quickly we forget!

Q: How did you create your character Alexandre and his family?


A: In creating Alexandre, I started with myself. He and I are more or less the same age, and so I lent him many of my own personal memories and experiences. His family was invented based on elements of people I've met – I am always inspired by real people. My characters are often a blend of multiple people.


Q: What are you working on now?


A: I am continuing to write about that time, that unique period that stands out in the year 2000. You could say that in the last 22 years, many things have happened too – we are therefore far from the “end of days” that we once believed would happen at the close of the 20th century.


We have not only entered a new millennium, but a new era. It is nature's turn, now, to threaten us, to declare war on us. Our time must be written about, we must write about what we are living through in this exact moment – it's a lot!


Q: Anything else we should know?


A: Being translated into English means being translated into a language that is familiar to me, which I speak a little of, and which has become the universal language. It's the language that is used whenever our own mother tongue is not enough to make ourselves understood. So it is a point of pride for an author.


--Interview with Deborah Kalb. Here's a previous Q&A with Serge Joncour.

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