The "Dream Team" – Matthias Lehmann, me, Théophile Sersiron and Benoît Virot

The “Dream Team” – Matthias Lehmann, me, Théophile Sersiron and Benoît Virot

The last day of Festival America was fantastic but bittersweet.  I had the chance to take part in debates alongside such accomplished writers as Amy Grace Loyd, Stuart Nadler and Paul Harding, to meet many new readers, and to sign books – both in French at the Le Nouvel Attila table and in English at the Shakespeare and Company booth.  Later in the day, I also met Matthias Lehmann, whose beautiful illustrations are featured in Comment Élever Votre Volkswagen.

As the day wound down, I was sorry to say goodbye to some of the new acquaintances and friends I’d made. We ended the day in wonderful style, though, with a late cocktail hour at the home of Annie-France Mistral (whose translation of Joshua Cohen’s Le Paradis des autres is forthcoming from Le Nouvel Attila).  We sat by a fire and talked about – what else? – books: different editions and translations of Georges Perec’s A Void, for example, and some of our other favorite authors and editions.

I was grateful to Annie for her hospitality, and especially glad to be able to thank Benoît in person for his generosity and kindness. As I told him when we said goodbye, I hope that this is the first of many trips to Paris for me.

I was grateful for the initial invitation to Festival America, but nothing could have prepared me for the experience itself: the medieval architecture of Auxerre; the french countryside as seen from the window of the train; the open-air market and white streets of Vincennes, the cafes on every corner.

Finally, I was so amazed by the vitality of book culture – how many independent bookstores I wandered into in Paris; the level of inquiry during my readings at Librairie Obliques and Librairie Charybde; the enthusiasm that seemed so prevalent among the readers, booksellers and authors I met at Festival America.  I’ll be forever thankful for this experience, and to everyone who helped make it possible.

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