Writers' Monday with David Foenkinos

With sixteen novels to his credit, David Foenkinos is now one of the most popular writers in our country, one of the authors capable of touching the heartstrings of the general public while obtaining real institutional recognition (let’s mention in particular the Prix Renaudot and the Prix Goncourt des lycéens obtained in 2014).

What a long way to go for a novelist who, with his characteristic sense of humor and self-deprecation, advises us against his first books!

Writers' Monday with David Foenkinos

David Foenkinos is not one of those authors born into a family of great literary figures who always have a book in their hand. Literature – and writing in the same movement – suddenly entered his life as a rebirth, following a long hospital stay as a teenager.

In the beginning, our guest did not write with the ambition to be published. He was even embarrassed for a while at the idea that his texts could be read. When his editor at Gallimard gave him a chance, he wrote to his teams this singular note: “It’s messy, messy, but it’s worth a try.

Resolutely zany at the beginning, David Foenkinos’ writing has managed to preserve this DNA while gradually becoming tinged with a gentle melancholy. The major milestones of this evolution were the immense success of La Délicatesse, then the new consecration with Charlotte in 2014. The genesis of this novel will have lasted eight years, and will let our guest think that it would be his last work, feeling then unable to relive an experience of author so intense.

What about Two Sisters, his new opus? Two major themes run through this novel. Firstly, “the separation in love, extreme, total, devastating”, the heartbreaking impression of having been a parenthesis in the life of the other. Second, the idea that the same family and upbringing can produce two radically different people.

What fascinated David Foenkinos the most in the creation of this plot is this woman who, coming to live with her sister, suddenly finds herself facing the life she should have had. The idea also that a person who loves you deeply can nevertheless become the scapegoat for your torments. To make this palpable on paper, our guest has opted for short, rhythmic chapters, a pulsating writing style that embraces Mathilde’s vertigo and plunges the reader into an almost physical experience of this woman’s chaotic daily life.

Very heterogeneous, his work nevertheless addresses in each work the theme of “life marked by a break”. He himself perceives in it the obvious echo of his own experience, that of a teenager who fell seriously ill before starting a second life.

When asked about the sensitivity of his writing, this accuracy that is expressed in particular in the composition of complex female characters, David Foenkinos admits that he is careful not to become what he calls a “vampire of reality”, an author who would seek absolute veracity by interviewing people in order to draw inspiration from their lives. Instead, he wants to trust the “strange, almost mystical” but in any case deeply human bond that can connect us to people whose lives are very different from ours.