LIRE EN POCHE: FROM THE AIR­PORT LOUNGE TO THE SA­LON

Bordeaux Moments - - Carte De Visite -

The Bible, ero­tic ico­no­gra­phy, ‘air­port li­te­ra­ture’, noir fic­tion, the Ve­ry Short In­tro­duc­tion col­lec­tion... the pa­per­back, or “po­cket book”, has had a hu­ge­ly va­ried as­cen­dance since its crea­tion, first ap­pea­ring in the an­glo­phone world in the 30s (Pen­guin and Po­cket Books), then in France in 1953. The for­mat be­came ge­ne­ra­li­sed for the dif­fu­sion of clas­sic li­te­ra­ture be­fore be­co­ming the norm for all li­te­ra­ry genres, brea­thing new life in­to contem­po­ra­ry works. It took un­til 2005 for pa­per­backs to re­ceive a de­di­ca­ted ‘ sa­lon’, at the ini­tia­tive of a tea­cher wor­king in the world of books and the town of Gra­di­gnan, in the Bor­deaux sub­urbs. The town was loo­king to high­light the qua­li­ty and am­bi­tion of its brand new mul­ti­me­dia li­bra­ry. Pu­bli­shers were in­ter­es­ted, but scep­ti­cal about the li­ke­li­hood of au­thors co­ming. The event’s suc­cess blew away any mis­gi­vings, and de­ci­si­ve­ly de­mons­tra­ted rea­ders’ at­tach­ment and consi­de­ra­tion for a for­mat that had long been the tar­get of condes­cen­sion. Now, Gra­di­gnan wel­comes 25,000 vi­si­tors for the book fair over three days;that’s rough­ly the size of its po­pu­la­tion. The event is still or­ga­ni­sed by the town but, since 2012, it has been un­der the ste­ward­ship of Lio­nel Des­tre­mau, a great lo­ver of li­te­ra­ture who writes as a poet and al­so as a cri­tic in le Ma­tri­cule des Anges. He was pre­vious­ly an edi­tor, spe­cia­li­sing in cri­ti­cal ana­ly­sis, but more im­por­tant­ly he was the di­rec­tor of Seuil’s noir and poe­try col­lec­tions be­fore be­co­ming chief edi­tor of Points, a pa­per­back col­lec­tion.

How does the pa­per­back dis­tin­guish it­self from the tra­di­tio­nal lar­ger for­mat?

In terms of pu­bli­shing, the pro­duc­tion is more tech­ni­cal, where mar­ke­ting has more of an in­fluence, and where it is as much a ques­tion of the fi­gures as it is the let­ters. The pa­per­back is stra­te­gic, it’s a cash cow for pu­bli­shers. Ho­we­ver, its real strong point is its abi­li­ty to lead the rea­der to­wards other wri­ting and genres that they ne­ver would have tes­ted if it didn’t exist. Its low cost, its prac­ti­ca­li­ty and the range of ca­ta­logues in­vite much more cu­rio­si­ty, whe­ther you’re a keen rea­der or sim­ply rea­ding on the beach or in tran­sit.

How does Lire en poche convey this di­ver­si­ty?

It is a uni­ver­sal book fair. We host 12 book­sel­lers who each have their own spe­ci­fi­ci­ty and sen­si­bi­li­ty, and who co­ver a large spec­trum of the pa­per­back with great, les­ser-known, po­pu­lar, new, ex­pe­ri­men­tal or tech­ni­cal au­thors… and af­ter that we have children’s li­te­ra­ture, which oc­cu­pies a third of the fair’s of­fe­ring. In fact, it is a sa­lon which opens doors. I love seeing this sort of clash of genres there, like a young girl, last year, put­ting a book by Éric Che­vil­lard in her bag and ano­ther by Ber­nard Wer­ber. Thanks to the pa­per­back, we have all of

these contra­dic­tions on our book­shelves. It is on­ly real­ly uni­ver­si­ty tea­chers who might see them as contra­dic­tions, when in rea­li­ty they are sim­ply va­ried plea­sures. Even when you are di­sap­poin­ted, or unable to com­pre­hend a book, there is al­ways a kind of dis­co­ve­ry, an ex­plo­ra­tion.

What about the au­thors?

There is a wide range here as well. Our spon­sor- this year it is Har­lan Co­ben- is a pres­ti­gious host, but he is not the on­ly ta­lent. Take his carte blanche guest as an example; Lee Child is even more po­pu­lar than he is in the An­glo-saxon world. In to­tal, around 100 au­thors will be present. That said, the goal is not to line them up as if in a stable and make them si­gn au­to­graphs non-stop. Lire en poche is a lit­tle like a pro­du­cers’ mar­ket, where di­rect contact is what makes it spe­cial. 90% of the au­thors are ta­king part in events such as pu­blic au­diences, de­bates and ac­ti­vi­ties. Our theme for 2017 is “the po­wers of the ima­gi­na­tion”: a vast sub­ject which al­so al­lows us to give fo­cus to scien­ce­fic­tion, fan­tas­ti­cal and fan­ta­sy li­te­ra­ture.

Don’t e-rea­ders and other di­gi­tal in­no­va­tions make you fear for the fu­ture of the pa­per­back?

Di­gi­tal usage is a com­pli­ment to the pa­per­back, not a re­pla­ce­ment. You don’t take your e-rea­der to the beach, you don’t bend it in your trou­ser po­cket, you can’t do­gear it or un­der­line pas­sages in it. Ma­ny users are re­tur­ning to pa­per­back, or they’re com­bi­ning the two… at least, those who are fa­mi­liar with pa­per. The is­sue is real­ly with the ve­ry ne­west ge­ne­ra­tions; they use screens from a ve­ry young age, they need to have ac­cess to books. It’s the best way of de­ve­lo­ping concen­tra­tion and a long me­mo­ry, which can’t be said for the web. From a wri­ting and pu­bli­shing point of view, I be­lieve that the im­pro­ve­ment of the book is a prio­ri­ty. But it’s true that wor­king in col­la­bo­ra­tion is so­me­how op­po­site to the li­te­ra­ture wri­ter’s cha­rac­ter.

Do you have a fa­vou­rite this year?

There are ma­ny. I will men­tion one for the confi­dence it trans­mits, sur­pri­sin­gly for a post-apo­ca­lyp­tic set­ting. Among a bro­ken, sor­ry and sur­vi­va­list ver­sion of hu­ma­ni­ty, hope springs anew in the form of a troupe that get to­ge­ther to per­form Sha­kes­peare. What fol­lows is not about tech­nique and in­fra­struc­ture, but art and culture. It’s a great work, ‘Sta­tion Ele­ven’ (fi­na­list of the Na­tio­nal Book Awards, ed.), and has a Ca­na­dian au­thor, Emi­ly St John Man­del, who will be present at the sa­lon and is al­so hol­ding a spe­cial au­dience (7/10/2017 at 4.30pm).

Lire en poche from 6 to 8/10 - Parc de Man­da­vit, Gra­di­gnan Buses- Liane 10, 36 plus a shut­tle from Quin­conces run­ning on 7th and 8th bet­ween 1pm and 5.50pm. www.li­reen­poche.fr

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