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The Georgia Straight - - NEWS - By

IJohn Lu­cas

t was a Fri­day night like any other, or at least it started out that way. For life­long rock ’n’ roll devo­tee Er­wan Larher, it of­fered the chance to be a part of what promised to be a sweaty night of loud mu­sic by a cool tour­ing band.

Larher couldn’t con­vince any of his friends to come to the Bat­a­clan with him, so he headed to the leg­endary Paris the­atre on his own. What hap­pened on that night—novem­ber 13, 2015—was a shared ex­pe­ri­ence that would for­ever en­twine Larher’s story with all the strangers in at­ten­dance. While the head­lin­ing band, Ea­gles of Death Metal, per­formed on-stage, three gun­men—french na­tion­als work­ing for Isil—en­tered the venue and opened fire on the crowd, killing 90 and in­jur­ing many oth­ers.

Larher was among the wounded, a bul­let hav­ing passed through his body. While his body and mind re­cov­ered, he was cer­tain of one thing: there was no way in hell he was go­ing to write about it.

“It didn’t go through my mind, in fact, to write about it, be­cause I’m a nov­el­ist—i in­vent sto­ries, I cre­ate char­ac­ters, I write fic­tions usu­ally— and what hap­pened in Bat­a­clan was part of my pri­vate life,” he says when the Straight reaches him by phone in Ot­tawa, where he’s on a pro­mo­tional tour. “So, I was writ­ing an­other novel, but af­ter talk­ing with friends and think­ing, it ap­peared to me that it was not only a per­sonal tragedy but a na­tional tragedy, and maybe a world­wide tragedy. So, the nov­el­ist woke up—be­cause as a nov­el­ist I try to ques­tion the world we live in and what we make of it, and the hu­man be­ings ag­i­tat­ing in this world, and what do we do to change it or not change it, and why and how?”

Those ques­tions formed the ba­sis of the aptly ti­tled The Book I Didn’t Want to Write, which de­scribes Larher’s per­sonal Bat­a­clan hor­ror in grip­pingly in­ti­mate de­tail, but also imag­ines the events of that Novem­ber night from the ter­ror­ists’ per­spec­tives.

He ad­mits that writ­ing the book was a strug­gle at first. Para­dox­i­cally, even though it was about some­thing that he had lived through, he didn’t want it to be about him, per se. Then he hit upon a so­lu­tion.

“I wrote the whole book in the first per­son first, and I was em­bar­rassed with that,” he notes. “I was not feel­ing at ease. I was not com­fort­able. I started to write the book in April, and I said to my­self, ‘If noth­ing sat­is­fy­ing is writ­ten by the end of Au­gust, you stop the project, you do some­thing else.’ By the end of Au­gust, be­gin­ning of Septem­ber, I had de­cided to just re­write the whole book sec­ond-per­son. And then it worked bet­ter. I was feel­ing at ease with the whole text and the whole story, like if I was be­com­ing re­ally a fic­tion char­ac­ter, you know? And the sec­ond per­son helped me also grab the reader, like you could have been ly­ing on this floor bleed­ing, you could have han­dled the gun and shot.”

In ret­ro­spect, Larher feels that he needed to write the book, even though he truly hadn’t wanted to do it at all. It’s not a shot-by-shot ac­count of a ter­ror­ist at­tack—if that’s what you’re af­ter, try Wikipedia—but what the au­thor de­scribes as a work of lit­er­a­ture.

“I tried to have a dif­fer­ent voice, a lit­er­ary voice,” Larher says. “We had jour­nal­is­tic voices, po­lit­i­cal voices—we had a lot of speeches. And lit­er­a­ture hadn’t taken the sub­ject, so I tried to do it. I felt it was my duty, in a way.”

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