Franco File Friday: Marc Levy (novelist)

After years of studying France's literary top brass - Baudelaire, Hugo, and Flaubert among others - it was a much different kind of storyteller who officially ushered me into expat life in Paris. Marc Levy, the most widely read French author in the world, is known for his narratives of impassioned love, searing loss and buoyant hope. As I initially struggled to navigate as an adopted Parisian and embrace an all-French lifestyle, his words proved as educational as they were edifying. His work, forever connected to this formative time in my life, was also a launchpad for discussion with French people I encountered - even my sister-in-law had his entire collection. His novels are ubiquitous because they're so eminently relatable. And when you need a novel to be a source of comfort, you turn to Marc.

With thirteen #1 bestsellers in France, printed translations in 45 languages and several big-screen adaptations of his work (Just Like Heaven with Reese Witherspoon, for one) since he ventured into twelve years ago, Marc's novels have only just become accessible to American readers. English translations are now available through Amazon and iTunes so you can dive right in from the beginning.

And to help you get to know him a bit better, Marc graciously accepted to answer a few questions below.

You came to writing as a profession late in life. What inspired this shift?
It wasn’t exactly a shift: when my son was between five and nine years old, I used to write a bedtime story for him every night. When he turned nine, he explained to me that TV was much better and more fun… but after he was asleep, I realized that I really missed writing the stories for him. So, as I could no longer write for the child he was, I thought that I would write for the man that he would one day become. That’s how I started to write my first novel, If Only It Were True. At the time, I would have never imagined that this story could be published. I’m aware that I was very lucky. Since then, I’ve been able to write full time.

Why did you choose to leave France and make a home for yourself in the States? How has your adopted home informed your work?
I like living abroad and moved to London for several years before moving to New York. Being in contact with people of a different culture and who speak another language is always very enriching. It’s also a daily lesson in humility: nothing is ever a given. Every day you must forget your habits and reflexes, and adapt to the customs of the country where you live, even if they sometimes don't make any sense.

I’ve always felt drawn by New York and its energy, its cultural diversity, eclecticism, and dynamic feel… I’ve lived there in the past, and wrote several chapters of my books there.
And it’s not because you live abroad that you love your own country less… On the contrary, often the things you miss have even more prominence in your life. French people living abroad are also ambassadors that help foreigners discover and love their country.

What is life like for you as a widely recognized public figure when you go back to France?
First it feels like seeing my family, which I miss a lot. Then my friends and then.... my favorite Parisian café and restaurant, and that feels really good.
You have an older son who was raised primarily in France and a young son whom you are raising in New York. What differences do you see in the French and American parenting cultures?

My older son was actually raised primarily in London. It's a bit difficult for me to comment on contemporary French parenting culture, since I've been living outside of France for the past 15 years, but as far as I can tell, there aren't too many differences. As parents, we all love our children with the same heart and want the best for them. I suppose one difference might be that in France, we focus less on the psychology of the child and more on his or her practical education. For example, when I was at a French friend's house, she had told her son he couldn't do something and he responded, "You're hurting my feelings!" Our other French friends laughed, as this is not very French—it would not garner a child in France much sympathy when being scolded or told no. Perhaps French parents are more old-fashioned, stricter in this way...or at least, mine were with me.

What makes it onto your French reading list?
There are some classic authors that are always on my list, such as Romain Gary, Victor Hugo and Jacques Prévert. I recently read La Délicatesse (Delicacy) by David Foenkinos, which is a story full of sensibilities and particularly touching.  (editor’s note: also a film with AudreyTautou).

After widespread success in print and on the big screen, what's next for you?
A new novel that I will publish in two weeks in France! 

Thank you, Marc! 

Win a weekend in Paris for two
International e-book publisher Versilio is conducting "The Marc Levy Paris Getaway Sweepstakes" in the US through Sunday, February 10th, 2013. Head over to Marc’s Facebook page to enter (U.S. residents only)! 

For more on Marc and his work, visit his website.

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