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– Is Canada home or away for you today?
In 2010, I was on a big stage in St-Malo with Dany Laferrière, an extremely well-known writer in Québec and France. He was very kind by giving tons of compliments to my book ru. I spontaneously said to the public that he is generous with compliments because we come from the same country. Dany Laferrière is Haitian of origin. By seeing him all black, I realized that I was all Asian. Otherwise, I forgot totally our respective places of birth and our different physical traits. We were just Canadians. Or, we are first of all Canadians.
– Do you think of yourself as a Canadian writer?
I certainly consider myself a French speaking Canadian. But, I still have to write more books to earn the title ‘writer’.
– You arrived in Canada as a young girl, how did that journey and life in exil influence your writing?
Being ten was the perfect age for this experience. I was old enough to remember certain things, to have a memory but too young to understand, which protected me from fear and anxiety. Arriving in Canada at this age allowed me to learn the langage quicker and mostly, to adopt the Canadian culture in full without losing my culture of birth. This mixture has enriched me with two cultures, both blended together like a cocktail, which has given my writing a particular colour.
– In Sweden we have read two of your novels: Ru and Mãn. They both have a framework built on vietnamese culture and language. Tell us more about that. Do you think in Vietnamese? Write?
I think in French, because I don’t have enough Vietnamese words for emotions. Vietnamese verbalize very rarely their emotions. Therefore, to know the words, one needs to read Vietnamese books. I stopped my education in Vietnamese at the age of 10. So, all the emotions were learned once in Canada with French words, since children under 10 could not identify and qualify all the nuances of the emotions–nostalgia and melancholia; or enthusiastic and ecstatic….
I have never been to school in English. So, impossible to write in English 🙂
– How does being multilingual affect your writing? Does it complicate or facilitate things?
I feel very privileged to know more than one language since I can rely on one language or the other when I cannot find the right word. For example, the word ‘home’ does not exist in French. On the other hand, ‘jouissance’ has no equivalent in English. As to Vietnamese, it gives me a new angle, a new way to look at things. To know the seven different words for ‘to love’ give me a natural analysis of this feeling in the Vietnamese culture. The verb ‘to love’ is determined not by ‘how we feel’ but ‘who we are having these feelings for’. I believe that the knowledge of these 3 languages enrich my writing in unexpected and exponential ways.
– I often think of your novels as a collection of shortstories or even poems. They give me a feeling of small snippets of text which are beautifully fitted together, is my feeling right? Are you a writer with your pockets full of scribbles on scraps?
If I was a painter, I would say I wanted the text to feel like it was written in one stroke or in one breath. I never saw them as small pieces assembled together. But, I love the effect of fragmentation of the text on the reader, as if they were small pieces of a puzzle, or different kinds of beads of a necklace. I don’t have pockets of scribbles but I do collect stories in my memory. I love chatting with taxi drivers, street vendors, passerby… I am interesting in stories from everyone who is willing to answer my questions.
– We are longing to read more from you. Could you tell us a little bit about your current work?
I have written about a third of the story I wish to share. As much as ru and man evolved around women, the current text will give men the center stage; or at the least the impression that they are 🙂
– Summer is coming up, please give our readers a recommendation for a good summer read!
If you have not read Heather O’Neil, I strongly recommend it. I am very happy for having introduced this exceptional book to my Swedish publisher who has published it for Swedish readers.
Thank you for the invitation. Hoping to seeing you again in Sweden or…Montreal 🙂
Stort tack till Sekwa förlag som hjälpte oss med kontakten.