This year in October I was lucky enough to visit the Parisot Literary Festival, Festilitt. This wasn’t part of any organised or official twinning visit but I was lucky enough to be invited to stay with friends we’d made on previous visits. The festival is unique in that it was set up as a joint venture by the French and English community living in the area and provides an English and French strand of book readings, talks and events to suit both groups (I’m told that an additional benefit of this dual offer for the organisers is the pleasure of working together and learning that there’s more than one way to do things!)
I went to four events with English language authors representing a really broad range of writing. Historian and academic Richard Vinen talked about his recent nonfiction book The Long 68, relating the student and worker uprising in France to similar events in Germany, Britain and the US and looking at the long term effects of those revolts. Mike Poulton’s career has been adapting and translating literature for the stage. As well as working on classic texts from Chekhov and Ibsen, his more recent work has been the adaptation of Hilary Mantel’s Wolf Hall and Bring up the Bodies. On Sunday I enjoyed listening to journalist Clare Mulley talk about her book The Women who flew for Hitler, on two ace women pilots who flew for the Third Reich. She was followed by Scottish writer Graeme Macrae Burnet, known for his Booker short listed His Bloody Project and here talking entertainingly about his two recent novels set in northern France.
The French strand included novelists, poets and children’ s author Marie-Laure Depaulis, who participated in ateliers with the local primary school children, culminating in a presentation of their work on the Opening Night at the Salle des Fêtes. On the Sunday morning I enjoyed a great presentation by Luc Corlouër on the history of La Compagnie des Indes, the historical background to his recent novel De Port-Louis à Port- Louis.
But it’s not just about listening passively to the great and the good displaying their talent. Throughout the festival there’s an active buying and selling of second hand books, both French and English, in the former village post office, as well as a sale of new books by the participating authors. There’s an infinite supply of tea and cake, provided by the English community in exquisite bone china cups. There’s a display and sale of art work inspired by the works of the participating authors. But perhaps the highlight of the fringe events is the Saturday night dinner with the authors, held this time at the Salle des Fêtes in neighbouring Verneil and comprising a splendid 3 course meal with an author at your table
So this was an incredibly enjoyable weekend at Festilitt and much thanks should be given to the organisers both French and English who work tirelessly all year round to make it happen. More information can be found at the website and if you put your name on the mailing list you’ll receive exciting titbits about the proposed programme for the following year which you’ll find hard to resist.