Interview: Michel Tournier by Robin Smyth

Robin Smyth

Interview: Michel Tournier


Michel Tournier is in the attic of his village rectory in the Chevreuse valley. The room is like a dark brown tent lit by a single half diamond of window in front of his desk. He has written all his books here. In his autobiography, The Wind Spirit, he noted: ‘Nothing is more seductive than to dream of future works as one brings a long labour painfully to a close.’ His predicament at the moment is rather less comfortable: he is starting out on a long book, a major work to set beside Friday or The Other Island, The Erl-king and Gemini, but shorter subjects keep pushing to the front of his mind. Contes and nouvelles such as those in The Midnight Love Feast, now published in an English translation by Barbara Wright, pluck at his sleeve like the children to whom this worshipper of childhood acts as baby-sitter when their parents go off for the evening to Paris. It seems that a large part of Tournier is now in league with his short stories, especially those which, although they spring from deep philosophic roots, can – he insists – be understood by very small children. He humbles his heavier works by saying of Pierrot or the Secrets of the Night, a sixteen-page fable in The Midnight Love Feast, ‘Of all my writings this is the one to which I attach the greatest importance. It is now ten years old. It has been turned into an opera, a ballet and a play. I included it in the Midnight Feast because I wanted it to be translated into many languages.'

‘I don’t write for children. I don’t write for anyone. I write as well as I can. And when I am at the top of my form I manage something like this, and it is so good that one can read it to a five-year-old child. When I am less

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