The Success Stories

3 questions to Denis Thériault, author

Denis Thériault - courtoisie

As a writer, the Bavaria-Quebec partnership enabled you to stay at Munich’s Villa Waldberta. How would you describe the impact this has had on your creation?

It’s had a major impact. As a writer, I am always on the outlook for inspiration, new experiences to fuel my work, but also for time. Writing novels is a constant battle against fast-flying time – a strenuous long-term venture and a goal hard to meet with all necessary focus when one is constantly interrupted by daily hazards and distractions. This concentration, inspiration, and so precious time, I was able to find at Villa Waldberta, in Bavaria’s enchanting Fall season. I could properly devote myself to writing a new novel for 3 months.

Villa WaldbertaThe Villa itself is a very special place, loaded with History, propitious for intellectual work as much as for encounters. I met several international artists of various disciplines, with whom the exchanges were extremely rich. I’ve made several friends, who now are inspiring and lively correspondents to me.

During my stay I visited Bavaria, and especially Munich, a town I fell in love with. I have actually started a new novel where the main plot takes place in München. I’ll have to go back there to carry out some research, which I look forward to do in late November 2012, in order to be there at the launch of my novel, the third to be published with DTV editor.

What are your impressions about the German book market; does it seem very different from Quebec’s? Do German and Quebec readers share common points or do you see significant differences?

In both cases, competition is tough. But demographically speaking, the German market is wider, and therefore favours what I would call rather “peculiar” books: books with less commercial ambitions, targeting a precise public that will look for “different” literature. I think it’s hazardous to try to compare the literary tastes of Germans and Quebecers, the risk of drifting into excessive generalizations being too great. But I felt that we do share an avid curiosity for foreign literature, and more generally open-mindedness towards the world.

Many have asked me about Quebec, about its relationships with Canada, the U.S., and France. More often than not, I ended up in giving a “Quebec 101” course to my counterparts, which I enjoyed a lot. Yet I believe there are subtle differences between Germany’s literary taste and Quebec’s. As an example: my second novel, Le facteur émotif” ("Siebzehn Silben Ewigkeit"), sold very well in Germany whereas it was only a critical success in Quebec. On the other hand, my first novel, “L’iguane” ("Das Lächeln des Leguans"), which sold very well in Quebec, was less of a success in Germany. What I take from this is that German and Quebec readers have slightly different sensitivities. What difference exactly that is? Hard to say. Maybe my third novel, "La fille qui n’existait pas" ("Mich gibt es nicht"), will give me more clues on this subject?

Writers’ exchanges between Bavaria and Quebec have been existing for several years. Have you had the opportunity to participate in other such exchanges? What will you particularly remember from your stay in Bavaria?

I enjoyed meeting and sharing experiences with the Bavarian writers who stayed in Montreal as counterpart of this exchange program. As for myself, it was the first time I participated in such an exchange. What will be the most memorable?  A variety of emotions, moments of great intellectual satisfaction, a very positive opinion on the Bavarian people, and the unexpected recognition of astonishing similarities between our two cultures. I believe that this resemblance is the consequence of several cultural and geographic factors. Just like the Quebec soul, the Bavarian soul is marked by what I would call a certain kind of “Nordicity”. We share this feeling of being “different”, in some respect independent from our federations. You can actually feel this similarity all the way down to the culinary traditions: Bavarian cuisine, hearty and substantial, uses the same base ingredients as we do in Quebec, and, just the same, is the heir of a rural tradition. All in all, and if I except the language which I am far away from mastering, I really felt at home in Bavaria.

So what I remember most are actually images, unforgettable sensations. The rising sun over the Alps  and the Starnbergersee as seen from my balcony at Villa Waldberta – Marienplatz in the fog on an October night, coming out of the S-Bahn station – Kids marching around the streets of Weilheim, carrying small lanterns on the night of St. Martin’s – A good cup of Glühwein in the middle of a Weihnachtsmarkt – An amazing representation of the play “Aufstieg und Fall der Stadt Mahagony” at Prinz-Regent Theater on Gärtnerplatz – Ludwig 2's Mirrors Room at Lindenhof – Oberammergau under the sun – A warm chocolate on Theatinerstraße – A bowl of Schupfnudeln in the center of Auer Dult on a Sunday morning – Gasthof Poelt at Feldafing – Gaststätte Brünnstein near Ostbahnhof – This particular melody of the German tongue, so charming when you hear kids speak it as they come out of Grundschule, and so sexy when pronounced by a woman…