We've read the blurb, great, but what's the book really about?
Love and Invention is two interwoven stories. One is about a teenager, Maleck, who learns that his grandfather, Abbas Ibn Firnas, disappeared ten years previously. Maleck is passionate about cinema and has been making films since he was a kid in the rough neighbourhood in Paris where he grew up. He also has a special talent for getting in to trouble and a morbid attraction to fire. His parents decide to move back to the village in central France where his mother was born. Maleck struggles to settle in to village life and decides that he will run away back to Paris, until he becomes friends with an old woman who he discovers was his grandfather's lover. He also becomes friends with the Mayor of the village who is 84. Maleck decides that he's going to make a film about his Grandfather, but the village is an uncomfortable place for an outsider, and like I said, he has this talent for getting in to trouble.
Why does anybody write a book? I've been writing for years because I love it and I love making up stories and I love the tricky art of trying to get them down on paper. I love the challenge of finishing a huge project. The more I do it, the more I love it. Curiously, I'm not a big reader. I find reading laborious. I wish I could whip through books, but I'm dyslexic and that means reading is slower than for many people. But I love putting words together and going back again and trying to make them better, and again, and again.
This book, this book, why did I write this book and not another?
Since my earliest memories I have dreamt of flying. It was something I could do at will, whenever I remembered that it was possible. I would just kind of relax and concentrate at the same time and my body would levitate, sometimes just above head height or sometimes high above the world, swept along by the wind. Would that flying had been for pleasure. unfortunately it never sprang to mind when I was having a good time. Flying was always a brilliant and skillful means of escape from bad things. It was my joker, my get out of trouble card that my dreams have always provided. I think I'm not the only one. I think a lot of people dream like this.
I had just written a book called Three Lives of Tomomi Ishikawa. It's a book about Paris and New York and friendship and murder. I wanted my next book to have no murders, no gimmicks. I wanted it to show another side of life, or another side of the way I see life. But what it has in common with Three Lives is the idea that stories are all around us and it is just a question of how we frame them.
Books are rarely just one idea. My books and my understanding of other people's books is that they are a collection of ideas gathered and stitched together. I saw an article about an exhibition at the V&A museum in London called something like: Great Inventors of the Arab World. I got stuck on a picture of a man in a flying machine and read about the 9th Century inventor Abbas Ibn Firnas from Andalusia in the South of Spain which was at the time part of the Caliphate of Mohamed I. Abbas Ibn Firnas fascinated me. He was a polymath. He had invented a way of cutting crystal and he wrote poetry. He also was also the first historical figure to have been documented as flying. He had built wings from wax feathers and silk, and jumped from the tower in Cordoba and flew 200 metres. He broke both his legs on landing, but he was the first person to fly. He was 70.
A friend told me the story of how he took his then boyfriend to meet his grandmother who had dementia. She thought the boyfriend was a prince come to woo her. Another friend told me about a canal boat that is a travelling opera. I since found another canal boat which is a theatre. I wanted to write about not fitting in and wanting to make art - these are big parts of my own development. I wanted to write about France and how, particularly in the countryside, the war still has influence. While I was writing this book, everything I saw and everybody I met seemed to connect in to this story. Maybe it is about me and the many conflicting arguments about everything. Why did I write it? Because I wanted to.
The first edition of LOVE AND INVENTION will be available from select bookshops in France from October 2018, but is available by mail order from Les Editions du Délirium.
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