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“I don’t know how we live with absence”: Virginie Grimaldi tells her story after the death of her father

The mourning of her father, the passing of time, self-confidence.

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“I don’t know how we live with absence”: Virginie Grimaldi tells her story after the death of her father

The mourning of her father, the passing of time, self-confidence... In an interview given to France Inter on Monday, the novelist Virginie Grimaldi speaks openly a few hours before the publication of her new novel, Greater Than the sky. With more than seven million copies sold since her first book in 2015, she is the most read author in France. In 2022, his bestseller It's high time to turn the stars back on was voted the French people's favorite book.

For her tenth novel, Virginie Grimaldi draws on her personal history and forges intimate links with her characters. Bigger than the Sky follows the death of his father, which occurred nine months ago, after his battle with Alzheimer's disease. Virginie Grimaldi specifies that at the start “it was not supposed to be a novel”, rather a “conversation with him”. “I extended our relationship by writing to him every day,” she explains to France Inter. Then characters came to him and the novel took shape.

Greater than the Sky relates the meeting between Elsa, a funeral advisor who has just lost her father, and Vincent, an accomplished novelist. Virginie Grimaldi confesses to having put a little of herself in each of the two protagonists: “It’s the book in which there is the most of me”. She confides in the pain of having lost her father, whom she describes as “still so intense” despite the past months. “When she grabs me, it splits my chest open and I feel like I'm never going to get up again.” She remembers her adolescence, which she spent “trying to give [him] joy back,” following the divorce from his mother and recounts how Alzheimer’s disease deprived him of his freedom. “I don’t know how we live with absence, I can’t do it yet,” she confides. She also reveals that she has been “on this quest for absolute happiness for a long time” and that now, she allows herself “to not be okay”.

Also read Edition: Virginie Grimaldi or the dazzling success of an unknown woman

In her reflections on death, Virginie Grimaldi confesses that the passage of time is “something that terrifies [her]”. “We should be taught that we are going to die like we are taught the Pythagorean theorem,” she suggests. The novelist, who declares herself in favor of the end-of-life bill, regrets that the text does not go “further”. “We are very late and what upsets me a little is that the law will arrive one day and that there will be all these people who have suffered without having the right to it,” she believes, deploring that the Alzheimer's patients are excluded from these provisions under discussion in Parliament.

Virginie Grimaldi also addresses in her novel a reflection on the world of publishing, which she discovered contaminated by “political things” and the “things of power which govern it”. Didn't his hero Vincent leave his publishing house bought by a powerful man? She herself slammed the door of Fayard editions after “the arrival of Vincent Bolloré and Isabelle Saporta and everything around her – I saw journalists’ heads fall”. “I was in a position not to accept and to show that I did not agree to be straight in my boots,” she explains to France Inter.

As for professional critics, who are not really kind to her novels, Virginie Grimaldi has taken her side. However, she says she is hurt by “the contempt towards the readers”, which they can translate. A contempt which amounts to “class contempt”, more than literary criticism in his eyes. “Success does not give you self-confidence,” she adds, specifying that she is always “afraid of disappointing” her increasingly numerous readers. Even if the author, who “always felt different”, now feels “in her place”. Writing “gave me a reason to be,” she concludes.

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