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The eye of the INA: when Paul Auster visited Bernard Pivot

Paul Auster was considered the most French of New Yorkers.

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The eye of the INA: when Paul Auster visited Bernard Pivot

Paul Auster was considered the most French of New Yorkers. He never stopped expressing his love for our country and its literature, which he studied at Columbia University. Also passionate about cinema, in particular for La grand illusion by Jean Renoir, he moved to Paris in 1967 with the hope of entering HIDEC. The difficulty of the exam prevents him from making his dream come true.

He crossed the Atlantic again and began writing down silent film scripts that would never see the light of day. He eventually turned to literature and, while working on an oil tanker to earn a living, he wrote the first draft of several novels, including Moon Palace. Between Manhattan and the American Midwest, it tells the life of Marco Stanley Fogg, an English journalist responsible for finding Doctor David Livingstone in Africa, and the two generations who preceded him. Its pages are finally crowned with success across the Atlantic, but also in France. He was thus invited by Bernard Pivot to an Apostrophes, special United States, on May 11, 1990. Madelen invites you to discover or rediscover this interview where he confides, in particular, his passion for Jules Verne, Jean-Paul Sartre and our poetry to which he devoted an anthology.

Also read Baumgartner, by Paul Auster: hello sadness

However, he has not forgotten cinema. His notoriety earned him, in 1997, a member of the jury of the Cannes Film Festival. He jumped at the opportunity to try to bring to fruition a project that had been lying dormant for a long time. He takes advantage of the moments of freedom between screenings, meetings and official dinners, to increase contacts with international producers. This is how, in just a few days, he raised the ten million dollars necessary for the production and direction of his first film, Lulu on the bridge. It tells the drama of a jazz saxophonist who, the day after an attack during a concert, meets a young actress who will help him regain his mental balance and physical strength.

A year later, on May 14, 1998 to be precise, he created an event by presenting his feature film at Cannes, opening the Un certain regard section. He climbs the steps of the Palais des Festivals, in the company of Mira Sorvino, his female headliner, discovered by Woody Allen. In September, it was also present at the Deauville American Film Festival, before a theatrical release, praised by the public rather than by the critics. His filmography will then be enriched with a few screenplays and another production, in 2006. In The Inner Life of Martin Frost, he imagines a successful writer meeting a woman who he wants to make his muse. His major work, however, remains literature through themes linked to the city of New York, and in particular to the district of Brooklyn, where he took up residence. The day after the attacks of September 11, 2001, he received David Pujadas in his apartment. In front of the cameras of Antenne 2's 8 p.m. news, he underlines the solidarity and generosity of his fellow citizens in the face of the tragedy. He says he is in favor of creating a memorial. He became the first to support the non-profit Foundation, created to raise funds for the construction of a museum, symbolically inaugurated on September 11, 2011. On July 6, 2022, he made his final appearance on French television during a sequence shot in his New York office, on the occasion of the 500th broadcast of La Grande Libraire. After recommending that François Busnel read Towards the Lighthouse, a novel by Virginia Woolf, he said “thank you and see you soon I hope”. Wishful thinking, alas. Six months later, doctors discovered that he was suffering from lung cancer. Irène Jacob, who became a close friend after filming The Inner Life of Martin Frost, found him in Manhattan just a few weeks ago. Siri Hustvedt, the writer's wife, had in fact sent him an appeal in the form of an email: “When there is no longer optimism there remains hope. Paul is no longer going to be treated, it’s time to come see us.”

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