Loving someone is about falling in love with that person again and again. My newest love affair with France began yesterday, the day my book went on sale.
Laurent, a friend who liked my book so much he offered to translate it, picked me up at midday and we took a tour to the Fnac store at Saint Lazare. After a quick look around the politics section, where we failed to locate my book, Laurent asked after Schizophrenie Francaise.
“Nope, nothing by that name,’ said the helpful shop assistant.
My heart fell to the floor.
‘Are you sure?’ enquired Laurent. ‘The author’s name. It’s Emma Vandore.’
‘Ah oui,’ said the rather surly fellow, indicating with his thumb somewhere behind him. ‘Over here.’
I had expected the moment to feel more important. I looked back at the shop assistant expectantly.
‘You have before you the author and the translator,’ said Laurent helpfully.
‘Ah oui,’ he said without looking up.
We waited for a bit, but he continued tapping something into his computer. I considered offering to sign some copies because I’d been told the shop can’t return signed copies to the publisher. Then I decided against it.
‘Come on,’ said Laurent. ‘Let’s find where they are.’
We discovered a pile of my books face upwards on a table next to a book written by another friend of Laurent.
‘You are in very good company,’ he said. ‘What a good position.’
And he was right. I wasn’t wedged into some shelf. I was laid out on a table. And I should be happy. But somehow I’d expected to be on display at the front. Dillusions of grandeur obviously. Or maybe I was just tired.
We met up with Jean-Jerome for a celebratory lunch. Then I went back to the office. A few hours later, I was released and headed to the Auld Alliance, a fabulous Scottish pub in the Marais where I’d planned a small celebration. But disaster! My lovely Scottish bar been transformed into an American watering hole, and not only that, but the commercial the re-look was in aid of had over-run by five hours. When I arrived the place looked like a building site. For a wee moment, I felt like crying. But the lovely owners, who had warned me of this eventuality an hour before, took matters in hand and directed me and the steady trickle of close friends to the bar next door. There, the barman was very friendly, even offering to buy a copy. Until he discovered it was about politics.
At such events it is always impossible to speak to everyone you want to, especially when the waitress keeps asking you to get out of the way. My favourite moment was when I showed the thank you card sent by Patrick Poivre d’Arvor around (nine words written in what I presume is his own hand-writing). Or was it talking about the benefits of English tea with Rhino?
Anyway, the night went by in a flash and before I knew it, I was in Friday morning. I hopped on the metro to trek to the other end of Paris for a debate on ‘La France peut-elle vraiment changer’ at BFM radio, hosted by Vincent Giret. With two appearances on France 24 under my belt, I didn’t feel quite so much in awe of the others guests – Time magazine bureau chief James Graff, Jacqueline Henard of the Swiss newspaper Tages Anzeiger and Stefan Braendle of Austria’s Der Standard. It still doesn’t feel real, but I am learning to enjoy it all.
If I’ve mastered the technology right (and I probably haven’t), you can find the podcast of our debate here.
When I arrived at the office, I had the most wonderful surprise. Paris Match, THE French news-weekly magazine of reference, had written a review of my book. I held my breath as I read what they had to say….
Then I began jumping around the office. And when I didn’t think I could be any more excited, a colleague exclaimed: ‘Look Emma, your book!’ There, on France 2’s lunchtime news bulletin, was my friend Jeff Wittenberg, talking about Schizophrenie Francaise (and the other book by my fellow BFM debators). ‘Who was the Socialist who tried to pull you,’ Jeff texted me after the show. But I ain’t no kiss (there was no kissing) and tell (there will be no telling) kinda gall.