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French authors at the Franschhoek Literary Festival

The 2013 Franschhoek Literary Festival will take place from 17 – 19 May and promises to be an exciting festival ! Along with the very best of local writing talent, will be a host of well-know international authors.

France will be represented by the awarded novelist Laurent Binet for a serie of talks but also by the bestselling author from UK Kate Mosse and South African author Christopher Hope based in France for more than 10 years. The discussion between us will be on Friday the 17th of May from 14h30 to 15h30.

We’ve met Kate and Christopher and asked them 3 questions: 

Why have you decided to write on Carcassonne?
Kate Mosse: In 1989, my husband and I bought a tiny house in the shadow of the medieval city walls of Carcassonne, Languedoc. We knew nothing about the region, nothing about the extraordinary - and bloody - history of the region, but the second I set foot there, I simply fell in love. As the years passed, I became more and more obsessed with the history - first of the Cathars and, now, in Citadel the brave women and men of the Carcassonnais resistance who sacrificed themselves to save their friends and families - and the idea for a trilogy of books, each telling a key piece of Languedoc history, each bringing to life hidden or forgotten women's history, came to life.  The three books are love letters to Carcassonne and a region of France that has everything - huge skies, mountains, the garrigue, vines, lakes and ancient and deep forests.

Many British people fall in love with France, how can you explain this attraction?
Kate Mosse: England and France are like siblings - often fighting, often arguing, but with a deep sense of connection underlying everything.  Our histories are entwined - from the earliest days, right up until the dark times of the années noires (1939 - 1945). Of course, for English people, France seems like the more glamorous older sister - sun, elegance, food, a way of life that is both modern and timeless.  For French people, there is an attraction too.  Francois Hollande, after all, came to London during his election campaign as 'France's fifth biggest city!'

Who is your best French author and why?
Kate Mosse: There are so many authors I enjoy, not least the wonderful contemporary crime novels of Fred Vargas.  But if I had to pick one, I suppose it would be Maupassant.  He is - to my mind - still the greatest short story writer of all time, with an ability to summon up place, atmosphere and character in the bare minimum of words.  I have just finished writing my own first collection of short stories and, each time, I asked myself if this was how Maupassant would have done it.  He's been badly served by English translations until recently - translators failed to understand how subversive and even handed he was - so read in the original!

Why have you decided to live in France?
Christopher Hope: I live in France because I feel at home here.  I left South Africa on an exit permit in 1975, and for ten years, after my first novel, A Separate Development, published in 1976, was banned in South Africa., I was not able to return to South Africa. I lived in London then, for nearly 20 years. But I spent time in France and I always felt easy there because France is kind to exiles.  I moved to the Languedoc in the late '90's. France for me is Europe; it takes a continental view of world politics. And the South, the Midi, where I live, has much that reminds me of South Africa. Not just rugby and barbecues, but a warm-hearted people who made me feel at home.

Could you tell us what Carcassonne is?
Christopher Hope:  Carcassone is really two places. It is the ancient walled citadel of La Cité, with its moats and battlements: and it is also the more modern town that spreads below La Cité. Carcassonne is the centre of le pays d'Oc, the cradle of the Cathars, those extraordinary rebellious heretics who were crushed by the Crusades and the Inquisition.  Carcassonne saw war, sieges and crusades throughout the Middle Ages. It is the centre point of countryside of castles, good wine and ghosts.

How South African literature is received in France?
Christopher Hope:  I'd say that French readers know some of our writers:  Breytenbach , Brink , JM Coetzee, Gordimer  But beyond that I don't think very much is known. Certainly not of the younger, newer writers. Perhaps because not much South African writing has been translated into French. So you have an anomaly: the history if South Africa, since the release of  Nelson Mandela, people here find interesting: but South African literature is on few reading lists.

English author Kate Mosse is best known for her 2005 novel Labyrinth, which has been translated into more than 37 languages.  It has sold millions of copies throughout the world, was the bestselling title in the UK for 2006 and won the Richard & Judy Best Book at the British Book Awards 2006. In October 2007, the second novel in the Languedoc Trilogy was published. Sepulchre was also a No.1 bestseller in the UK and an international bestseller. The third in the Languedoc trilogy, Citadel has been published in October 2012.

Christopher Hope was born in Johannesburg and is the author of several collections of stories and ten novels. Among these are:  A Separate Development (David Higham Prize); Kruger’s Alp (Whitbread Award for Fiction) and Serenity House (short-listed for the Booker Prize. His latest collection of stories: In the Garden of Bad Dreams was published in 2009. ). His most recent novels are is My Mother’s Lovers, (2006) and Shooting Angels (2011) He lives in France.

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