Adonis Diaries

Danes writing in French? Forget it: Pia cannot be invited as a Francophone author

Posted on: January 9, 2012

Danes writing in French? Forget it: You cannot be invited as a Francophone author

Alain Mabanckou, French-speaking African author from Congo Brazzaville, recounts this story of Pia Petersen. The Danish Pia landed in France and she was over 20 year-old. She could not even speak French but decided to resume her studies in philosophy in French.

Pia decided to follow the French thinking by reading the original work and learning the French language: She didn’t trust translated works, and a language merit to learn it with patience. Pia purchased a bookshop so she may learn to write in French.

Twenty years later, she published a book written in French.

Fifty editors turned her down before editor Hubert Nyssen of Actes Sud decided to take the plunge and published Pia’s first “Occasionally, they discussed of God” (2004). The next was “A window at random” 2005.

The year 2006 was dedicated to all Francophone authors in Paris. I pleaded the organizers to invite Pia to the Salon of the Book. The invitation was declined on the ground that Denmark was never a French colony.

Pia is small, blonde with eyes of different colors. She was attending the Salon of the Book in Toulouse, and waiting for anyone to purchase her new book “The game of the facile” and to autograph it.

Since the book was “not translated” from the Danish language, Pia had no luck for the day.  She said to Alain Mabanckou: “Things would have been much simpler if I were from the Congo. French editors are suspicious of me, though they readily welcome to translate Danish books”

I lived in Los Angeles, and Pia used to call me every couple of days for my input: She was intent for the first sentence in the book to be perfect.

A few years later, I assured Pia that the next Salon will invite her. Again Pia was refused an invitation on the ground that Pia writes in French but is not a Francophone author!

To France, Pia is a writer with no fixed residence. I adopted Pia as a Congo citizen of Danish origin.

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