Chateau de Lavigny: Readings from International Writers

20140831_172441I had the great pleasure to attend my first reading at Chateau de Lavigny last year and I wrote some more about this writers’ retreat with a very special atmosphere then.  This year I was only able to attend the very last reading of the season last night, but it was no less magical. It was an extremely diverse group of writers, both in terms of nationalities and languages spoken, but also in terms of style and subject matter.

20140831_172422First up, there was French poet Franck André Jamme, who has published more than a dozen volumes of poetry and ‘philosophical fragments’ (for want of a better word), has translated from Hindi and Bengali literature, and has collaborated with a number of artists. He read from Au secret, a sort of travel journal, against a background of birds chirruping.

Photo by Neva Micheva.

Second author was Italian-American Jessica-Maria Tuccelli (photo left), anthropologist turned film-maker and actress, now writer. I had read excellent reviews about her ambitious debut novel Glow and it was from this novel that she read, with an impeccable Southern accent.  The novel traces the lives of the descendants of a white slave-owner and moves back and forth in time and in voice, weaving an almost mystical tale of hardship, race relations and family tissue.

20140831_172530The third reader was Bulgarian translator Neva Micheva, who is her country’s foremost translator from Spanish and Italian. She had some very interesting things to say about translations, namely that, contrary to popular belief that the writer creates the original while the translator makes a copy, each good translation is an equally original interpretation and creation. On the other hand, bad writers and bad translators can create equally bad fake literature. Alongside the greats such as Primo Levi, Italo Calvino, Javier Marias, she also translates books she personally enjoys and cannot forget, books she wants to share with others.  She read to us what she described as ‘her one and only attempt to translate poetry’, from The Poems of Sidney West by Argentine writer Juan Gelman, who very kindly answered her many, many questions about the text before his death in January of this year.

Photo by Neva Micheva
Photo by Neva Micheva

The fourth writer is Austrian/Slovak writer Zdenka Becker (photo right), who writes fiction, plays and screenplays, mostly in German. She read from a short play entitled Odysseas Never Returned, which has been translated into English and performed off-Broadway. A story of war, passion, vanity and disappointment.

20140831_172457Finally, there was Jason Donald, whom I already knew from the Geneva Writers’ Group. Born in Scotland, raised in South Africa, he worked for a while in the UK where he published his first novel in 2009, and currently lives in Switzerland. He read a very vivid, funny yet cruel extract from his novel Choke Chain.

So I came away as usual with a wealth of lovely words in my head, a couple of signed books, conversations to treasure and the inspiration to carry on. Long may these summer events of Chateau de Lavigny last!


16 thoughts on “Chateau de Lavigny: Readings from International Writers”

  1. What a wonderful experience, Marina Sofia! Lucky you to have had the chance to hear some of the readings. And what a gorgeous setting! Those kinds of experiences are restorative I think.

    1. Even luckier writers who get to reside there for one month and, as they put it, don’t have to worry about groceries, family logistics or anything else at all…

  2. Looks a lovely setting and a very interesting mix of writers. I envy you! I’m struggling to get on with novel no 2 and need something like that to get away to…

    1. Yes, I completely understand! I’m struggling with my novel and this was precisely the kind of inspiration needed to get me yearning to get cracking on it once more.

  3. Thank you so much for this lovely and very thoughtful post. I am sure your support means so much to the residents — and I know how much it means to us who are trying to make this work for many more years, we hope!

    1. Thank you for all your hard work in creating such a relaxing, intimate and inviting atmosphere. I wish I could come much for each event, but I’ll try at least once a year.

  4. Thank you for this very interesting and very useful account. I have contacted the Château de Lavigny and am now on their mailing list. What a very beautiful setting. I would love to attend one of their reading sessions and perhaps meet an English writer who would like to have his/her book translated into French.

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