© Julien Alcacer
‘The best early training for a writer is an unhappy childhood,’ Hemingway famously said. Julia Kerninon, one of France’s most acclaimed young novelists, tells an altogether different story in a poetic account of her pursuit, A Respectable Occupation. Her journey through her formative years entwines the French and Anglo-Saxon literary traditions, resulting in a vibrant ode to reading, and to writing as a space for discovery, peppered with fine portraits of her disjointed yet loving family. From her native Brittany to the city of Shakespeare and Company, to a seaside café on the Atlantic coast, to Budapest and back, the author conjures a fluid, feminine answer to A Moveable Feast.
Her first novel, Buvard, has won the Prix Françoise Sagan, among many other awards. Kerninon’s second novel, Le dernier amour d’Attila Kiss, won the Prix de la Closerie des Lilas in 2016, and her latest novel, My Devotion, winner of the 2018 Fénéon Literary Prize, is being published by Europa Editions in July 2020.
As part of French Book Week, she gave us an interview, followed by a reading by Ruth Diver. This online event is organised in partnership with publisher Les Fugitives and the European Literature Network.
‘The greatest writers are also the greatest readers… Julia Kerninon’s A Respectable Occupation joins the shelf of these biblioautobiographies; books on how writers crave books, how books beget books, how tricky it is to move from the position of the reader to that of the writer, and stand there feeling you’ve earned the right to call yourself, finally, a writer.’ – Lauren Elkin
‘Marvellously contagious’ – Le Point
‘Julia Kerninon lays down sentences as definitive as dictums, impresses with her maturity of style and command of narrative. The reader plunges in, with the same voraciousness she puts into her writing.’ – ELLE (France)
‘A Respectable Occupation is at once breathless and poised, as if what we are being told was absolutely urgent, but choosing the right words to do so was primordial. Julia Kerninon sweeps us along from one place to another, upending temporality with a precision and delicacy that carry us away.’ – Le Devoir