Nathalie Zberro (L’Olivier): “Alice Munro’s raw material is anti-spectacular”

Nathalie Zberro (L’Olivier): “Alice Munro’s raw material is anti-spectacular”
Nathalie Zberro (L’Olivier): “Alice Munro’s raw material is anti-spectacular”

Livres Hebdo: The disappearance of Alice Munro shines a spotlight on the work of this author, a specialist in short stories, present in your catalog since 2008, before her Nobel Prize in 2013. How did you discover her?

Nathalie Zberro : Geneviève Brisac, author of our catalog, had been talking to us for many years about Alice Munro, and Olivier Cohen and I were avid readers of this author. She had other French publishers (Albin Michel then especially Rivages) but wanted to relaunch her career in France. Olivier jumped at the opportunity when his agents told us about it and we bought all of his books, committing to republish everything. Something special happened with Fugitives, which was a great success. It was a gamble because Alice Munro only wrote short stories, a genre that is traditionally harder to sell in France. Actually Fugitivesquickly met with success, reaching 30,000 copies in large format and 75,000 in paperback with our partner Points.

What did the 2013 Nobel Prize change?

Alice Munro is the only Nobel in our catalog, but we know from experience that a Nobel Prize is in no way a guarantee of strong sales if the recipient is completely unknown in France. This was not the case for her because she had already won over a large audience at L’Olivier – her collection On the Castle Rock side, published in 2009, for example, sold 50,000 copies in paperback and large format. Of course, the Nobel had a positive impact on sales, with the interesting thing that they were not limited to a momentary peak. Alice Munro is an author of funds, whose collections “come out” regularly.

“Everything seems very simple when you read Alice Munro”

Alice Munro is also known to exert a certain influence on French authors…

Authors in our catalog like Agnès Desarthe (also translator of part of her work) or Geneviève Brisac were in fact influenced by Alice Munro. She was not an activist, but she wrote mainly on feminine subjects, and what’s more on non-everyday subjects to which she managed to give dimension through the sole power of her literature. Its raw material is anti-spectacular and it is a territory often reserved, unfortunately, for women. Men, for their part, turn more readily to the epic. Everything seems very simple when you read it. Jean-Pierre Carasso (another translator by Alice Munro, editor’s note) said she was capable of breaking your heart with one adjective!

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