Bernard Friot

Portrait Bernard Friot
© Hartwig Klappert

Bernard Friot is considered one of France’s most renowned authors of children’s and youth literature and describes himself as an »écrivain public«. Most of all, he is fascinated by, and constantly in search of, the immediate encounter between reader and writer. Friot was born close to Chartres in 1951 and has since lived in many towns in France and Germany. He began his career as a teacher, before becoming the Director of the Bureau du Livre de Jeunesse in Frankfurt am Main. Today the author and translator lives in Besançon. He has published a number of books for children and young people, which have been highly acclaimed, translated into numerous languages and adapted for the stage.

Friot’s speciality is short prose, at times serious, ironic and harsh, at times jolly and full of sensitivity. His »Histoires pressées« (1988ff; t: Stories in a hurry) are legendary and are considered classics of French children’s literature – they are stories for busy people, stories that are like a piece of candy to be either savoured on the tongue or quickly bitten in half, where the reader must read between the lines or has to spin the tale’s end himself. In the manner of Gianni Rodari, Friot’s short stories sometimes even have multiple endings, as in »Amanda chocolat« (2004; t: Chocolate Amanda).

In recent years, Bernard Friot has turned towards longer forms of storytelling and has published, alongside novels such as »Folle« (2002; t: Crazy) or »C’est loin, Valparaiso?« (2004; t: Is it a long way to Valparaiso?), the gripping young adults’ novel »Un autre que moi« (2003; t: Somebody else, not me), which describes seven days of the fifteen-year old author’s irksome time at boarding school. Friot rediscovers the language of his childhood and youth and uses the first person narrative to tell the tale of the young Bernard, and to describe the cold atmosphere of the boarding school, his family’s indifference, his own feelings of exclusion and lack of self-awareness, and the need for love. Through sparse language, Friot describes a search for identity full of anguish and existential pain. »Un autre que moi« received great acclaim from critics and the public and was listed in the White Ravens Catalogue of the Internationale Jugendbibliothek in Munich (2004) and in the Sélection du Prix des Lycéens allemands (2005).

In his collection of poems, »Pour vivre. Presque poèmes« (2004; t: To live: Almost poems), the author depicts moments of intense beauty. A new silhouette of life glows on each double-paged spread of the impressive collection. Friot evokes the many facets of human existence – gently approaches and then suddenly with great vehemence and invasiveness. He invites to share his joys and his dreams, as well as his rage, his disappointments and doubts. Touching yet fiery, his poems highlight the complexity of life, the greyness of every day existence, the fluctuation of boundaries and the fragility of equilibirium.

Apart from his own writing, translation is also very important to Bernard Friot – he considers it to be as creative as original writing. He has translated more than forty works from German into French, including picture books and novels for children and young adults by Quint Buchholz, Wolf Erlbruch, Peter Härtling, Christine Nöstlinger, Mirjam Pressler, Andreas Steinhöfel, Uwe Timm and Rafik Shami.

© international literature festival berlin