Gilles Leroy

Gilles Leroy was born in the Paris suburb Bagneux in 1958. After completing his studies in literature, he made a living from odd jobs. Leroy later worked as a lecturer in modern literature and as a journalist for the architecture and design magazine »L’árt vivant«. Three years after the publication of his first work »Habibi« (1987) he began working solely as a freelance writer. Since then Leroy has published eleven books, mostly novels, primarily inspired by his own experiences. »In order to write, I make use of the most immediate, obvious material before my nose: my life.« Shaped by his admiration of American literature, his novels interweave reality and fiction, and stand out for their sensitive, direct and precise portrayals and opulent metaphors. At the same time, he does not shy away from dealing with taboos of intimacy and profound emotions.

In the short story »Maman est morte« (1990; t: Mama has died), for example, the author reconstructs his mother’s downhill fight with breast cancer in the form of a diary. »L’amant russe« (2002; t: The Russian lover) depicts a passionate love affair between a French male student and an older Russian man who meet in Leningrad during the Brezhnev Era. In 1996 Leroy settled in the region of Champagne. »Champsecret« (2005) combines natural imagery with the homoerotic encounters of the main character, who shares the author’s name.

Leroy’s latest novel deals with another life story. »Alabama Song« (2007) is a keen psychological portrait of Zelda Sayre Fitzgerald, the wife of writer F. Scott Fitzgerald. As the narrative alternates between the first-person perspective of Zelda as a younger and older woman, a multifaceted, although clearly subjective, picture of the glamorous couple’s relationship emerges as shaped by rivalry, provocation and excess. Both are driven by desire and longing. Their hunger for admiration and the transgression of conventional and individual boundaries leads them to suffer at the hands of the world and each other. Zelda’s point of view, which is occasionally naïve, at times reveals an insightful analysis of those around her. Once diagnosed as schizophrenic, a series of ordeals led her from one psychiatric hospital to another, before she died in a fire at the final clinic aged forty-eight years.

In 2007 the novel was awarded the prestigious Prix Goncourt. Among other awards Leroy has received the Nanterre Prize for novella, the Valéry Larbaud Prize and the Millepage Prize. Leroy is Chevalier des Arts et des Lettres. He currently lives in Perche, a region in northern.

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