22. ilb 07. - 17.09.2022

Jean-Paul Dubois

Portrait Jean-Paul Dubois
© Normand Patrice

Jean-Paul Dubois, born in Toulouse in 1950, began his professional life working on construction sites and as a furniture photographer before studying sociology and by chance finding his way to writing. He initially worked as a sports journalist for various newspapers and, starting in 1984, he was a correspondent for the national news magazine »Le Nouvel Observateur« from the USA. He spent a total of fifteen years on the North American continent; he compiled his experiences and the stories he encountered there in the essay volumes »L’Amérique m’inquiète« (1996; tr: America Worries Me) and »Jusque-là tout allait bien en Amérique« (2002; tr: Everything was Fine in America Until Now). He also wrote his first novels during this period.

He has been writing a book nearly every year since 1987 – always during a short, writing-intensive period in March. In addition to his unique way of working, it is said that he does not invent anything, but draws solely from his own experiences and observations. In 2019, Dubois received the most important literary award in France: the Prix Goncourt. He received the award for his novel »Tous les hommes n’habitent pas le monde de la même façon« (2019; tr: All Men Do Not Live in the Same Way), which was subsequently translated into numerous languages. The main character Paul Hansen grew up in Toulouse in the 1960s, the son of a conservative pastor from Denmark and a left-wing cinema owner interested in the avant-garde. Years later, Hansen sits in a Canadian prison and reflects on that time in his life and the years that followed. Readers learn how Hansen worked as a caretaker for twenty years after moving to North America before being fired for a minor mistake – a personal disaster that was to have ramifications for the rest of his life. In a bittersweet tone in the style of the great American writers Philip Roth and John Updike, the novel tells a story of social upheavals and social injustice, describes the challenges of human coexistence and highlights the individual experiences of failure. At the core of the story is the observation that everyone lives their life differently, as Dubois once paraphrased the title of his novel: Everyone has their own way of dealing with life.

Dubois’ extensive work has made him one of the most important contemporary French authors. Apart from the Prix Goncourt, he has received many other awards including the Prix France Télévisions in 1996 for his cinematic adaptation of his book »Kennedy et moi« (1996; tr: Kennedy and Me) and the renowned Prix Femina in 2004 for his novel »Une vie française« (2004; Eng. »A French Life«, 2008). The author lives in Toulouse.