22. ilb 07. - 17.09.2022

Julia Billet

Portrait Julia Billet
© Patrick Jacques

Julia Billet, born in 1962 in France, started writing when she was a child and is, in her own words, »crazy about everything which has to do with literature«. By day, she works in adult education and runs writing workshops. But by night she uses her time to write books for children and young adults, in which she proves herself to be a precise observer of existential human situations, areas of political and cultural conflicts and, above all, of the status of social outsiders in French society.

An example of this is portrayed in »De silences et de glace« (2002, tr: Of Silences and Ice), in which Sarah, after the death of her brother, must come to terms not only with her own grief, but must also watch her parents hide themselves behind a wall of silence, denial and suppression. Or »Cris de guerre« (2000; tr: War Cries) with its presentation of nine women in conflict with various incarnations of war and violence. When asked about what influences her choice of themes in a short interview on the homepage of »L’Association Centre International d’Etudes en Littérature Jeunesse«, Julia Billet replied: »That which touches me, which makes me angry, which moves me, which I carry inside myself without having known it. I am always sensitive to my surroundings. I get inspiration from my view of the world in which I live.« Accordingly, »Salles des pas perdus« (2003; tr: Station Concourses) is about social outcasts stranded in a railway station who, after having lost everything, no longer expect anything from society and have long ago been written off. Her book for young adults, »Alors, partir?« (2008; tr: So, Shall We Go?) also casts a narrative eye on the daily life of a marginal group, in this case Sinti and Roma, whose settled life comes to an abrupt end when an official decree demands that their camp be evacuated, threatening them with further displacement. The adolescent Jaime learns that his love of language and literature can help him to bridge not only the gap between his people’s oral traditions and the potential of written culture, but also between memories of the past and the present. During a car trip, the author noticed a group of caravans and, inspired by her encounter with two people living there, Sinti and Roman, she began to investigate their culture.

Julia Billet has won national and international prizes and was nominated for, among other awards, the »Prix des lycéens allemands« for »Alors, partir?« in 2009. She currently lives near Paris.

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