“Dinner in Montreal” by Philippe Besson: to see emerge the ghosts of the past

«Dîner à Montréal» de Philippe Besson: voir surgir les fantômes du passé

A keen observer of the feelings of love, the French writer Philippe Besson tells in Dinner in Montreal, his surprising encounter with a former lover who had finally turned the page without getting lost in explanations or excuses. In a previous novel, A certain Paul Darrigrand, he told this story of love that had marked his youth to the red iron.

In this novel “very close to the truth,” said Philippe Besson, in the interview, he recounts how his former lovers came to a signing session in a bookstore in montreal, in 2007. And how they are given an appointment for a dinner in the city.

No question of a head-to-head : the narrator goes there with Antoine, his younger companion of the time, and Paul Darrigrand, installed in Montreal for years, arrives with his wife Isabelle – the same as it was 18 years ago.

Follow a dinner of great emotional tension, marked by malaise, non-said, and then some explanations at the back when Antoine and Isabelle are leaving the table to go outside to smoke.

Philippe Besson explores a very interesting theme in this new novel : what happens when a ghost from the past resurfaces, while we least expect it ? Is the healer and deliverer or not at all?

Nostalgic encounter

On a recent visit to Montreal, he says with emotion this unlikely encounter, caught between remorse and nostalgia.

“This story for me continued for several years. And then that moment came : I said to myself, I finally know how to write it.”

All the action takes place in Montreal. “The imprint of this history is so strong on me that I could not do otherwise than to tell, so quite intimate. At the same time, there was the willingness to go beyond the borders of the story.”

Universal feelings

He hoped that Dinner in Montreal will also be talking to people and tell something of themselves also.

“We all had this idea of saying : what has become of our old loves ? And if it was seen again, in what state we would be? That is what we did to our twenty years? That is what we did in our life? These existential questions, when we are asked, incidentally, their echo is still more violent.”

Philippe Besson reminds us of the great sense of injustice that can be felt when a love story ends abruptly, without explanation.

“You want to oneself, to the other, that it has not been attempted. It has not even been attempted, at the bottom, it has been avoided, in a way, this story.”

A risk

Isabelle could see at any time the risk of losing her husband, Paul Darrigrand.

“She is in the situation of the most terrible and at the same time, the strongest : when it was even difficult to have dinner with the former lover of her husband ! It was surreal, like situation. And at the same time, it has won a few years later, she is still his wife and the mother of his children. There was both a weakness and a strength in her and she moves constantly between the two.”

Winning? Not so sure… there are unspoken, of things hidden, of things not addressed in Paul Darrigrand. “This is all the ambiguity of Paul from the beginning : it was unclear in 20 years, it still is, 20 years after.”

The writing has been “strangely exhilarating”, says the author, who has had the sense to have the top on the story.

“It is as if the writer was avenging the man : that he came to the rescue of the lovers to tell him, it’s going to go, because I take the following. You’ll triumph where love has failed.”

► Philippe Besson is a novelist of the first plan translated into a dozen countries.

► He has published a score of novels, including His brother, was adapted for the cinema by Patrice Chéreau.

► The shooting of the film adaptation of her novel, Stop with your lies will be in may-June in the Charentes.


Dinner in Montreal
Philippe Besson, Editions Julliard, 198 pages”>

Dinner in Montreal
Philippe Besson, Editions Julliard, 198 pages

I’ve talked to you about this young man with black eyes, who came once to find me in my room in Bordeaux ; it was in 1989. I told you about our love underground, lived in the most beautiful age, while I valsais dangerously with the dead ; of this love unfinished, finally returned to the nothingness, at the end of the summer. I confessed that I had finished reviewing Paul. For a long time after.

– Philippe Besson, Dinner in Montreal, Éditions Julliard

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