Denis Labayle

Denis Labayle, a writer and physician, is the author of essays, short stories and novels.
He has published several comments columns in French national daily newspapers. Today, some of his essays have become reference works, for instance La Vie devant nous (Seuil), Tempête sur l’Hôpital (Seuil) or Pitié pour les Hommes (Stock).
He has published five critically acclaimed novels, all of which were selected for literary prizes. They include Cruelles Retrouvailles (Julliard), which was awarded the Prix des Mots Doubs in 2002 and the Littré award in 2003, and Rouge Majeur (Brive’s reader award, 2009). His next novel, Noirs en Blanc, is due out in January 2012.
What sparked your choice of destination?
Writing an original short story about Luxembourg was a bit of a gamble… but I like a writing challege.

Has this literary immersion inspired you for future novels?
My short story talks about music and the path of a musician. One of my novels, Rouge Majeur, evoked the painter Nicolas de Staël and the agony of creation. The artistic work is at the heart of my concerns.

What does the Literary Escape offer you, from a literary point of view?
To write about an unknown city is to write about an unknown being, an unknown woman. A way of discovering its mysteries.

The novel

The Luxembourg Sonata

Denis Labayle Sofitel Luxembourg Le Grand Ducal

I know nothing about Luxembourg except that its capital awaits me. At the train station, I come upon a poster announcing the concert tomorrow at the Philharmonie, a hall that in the past five years has become one of Europe’s finest. My name, Jean Kervenec, appears on the poster just below that of the great Michäel Sterner. Of course, my name is in small letters and his is all in capitals, but wouldn’t many of the world’s most illustrious musicians dream of being there in my place? This concert is my prize for winning the Great Amateurs competition, a victory that came just before I turned 20 years old. I read and reread the poster, but I’m not really sure what I’m feeling. There is a disturbing mix of disbelief, pride and trepidation. All that work, anxiety, hope and disappointment for the right to play 30 short minutes as the opener for a celebrity! A man and a woman dressed…

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Abidjan-Paris-Abidjan

Denis Labayle Sofitel Abidjan Hotel Ivoire

It was reggae night in Abidjan. If Pierre, a journalist at Radio Côte d’Ivoire, had not invited me, I would have missed the festival. The day before, I had been the guest on his show, On dit tout, to present my novel Noirs en blanc, a saga about Africa’s brain drain. Tall and thin, Pierre had a mischievous air about him and his hair was cropped short, he said, to hide the gray from the ladies. He had interviewed me for more than an hour, in an atmosphere that was both serious and light-hearted. We were practically friends when it was over, and I was enthusiastic about his offer to attend the reggae concert. The featured act that night, he explained, was a singer who was all the rage in the country. He was a new star, though, having been a complete unknown only last year, Pierre said. He picked me up around 9 p.m. at the Hotel Ivoire, where…

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