The novel acoustic Olivier Adam

Photo: Bertrand Guay Agence France-Presse
If, at 47 years old, Olivier Adam has lost none of his angel face, he has lost nothing either of its outspokenness.

“When one is in a routine of comfort, and not in the act of pure creation ? It haunts me “, drops Olivier Adam, who published earlier this year, his 13th book, Song of the silent city.


“At what time I will write completely to the side, and let me tell you, when ?” is concerned the author of the shelter of nothing, a finalist for the prix Goncourt 2007, and to Spend the winter, the prix Goncourt of the new in 2004, both adapted to the cinema like several other of his books.


“Is this a time,” says novelist and screenwriter I met in Paris, I will write completely off, but will continue because it is necessary to justify an advance, copyright ? Because that force, adds this father of a family couple with the writer Karine Reysset, I don’t know anything to do other than write : it’s been 15 years that I live in my books. “


Song of the silent city tells the story of a musician and singer, adored, who, after having put an end to his career, disappears. The suicide is referred to, plausible. But as it has not returned to his body, a doubt persists. For his daughter especially, who decides to conduct the investigation. The singer she sees on the terrace of a café in Lisbon would it be his father ? A look-alike ? A ghost ?


Nino Ferrer Renaud


The range of the inspirations of the author to the character of the singer is very wide. First, there has been Nino Ferrer, who died by suicide in 1998, after having experienced the glory and turned back to the music industry.


Seven years ago, during a family holiday in Portugal, Olivier Adam has raw spot on the terrace of a cafe a look-alike of the singer. He then asked, as a game : if Nino Ferrer was still alive, what would he become ?


And then, over time, other singers have become legendary have informed its approach. Kurt Cobain, Bob Dylan, Leonard Cohen, David Bowie, Gainsbourg, Bashung, Jean-Jacques Goldman, Etienne Daho, Johnny Hallyday… and Renaud.


“I do not think that Renaud would return after years of absence. It was said to be totally lost, it was asserted that he never wrote a note, more a word. Then he made an album. Pathetic. But which despite everything was a success. “


If, at 47 years old, Olivier Adam has lost none of his angel face, he has lost nothing either of its outspokenness. “It struck me. I said to myself : but how can we have lost at this point, the trick ? A guy who wrote so fair, he wrote completely to one side… “


The writer has projected his own anxieties about the work of creation in Song of the silent city. He doesn’t hide it. But he adds a caveat. “I see harm to my small level, a small French author in his corner, begin to spread for hours on “ah ! it is hard to write novels !”… That me inflates pretty fast. “


It was necessary for him that it is magnified. “I wanted a character XXL, a legend, an icon, a singer-worship. Or an author-worship : if it is of interest to Salinger or Cormack McCarthy or to Pessoa, it fascinates me, but if it is in the throes of the creation of Beigbeder or Pascal Obispo, it does not interest me. “


Walking on two legs


This is when he fell on a song by Vincent Delerm, Dancing on the table, than everything is illuminated. There would be a narrator. It would be the kind of daughter cleared, which was always afraid to disturb, the kind that… don’t dance on a table, precisely. She would be the daughter of the singer, the one who has always lived in the shadow of this man, contradictory, elusive. Thus, it is at a distance, in his voice to it, the inner, that we will perceive the singer. And that there would be consequences in her life, to have had such a father.


The autobiography or autofiction does not say anything worthwhile to Olivier Adam. “I don’t practice like that, or so I pretend. Even if I see that there are wonderful books that only work on the leg of the autobiography, for me, it is necessary to walk on two legs. The imaginary, the fiction, allows me to go to the collective, to the universal, to expand my point. Even if the first need of a book to share my obsessions, my fears, very intimate matters that I raised myself. “


Obsessions, issues, in addition to the creation process, are very often the parentage, of the transmission. A fortiori, as is the case in Song of the silent city, when we grow up with an absent father, absorbed by his creation, his tours, his doubts, his obsessions.


“How it is built as a teenager, young woman or young man, then adult in this relationship ? In this inheritance of parents so busy with their own neuroses, or careers that they have left us for what Modiano called the famous dogs lost without necklace ? And also, what inherits ? Not in the financial sense, even if the issue is addressed in the book, but what legacy it leaves ? “


While his narrator is walking in the footsteps of his father’s ghost and revisits his past little by little, his distress and his voice we wrap up. This book crossed end-to-end by the music, the songs, the author says that it had to be sung. There is a timbre, a rhythm and a flow to particular.


“I wanted something soft and delicate, restrained, quite modest. That meant no grand orchestra, no big rhythmic slap. It is rather in a register acoustic, with maybe a cello, maybe an oboe a given time, but not more. “


Good listening…

Musician missed

A teenager, in suburban French, Olivier Adam dreamed of as a musician. He has thrown in the towel after 12 years of the conservatory, to embrace the writing on the footsteps of his idols, literature, Patrick Modiano and Jean-Paul Dubois. It defines neither more nor less than as a musician missed. “I don’t sing well, I don’t play well. I’m not made for it. My two brothers musicians had a lot more talent than me. “One of them, jazz saxophonist, offered him from time to time to play as a duo. “We came out of the standard, it was Coltrane, etc, and he always told me : you swingues like a truck. Finally, the literature took everything away. And since then, I try to make music with my books. ”

Song of the silent city

Olivier Adam, Flammarion, Paris, 2018, 224 pages