For Francophiles and lovers of literature, a beautiful new collection of stories about Paris and love. Every new book by Nabil Naoum is an occasion for contemplation, expansion of vision, and enjoyment. There are always embedded histories, underlying events, unspoken truths and revelations. Eleven short stories are included in the collection L’Eclipse et autres nouvelles – The Eclipse and other stories. They’re published in French by Actes Sud.
All deal with the complexities of romantic relationships, their beginnings and endings, knots that are tied and ties that are cut. Six of them are set against a backdrop of churches – the great and small spiritual houses tucked into the corners of Paris which Naoum has explored for years. The churches come alive through sights and sounds: tall towers, cavernous interiors, the aura of quietude or the sounds hymns and bells.
Yet, his evocative tales bypass worship and saints, and instead go straight to the human heart and spirit for which these places were built. Layers unfurl, surprises reveal themselves, and mysteries remain. Naoum uses the churches he writes about as an opening for thoughts about love and life, promises, time, and change. Only an accomplished, deeply reflective author and wonderer/wanderer can bring the realm of the heavens down to earth and use it to illuminate the individual soul. The Eclipse is involving and intriguing, and a wonderful addition to Naoum’s remarkable body of work, which includes dozens of books and countless articles translated into several languages.
The book is in French but the author discussed it with us, happily, in English:
Congratulations on The Eclipse and other Stories which just came out on September 2nd. Six of the stories are set against the backdrop of churches. Why did you choose to do that?
In Paris, as in many other big cities or even in villages there are always beautiful cathedrals or churches and they are like open, free museums. Except for Sunday’s mass, they mostly are empty and good places to sit calmly and enjoy works of art or sometimes hear haunting music played on the organ. These churches sound to me like an endless background decor of real or imagined characters.
Yet your stories are not about religious people. Why do you mix the sacred and profane? How do they deal with each other?
All life is sacred. And to cross over all religions, whether monotheist or even paganism, is a sacred journey. The relation between the sacred and profane is only a constructed separation with false ideas of better or chosen.
Sacred is understanding the self and sharing love. It is not easy. That is why there are no beginnings or calculated ends to my stories. They are like our everyday life; it is both sacred and profane, and we are repeating a circular history or a spiral one, but not a linear one.
How does Paris inspire your work?
Paris is like a flower. The more to get to know it, the more it opens for you and it overwhelms you with the mysterious varieties of quarters, streets and corners. New York and Cairo, where I lived also for periods of times, are big cities that can impress you with their skyscrapers or noise, but for Paris you need time to be aware of all the nuances of its varnishes.
It is a city with long history of art, great museums, and churches, and buildings. It is a multi-layer city.
In Paris, I’ve also met remarkably interesting writers, artists, actresses and actors, and of course, friends from all walks of life.
Are the characters of The Eclipse connected with characters of your preceding short stories?
As I said once in an interview about my characters and how I get my ideas, “I once heard, while I was young, a story and I liked it a lot. And I wondered how anybody could create a story. And since then, I’m just repeating that story with probably some variations.”
Anyway, there is nothing new under our tiny sun.
Thank you for sharing your thoughts with Woman Around Town, and good luck with The Eclipse. We look forward to your next project.
Book cover and photograph courtesy Actes Sud
Author photo by Richard Caillot
L’Eclipse et autres nouvelles
The Eclipse and other Stories
by Nabil Naoum, Translated to French by Luc Barbulesco
On sale at Amazon Canada