Your title, Happy lifeis the opposite of the moods of your characters…
A happy life is the goal for each of us. My disillusioned characters want to reinvent themselves. Éric, an executive at Decathlon, divorced and without a sustained relationship with his son, joins Amélie, a former classmate. Director of cabinet at the Ministry of Foreign Trade, she herself drowns herself in work to escape her relationship. But this change of job and direction does not offer Eric the peace he hoped for. He needs an electric shock.
Eric will experience this electroshock in Korea. He forgets a very important meeting with the boss of Samsung, to go and lock himself in a coffin. Is this a joke?
Not at all in Asia, where the relationship with death differs from ours. This ritual which seems morbid to us has become saving. When Eric, unphased, gives in to the attraction of the red Happy Life sign on a street in Seoul, he is completely unaware of what awaits him. After asking him to write his epitaph, he was asked to lie down in the darkness of a coffin for an hour to meditate on his life.
You know, in Korea, this experience has become a real social phenomenon. The pressure is very high, the suicide rate is high and these fake funerals attract many people. Even companies offer them to their stressed employees. Because the results turn out to be surprising: venturing to the frontiers of death provokes a sort of trigger in the participants. By experiencing their own finitude, men reconsider their lives and put their worries into perspective.
Coming close to death, we find here the founding experience of your adolescence…
Having been close to death at 16 after a heart infection, I understood very young the meaning of life, the power of literature and the role of beauty in rebirth. Everyone who has had near-death experiences experiences this feeling and views existence differently. Understanding the ending puts everything into perspective.
Basically, you are telling us that to reclaim your life, you have to risk losing it.
I noted in the foreground of Happy life the quote from Charlotte Salomon: “To love life even more, we even had to be dead once. » It illustrates my point. This artist, whose destiny was cut short at the age of 26 in Auschwitz, created her work in a hurry, under the threat of Nazism. Death brushed past her and urged her to paint all the beauty of life.
Transformed by his experience, Éric decides to import this therapy into Freud’s Europe!
Éric introduces this ritual into our consumer society… and it is a success. Funeral boxes, coffin experiences for two and even a reality TV show are emerging. Instead of carrying out years of work on oneself on the continent of psychoanalysis, Éric offers a sort of inner shake-up to give oneself a second chance.
Is your novel a philosophical fable?
In any case, it risks putting psychoanalysts out of work! You know, I did everything to ensure that this book was not anxiety-provoking, to mix lightness and depth. Let’s say it’s a romantic comedy that I hope will make you think a little.
Basically, you explore the theme of rebirth in all your books…
In fact, I have always declined this quest. Delicacy recounted the right to love again after bereavement, Charlotte Salomon creates in imminent danger of death. In Towards beauty, a museum guard survives contact with art. Even in MemoriesI invite the reader to meditate on the past to re-enchant the present.
Are you aware of having written a very contemporary story?
After Covid and the confinements, we all wanted to change our lives. No longer be subjected to pressure, take the time to breathe. Remember this wave of resignations and flight from big cities. We had been threatened by a deadly epidemic and dreamed of being reborn slowly and with respect for nature. It didn’t last.
When we are close to chaos, we decide to live each day as if it were our last, and then everyday life takes over and wisdom flees.
So, how do we achieve a happy life if we are not capable of wisdom?
By reinventing ourselves on a spiritual level. I believe in the forces of the spirit, I sense that we have been expected on Earth, that there is a link between the living and the dead. I believe in the memory of beings, in the soul of places, in our previous lives. Something exists that is beyond us.
I search, I fluctuate, always respectful of beings who have faith, admiring to see them commune together. But for me, the spiritual remains intimate and personal. Creation is my religion. She aspires me towards beauty through the channel of the imagination and the sensitive. Writing makes me a medium, a sensor of emotions and meaning.
Happy life is an antidote to spleen. You borrow its title from Seneca. Like the Stoic, you tell us “ Let’s not waste the time we have left » ?
For Seneca, the happy man is the one who does not find himself dispossessed, who does not let time escape him. I found the title Happy life before diving back into the philosopher’s work. And I told myself that centuries after him, I was looking for a good life for my heroes, encouraging them to the same meditation. This is the strength of great authors: they address us with incredible modernity.
If you had to write your epitaph today, what would it be?
I will thank life for giving me an extraordinary existence, success, meetings, travels and also a very ordinary journey alongside my daughter, school, homework, shopping, so many things that make me happy daily.