Joël Dicker: a nice writer

20121106_100233.jpgThe person being photographed near Cornavin station yesterday turned out to be the Geneva writer who is a candidate for the Goncourt prize.

In global terms, Geneva is a small town and Switzerland a small country. The advantages of this are that we can often come into contact with well-known personalities. When I lived near the airport and went there on Sundays to buy my Sunday paper, more than once I spotted Roy Hodgson, then the manager of the Swiss football team, now England manager), walking through in his long dark coat. On Swiss trains I have seen two ex-presidents of Switzerland (Adolf Ogi and Ruth Dreifuss). Going around Geneva, I heve exchanged pleasantries with well-known local, even federal, politicians.

Yesterday morning, Tuesday 6 November, I was waiting to catch the tram towards Lancy when I noticed a man being photographed by someone who was clearly a professional photographer. Being curious, I asked why, upon which the photographer (who was not from this newspaper) said that he was Joël Dicker, the writer who was one of four candidates proposed by the Goncourt Academy for their annual award. Very interesting: like many people, I often buy a copy of the winning book as a Christmas present for someone in the family.

So I went up to Joël and wished him luck, as well as asking if I could take my own photograph (the one accompanying this article, taken with the smart mobile phone that is almost a modern necessity!). After agreeing, and smilling in a very friendly fashion, he looked at me and asked me to confirm that I was the person who tracked the aircraft at Geneva airport!

After initially feeling proud (a temporary inflation of my ego), I then realised that I ought actually have felt ashamed that I had not recognised him, nor did I know anything about his candidature, nor his book

"La vérité sur l'affaire Harry Quebert"

and I was even more ashamed when, yesterday evening, my tennis friends knew all about him, and about the contents of his novel (a detective story whose title is reminiscent of the film called "The Thomas Crown affair")! I also took note that it was appropriate to hear about a novel whose subject is a young writer in the USA in 2008 exactly on the day, four years later, when the Americans were voting for their next president.

Upon reflection, I have found a plausible explanation for his memory (though not for my own ignorance). Good writers are inherently people who take note of all information that they read, hear and see, so that their writing can reflect reality and experiences. Surely this is something that we should all do: when we see interesting people or events, we should ask questions so that we can be better informed, rather than just ignoring them. My experience of trying to do this has taught me that most "important" people are very happy to discuss things with "common" people in a friendly manner, even if their views disagree.

I wished him good luck (the winner will be announced in Paris this afternoon), and made a mental note to buy the book. Maybe if he organises a personal appearance for signing copies he might remember our short conversation (and sign a printed copy of this blog?).

Maybe :-)

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