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Coffee with Alan Farah |  The word that defines Alan and Farah

Coffee with Alan Farah | The word that defines Alan and Farah

Not long ago, I sent a little message to Alan Farah, calling him, as many people call him, “Farah.”


I forget the exact words, but the message was: Farah, you’re cute.

I’ve only known him a short time and didn’t really know him when I wrote the column⁠1 For his wonderful book on humanity, identity, and Quebec, A thousand secrets, a thousand dangersa UFO book, in the sense that it was a critical and popular success…

I’m not a writer. But from this environment, I had distant, undoubtedly distorted, echoes of the murderous rivalries and small and large grudges between writers. I am not saying that literature tends more toward malice than genius. I’m telling you what I read between the lines when book fair visitors have a couple of drinks up their noses…

Not joy at all.

Farah spent the last book fair on social media praising everyone she encountered on her phone, with sincere and emphatic words.

I thought he would be a good guest for a “Coffee With” segment on the topic of kindness. In this age of anger and meanness, who has the gift of harvest LikesFarah embodies, it seems to me, the light we all need.

Photo by Robert Skinner, Press

Alan Farah, author A thousand secrets, a thousand dangers

He accepted the coffee, and this was the first thing I said to him after he sat down with his tea latte:

“You’re nice, Alan…”

I realized that Farah wrote personally, and I always call him Alan. I also realized that the word ‘nice’ made him wince, and his face darkened slightly, above his tie, which he always wore when he performed, even in a café.

“In France, ‘gentil’ is an insult… they have this word, ‘stupid’. »

I tell him yes, but no: this is not what I imagine at all. I feel sincere kindness when he praises others, when he rejoices in the success of others. I tell Farah that this boasting of joy in front of other people’s successes has no place in life…

There, Alan Farah’s face lights up again: “It’s not trick, He said. He is honest. Above all, it doesn’t take anything from you when others get something. Perhaps this difficulty people have in celebrating others is based on concern that it will take something away from them. »

For me, the universe has definitely given me a lot successfully A thousand secrets, a thousand dangers. But I find it fun to celebrate everyone’s good accomplishments. It just raises the level of conversation.

Alan Farah, author

I will give you an example of Alan’s kindness, of this sincere cheerfulness…

A year and a half ago, I was in Paris for a few days. The stars meant Alan was there too. One evening we walked and had dinner. He was in France for some time to respond to all related calls A thousand secrets, a thousand dangers. He did a lot of surveys with booksellers to talk about his book, to encourage them to read it and talk about it. It seems that the matter is decisive in France.

He wanted to “sell” his book, of course, and it had huge success in Quebec (tens of thousands of copies sold, Governor General’s Award, a film by Philippe Falardeau coming, Le Quartanier’s second biggest success, after Piston Written by Stephane Larue), but Farah also wanted to set the stage for her next novel…

To “pave the way” meant to introduce oneself beyond the first page of the literary notebook⁠2 From the magazine the world (Another sign of success A thousand secrets, a thousand dangers), the goal was precisely to make a name for himself so that his next novel could sneak into the finals of major French literary prizes…

There, move the cursor forward one year.

Kevin Lambert, a young author from Quebec, has catapulted into the literary stratosphere of the French-speaking world with Our joy remains : The novel flirts with Goncourt, before winning the December and Medicis prizes.

No one other than Farah could say anything. But that doesn’t mean I know Alan well: at every stage, he’s an author A thousand secrets, a thousand dangers Celebrate Kevin Lambert’s success.

“You sent me your little note about the awards Kevin won. I was happy for him in December. But the Medici! He overcame all the odds! He’s a man I admired for his manners and for his way of dealing, as when he was having difficulty dealing With the issue of sensitive readers3⁠. I, at 31 years old, would never have been able to win the Medici title. I cant be 45! »

We begin by talking about envy, which is a widespread sin. A feeling that may prevent many people from being happy with the success of others…

Alan Farah cites his family’s origins: his Christian family is from the Middle East, and his father was born in Egypt.

I grew up on the superstition of the evil eye. The prevailing tradition in the Middle East is that envy is a mortal sin. You cannot envy others..

Alan Farah, author

I point this out to him A thousand secrets, a thousand dangers It was a huge success. I point out that not everyone is afraid of the evil eye.

“Were you aware of the desires of others?”

He takes another sip and thinks about it. I feel like Farah weighs her words. He ended up giving a diplomatic answer, assuring me: No, no bad words, no bullshit. Before adding:

“The worst thing in this environment is the silence.

—Are there people you thought you would receive congratulations from, but didn’t say anything?

– Yes, Farah adds, and at the same time… you can’t keep a list. »

Another pause, then his face burst into guilty laughter:

“But I did it!” »

The conversation takes all kinds of turns. About the Parisian bookseller Théodore Delerin, with whom he fell in love A thousand secrets, a thousand dangersWho sold 400 units in his bookstore Le Comptoir des mots. About how he works (preparation, with notebooks and pencils, writing on the computer, relying on the handwritten plan). About his sensitivity to authority, and his disillusionment with those in power…

A thousand secrets, a thousand dangersIt is the opposite of the fear of great displacement, a common thesis in France when it comes to immigration. In France, my book is a more scandalous book than here…

Alan Farah, author

This novel by Farah is a poem about immigration without sentimentality, the story of immigrants who all became Quebecers in a few years. The story of the son of immigrants, Farah, spans several cultures – Christian, Egyptian, Quebecois, hip-hop (!) – and is deeply and unmistakably Quebecois…

I remind him of that evening last summer, when he showed me the places of his childhood, Cartierville, Saint Laurent, Little Lebanon.

I talked to him about this divide between Montreal and the rest of Quebec.

“If you had to give a guided tour to someone who had prejudices about Montreal, where would you take them?

– First, I spend time with her. It will not be just a tourist visit. »

The conversation continues (I fill my parking meter twice) and deviates back to A thousand secrets, a thousand dangersHe is popular wherever he goes outside of Montreal; About his father, who suffers from disappointment in the health system; For women writers, who have to deal with misogynistic attacks when success comes knocking…

Farah names those he appreciates, as women and as Karish: India Desjardins, Daphne B, Emmanuelle Pierrot…

I think, upon re-reading my interview notes: Holy Alan, he repeatedly shines the spotlight on others…

Do you know what, Farah?

Okay, we’ll delete the word “nice.”

We’ll take the one you like best, and maybe it suits you best…

for you generousnow.

Questionnaire without filter

Coffee and I

The last time I drank caffeinated coffee was at CEGEP II. The words started moving in my head so fast that it felt like the movie was being dubbed at the same time. Coffee is bad for anxious people.

for you film fetish

I read in a comment, I don’t know from where, something like: “It’s time for Farah to come back, from Spiritual father. “So I will say Pulp fictionTo soothe the torment of the unknown despised.

the most beautiful compliment

To be present enough.

there The worst insult

To love too much The godfather.

the What inspired you by the word “diversity”?

the health. Without diversity, organization does not last long. The same applies to the social body: healthy development requires welcome difference. Health, but also frustration. Frustration in the face of the institutions that have turned this necessary word into BuzzwordThey seem more concerned with giving themselves a good image than in actually working toward inclusion.

What book are you re-reading? usually ?

Geek alert : to’Odyssey homer, village shakespeare, Ulysses Joyce, Holy Trinity, what!

for you Christmas ideal ?

Lying in front of the TV: Super Mario with my daughter, NHL/NFL With my son series in Binger with my wife.

Who is Alan Farah?

  • Alain Farah was born in Montreal to Lebanese parents from Egypt.
  • In 2021, he published the novel in Quartanier magazine A thousand secrets, a thousand dangers, Inspired by his personal story. In particular, he revisits his wedding day, his friend’s mourning, and his parents’ cultural heritage. He won the Governor General’s Literary Award for this book.
  • The author of several books is also a professor of literature at McGill University.

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