Sunday 18 August 2013

Mother's new book

Another project which took many years before completion, my mother's new book Tales from Vietnam. My mother adopts a distanced attitude toward the whole thing, as if she isn't even connected to it.
"Oh whatever happens, happens! I don't expect much of it!" she likes to say. 
The publisher, a gentle and charming Chinese man asked her to collect and translate Vietnamese folk tales and compile them for a bilingual edition. For my mother, it was an opportunity to do what she loves best: play with words. However the deal wasn't a fair one. She would not receive any fee for her work, but a couple of hundreds of books. My mother being the discreet and shy person that she is, it won't be long before we would find her at the open air market trying to sell her books between the fish and the sausage stands.  
The slowly progressing Alzheimer disease and her forgetful nature didn't help either. She revised the book countless times and still there was mistakes and misspellings. On some morning she would start to rewrite everything then correct it all again the next week. The files went back from the publisher to her more than once, without anyone being satisfied. The publishing expected her to deliver the files ready for printing, but my mother didn't have the means nor the technical skills to do so. That went on for four good years. I decided to take the matters fully in hand last year. I took a couple of weeks to read and re-read the text, nearly turning mad as a hatter. Everyday I would correct new mistakes that have escaped my attentive eyes the previous day. I had Bévinda read it, as well as the publisher assistant, Rebecca. Each of them found new mistakes.
"There is no perfect book" I remember Claude Pinganaud saying. He was the director of a small Parisian publishing company called Arléa and, without a doubt, knew a couple of things about it.
The exchanges between the publisher, the printer and I went on until the very last minute, when in Hong Kong last spring, I managed to one ultimate misspelling on a Vietnamese name. Shall I consider everything is fine now? It's too late to go back. The books have been shipped from Hong Kong where they were printed, to Paris. I was overjoyed when the publisher's assistant shared the news last month. 
My mother as usual, acted as if the matter wasn't more than buying an egg at the convenient store. I was happy, relieved and decided to push the whole thing one step further: organise a reading to launch the book. Isabelle and Vanessa immediately answered the call, and the Galerie Talmart where I organised a screening of Les Contes d'Hoffmann last March, was booked. 
The big day is in a little less than one month. Isabelle has picked three tales to read, and Vanessa will provide an improvised musical accompaniment on the piano.
I am quite certain the accolades my mother will receive when the book is released will be a source of great joy for her. However I have pushed her to start a new project. It's important that she has something to look forward to. My father knows he has no influence over her. So it is my duty to try to maintain a certain momentum in her life.
The new project has already been clear in my head for a couple of years now: a coffee-table book of Hang Mac Tu's poems that she has translated (he is her favourite poet) with beautiful photographs by my friend Yves Schiepek. 

And I would like to introduce that project during the reading in September.... My way to celebrate my parents' 80th birthday.

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