28 Mar OLIVIA 2/2
The bookcase is made on a wall that spreads on two floors. A staircase gives an access to the second floor and to the highest books. “The design of the bookcase is my husband’s work, I am in charge of its content!” explains Olivia. Through her work – she is a literary journalist – books arrive everyday. And she reads a lot of them. When in 2001 she became the head of the literary pages of the French ELLE magazine, one of her friends warned her: “You will only have bad books left in your bookcase: every time you will have guests at home, they will ask for some good books and will leave with your favourite ones.” So Olivia, has been very careful with her bookcase. “But I refuse to sacralise books, it has to stay alive. I only want my bookcase to make sense.” And her husband has set another bookcase on the doorstep where she puts the books she wants to give to her guests. Great idea!
To organise the shelves, Olivia has opted for an alphabetical classification. “I also like to put together authors that could have been friends” she adds. And some books are more apparent than others: “these are the novels that I especially love or that are important for me”. Amongst them the novels of Françoise Sagan, Roman Gary but also Sylvain Tesson and Amir Gutfreund. “Those books make me happy, they give sense to this bookcase. Otherwise it becomes a bookstore!”
“Compulsive!” is what Olivia says to describe her profile as a reader. Her mum likes to tell that when her daughter first knew how to read she read all the children’s books of the house in one sit. “When I started to read, I could never stop. Reading has always been such a source of happiness. I have only a few memories of me in the past, but all of them are linked to a book”. At 17, British era with Jane Austen – “I wonder why I liked so much this stories of spinsters while I was only thinking about having fun at that age!” At 20, it was the American authors. And during her studies, she discovered Proust: “Intense happiness, a trance! I had the same feeling reading War and Peace”. To read the 1500 pp of Tolstoy, Olivia has a tip: “I read it in two times: first with only the love story and then, reading the passages about war”.
And what about contemporary literature? “I really discovered it becoming head of the literary pages of ELLE. And I immediately loved the idea of discovering new voices.” One recent highlight? Without hesitation: “Grief is the thing with feathers by Max Porter. An incredible novel.”
“If one day, I have no more enthusiasm while opening a book, I will stop because it is a very demanding job” she recognizes. More than a job, it is a way of life. Always trying to be ahead of the game, following the authors you like and believe in and be sure about the choices you make… “This is the most difficult part. But I have been given a piece of advice by a great French publisher years ago: to be a dictator with my literary tastes.” And she keeps following this advice: “Now, if I am wrong in my enthusiasms, it is at least with sincerity so it doesn’t matter much!”