How did you find him?
There was a French TV station that found it first and a three or four minute interview. And then a scholar I interviewed pointed me to this city on the Italian Riviera. In his most recent book published a few months ago, he mentions the city and mentions that he went to that particular café. I literally drove there 30 minutes after I arrived in the city. And five minutes later he comes in.
I was waiting for him to drink his espresso. I introduced myself outside. At first he didn't answer, then he got angry and told me to see his lawyer. I said, "I tried but he didn't send any messages or calls back."
Finally he started talking. He might have thought, "Why doesn't my lawyer defend me?"
And he was glad that someone had read his work. I could say, "Well, in that book you said …" He talked a lot about that.
How much of his work did you end up reading?
He wrote almost 50 books and I read about a dozen. None of them have been translated into English, but I grew up in Montreal and attended French schools. And two colleagues in the office read books that I didn't read. Many were no longer in circulation.
So one of my colleagues spent days in the library scanning books and diaries from the 70s and 80s, and then we printed out the scans.
What was he like personally?
His reputation has always been that he is extremely charming, and he was. He is 83, but he speaks perfectly, in elegant, complete sentences.
Was that what protected him?
I think that's partly it. And people thought he was a good writer. I don't think a worker gets away with what he did.
That's it for this briefing. Until next time.
Mark Josephson and Kathleen Massara submitted the message. Andrea Kannapell, editor-in-chief of Briefings, wrote today's background story. You can reach the team at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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