Gilles Leroy

Guest of the 2018 Books & Music Festival

Born in 1958 in Bagneux, Gilles Leroy, after his studies in experimental sciences, followed some preparatory courses at the lycée Lakanal in Sceaux. He obtained a DEUG (General Academic Studies Degree) in Arts and Letters in 1977, then a PhD in Modern Letters in 1979 and wrote a thesis about Henri Michaux. Then, he left the university and started to travel and study alone American and Japanese letters he was passionate for. The American novels became for this reason the paradigm of the modern novel and led him to start writing. Working at night at his first texts, Gilles Leroy worked in different fields before becoming journalist of written and audiovisual press. He left journalism in 1991 and Paris in 1995. He settled down at the countryside to focus on writing.

Gilles Leroy published his first novel, Habibi, in 1987, followed by ten more novels, including L’Amant russe (2002), Grandir (2004) and Champsecret (2005).

Several of his works have an autobiographical dimension (L’Amant russe, Les maîtres du monde, Les Jardins publics, etc.), sometimes extending to autofiction with Champsecret. Among the protagonists of his novels, we can find the characters of a loved mother and a childish father, but also homosexuality, the difficulty of loving, the difficulty of coping when you come from the bottom of the society, and, as Fassbinder said, the “difficulty of changing things in this world”. His characters act in a tender and violent world, in which childhood is often cruel and criticism is harsh.

In 2007, Gilles Leroy received the Goncourt Prize for his 12th novel: Alabama Song, knowing a great success in France and abroad. He slipped into the shoes Zelda Fitzgerald and brilliantly told the tragic story of the wife of writer Francis Scott Fitzgerald, combining biographical and imaginary elements. Bernard Pivot, awarding him with the Prix Goncourt, has described him as an author with a flamboyant style, while Françoise Chandernagor acclaimed his “extraordinary writing quality”.

Further works are Zola Jackson (2010, Prix Eté du Livre), Dormir avec ceux qu'on aime (2012), Nina Simone roman (2013, Prix Livres & Musiques de la ville de Deauville), Le Monde selon Billy Boy (2015, prix Marcel Pagnol) and Dans les westerns (2017).

He is the author of an autobiographical essay titled Le château solitude (Grasset, 2016).