Literary Prize of the Avignonnais, Avignon acclaims the writer Murielle Szac and her work Eleftheria: Mairie d’Avignon
You are the winner of the first Literary Prize of the Avignonnaiss, your impressions?
It is also the first Prize that this book receives and I am of course delighted! I am very touched, firstly because it was commissioned by readers, and also because I carry Avignon in my heart. I really like this city, I’ve been there as often as I could, through the theater, on vacation with my daughter: it’s a city that has been in my imagination since I was a teenager. I like this place and I am particularly happy that the City of Avignon is giving me this prize.
Could Avignon inspire you with a novel?
It could happen, it’s a city whose history has been sent to every step in the street and at the same time the people who live there today have plenty of interesting things to tell us, to share… Why not?
You have already written a lot for young people, why this target?
Firstly because I think that when you make a good book for children, you make a good book, adults can benefit from it. But above all because I think that children have the right to the best, they are demanding and I wanted to talk to them because they are adults in the making. Some of the stories I tell are things that make you think, make you angry sometimes, make you want to get involved. I always tell myself that if we adults had known how to change the world, it would be known, but that on the other hand, perhaps, young people can do it…
Mythology occupies an important place in your work, why?
I have published more than twenty books of poetry or children’s literature, including the one that concerns us today, but in fact my best-known books are four serials, of 100 episodes each, on Greek mythology: Hermès , Theseus, Odysseus and Artemis. For thousands of years, myths have posed existential questions about life, death, love, the birth of things, which humans have always asked themselves and continue to ask themselves, whatever the age we have. These are fabulous strong stories that help us think about all this: that’s why myths are still terribly topical.
So you are rewarded for the book Eleftheriawhich means in Greek freedom. What is his story, rather unknown to the general public?
It is a choral novel, with several characters, who are mostly young men, many young women, living on the island of Crete during the last war. This novel will both reveal a forgotten tragedy that strikes the Jewish community of Crete, but also portray the young people of this community, and young Orthodox Cretans who are resistant or not. If the novel is called “liberty” it is because it simply questions our human choices. It is not only a historical novel, it also speaks to us today. He tells us here you are, you were born in a place with a language, a history, a tradition, then the war comes and you are free to choose what you are going to do: leave, resist, betray, hide… You have the freedom of your destiny! How do you chart your own life path? This is told through the story of Rebecca, Judith, Stella, Ariadni, Rachel, Petros, Luigi… People with whom I wanted to share a little journey with readers. It is also a novel written to greet Crete: even if it takes place in a tragic time, you will find there the sea, the mountains, the sun, the culture, the language, the cuisine and above all the extremely warm welcome of this people of great resistance fighters.
Are commitment and humanity a common thread in your work?
Yes, both transmission and resistance. I have created a collection called “Those who said no”, with 50 works which highlight, in short novels, men and women who have said no when others are silent or accept, on fights that satisfy that we are still fighting today. No to war, no to slavery, no to racial discrimination or discrimination against women. That’s close to my heart and indeed every time I write something, whatever path I take, I’m always faced with this desire to say that we can do otherwise, that we shouldn’t let it go, and when there are things that do not seem normal or unfair to us, we are right to say so…
This humanity that you defend is important for a city like Avignon, where the notions of sharing, solidarity and diversity are at work. There is a nice resonance…
I think it’s a book that goes well in Avignon yes!
It is also your first novel in adult literature.
Yes, published by the publisher Emmanuelle Collas. I also take care of an independent poetry publishing house with Bruno Doucey, we fight every day so that our books reach the public. It makes sense to be published in this house which, like us, defends authors around the world. How it makes sense when literature has something to say and is also independent of money powers.
We wish a long and beautiful life to this novel, that it meets as many readers as possible…
This Prize will bring him luck! I thank those who chose it. By honoring me, and this pleasure, they also pay homage to all these Cretan men and women who fought, and they restore their letters of nobility to this Jewish community that has tragically disappeared. I find that very touching.