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Home Culture Hélène Fiscbach, director of the Quais du Polar: “Crime novels will not lack themes in the coming years” | Elementary | Culture

Hélène Fiscbach, director of the Quais du Polar: “Crime novels will not lack themes in the coming years” | Elementary | Culture

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Hélène Fiscbach (Lot-et-Garonne, 45 years old) has been linked to the Quais du Polar in Lyon since the first edition, a festival that she began directing in 2014 and which has become the largest gathering of crime novel authors, readers and experts in Europe or, as the writer Bernard Minier said “the Woodstock of the crime novel.” A great reading festival that celebrates its twentieth anniversary this year. Fischbach receives EL PAÍS at the Palacio de la Bolsa, an imposing building that becomes the world epicenter of the genre in these three dizzying days of April. It’s Friday morning, but hall central is already packed with readers (100,000 visitors this year) who meander through the bookstores in search of a novel or wait in long lines to get a signature and a few seconds of chatting with their favorite authors. He polar (as the genre is known in France) sold nearly 23 million copies in 2023. And some of the blame lies with it.

Ask. The Quais du Polar is a success story in the world of cultural management. Where is the key?

Answer. It’s an interesting mix of speaking engagements and signings where the writers are truly accessible. Readers and authors greet each other here as if nothing had happened.

P. What inspires you this twentieth anniversary?

R. It is a festival that has tried from the beginning to renew the audience of literature festivals to go beyond those that were already usually in bookstores. We went out to look for a less reading public by opening ourselves to cinema, art, music or gastronomy and I think it has worked.

P. Is the noir genre still considered minor literature?

R. The image has changed radically since 2005: before there was great reluctance in the literary world. 20 years ago they were a more closed group of readers, but now more or less everyone reads a book from time to time. polar. And the borders are not so clear between writers either. Look, for example, at Nicolas Mathieu or Pierre Lemaitre, who started in crime fiction before winning the Goncourt. Librarians and booksellers are finding it increasingly difficult to classify books by genre.

P. What is the average profile of the reader who attends the festival?

R. They are mostly women, as I think happens a bit everywhere.

P. And the young people? How do you get them to come closer?

R. It is more difficult, but both the festival and the events that take place throughout the month are increasingly important. They participate intensely in the most interactive activities such as our games and field investigations and they sold out in just a few minutes to see crime expert YouTuber McSkyz, who has now published his second book.

P. Within this generational openness and interests, the festival pays close attention to audiovisuals. That contribute?

R. It’s a genre that works very well on screen. In 2005, when we started, it was mainly movies and the series did not have the prestige they do now. We have created a prize, Polar in series, to recognize the most adaptable works and we have signed an agreement with Séries Mania because in the end the noir genre looks to the screen. You can even see how some authors have changed their way of writing and at the same time there are many screenwriters who write crime novels.

P. Why are they betting on three days when with this programming they could fill a week?

R. It is difficult to bring the public during the week. Also, we are a free festival and it is essential to keep it that way, so it is best to concentrate it.

We are a free festival and it is essential that it remains that way”

P. He polar Has it given women the space they deserve?

R. Not yet, but everything has evolved a lot in recent years. The world of publishing is essentially feminine and this is reflected little by little in the presence of more female authors. Furthermore, the clichés about female characters, who are no longer the victim or the femme fatale, are disappearing, and there are more and more books that address violence against women from a new perspective.

P. What authors do you regret not being able to bring?

R. It is now impossible, but my great frustration is that John Le Carré did not come before his death; I tried for years. I would love for Ken Follet to come and it would be great if we could bring Stephen King, but at the moment nothing.

P. HHe has cited Dennis Lehane and SA Cosby, both present at the festival, as two of his favorite authors. Do your reading tastes determine the festival program?

R. They don’t influence beyond an author here and there, but the panel is so broad that it becomes diluted.

P. How do you see the festival in 20 years?

R. Ugh, it’s difficult. What I am sure of is that the crime novel will not lack themes. Unfortunately, the geopolitical situation, environmental problems and other conflicts are going to give enough material to the genre. For our part, we will try to continue being open and build more bridges between readers and authors and between genres and formats.

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