On the other end of the phone, he laughs, “Yes, I was an exhibitionist Groundhog … but the group has changed its name since. In fact, we must now speak of the Ligue de l’agaginaire, a group of French writers created in 2008 to promote literature related to the imaginary: Ian Manook was one of the founders.
“Over time, it has become more of a thing with friends than a real movement,” he continues. The only commitment for each member was to place the expression “exhibitionist groundhog” in a published text. At the beginning, we organized conferences and events with the aim, always, of promoting the literature of the imagination, but all this gradually faded even as the group grew. Today, we just award a prize every year. “
The frantic groundhog
But, as we may have guessed, Ian Manook, or Patrick Manoukian (in real life), or Roy Braverman (when he writes “American” novels), is a rather frantic type of marmot. Why is the groundhog its totem? “No, it’s because I’m a little messy, I’m doing several things at once and I’m basically lazy. I always wrote, you know, every day, for several hours, and I have tons of notebooks full of scattered texts, of all kinds, sleeping in my drawers for years. I used to read great extracts to my daughter and one day she challenged me to finish a single manuscript. It’s the original trigger, the pivotal moment that started it all. I decided to take the bet and I wrote a detective story taking place in Mongolia. The success was, as we know, overwhelming: Yeruldelgger has been translated into ten languages and won more than fifteen awards.
Until then, until the first of three Yeruldelgger in fact, Patrick Manoukian was a journalist, editor and travel columnist. He is a man who has traveled extensively in Asia, Mongolia among others, South America, Iceland and North America. His fans will of course have recognized the places in which he planted his novels. “I have traveled a lot and have had vivid memories of my travels. Besides, when I write, I never do research, I don’t employ anybody to put up files; I trust my memory and what I have seen on my travels, rarely coming back to the notes I took then. “
Even on the phone, despite the distance that separates us, we feel that Ian Manook is an intense man who can ignite at any time, without warning, that he likes to be active on several things at the same time. ” Yes, it’s true. For example, I have four books on the fire at the same time. I have just finished a novel which is a kind of saga on the Armenian diaspora, of which I have already started the second volume. Chez Hugo, I just signed a contract for two other “American” novels; one will happen in New York, a city that fascinates me, and the other in New England, more precisely on the Atlantic coast. I am also working on a four-handed novel with a friend and have agreed to write a travelogue about an impossible place. In this last series, I can reveal to you that Caryl Férey will write something about a lost place in Siberia, while I will make a series of portraits in an Icelandic fjord at the end of the world. “
As if that were not enough, Ian Manook goes on to say that he has taken an option on a series around Yeruldelgger. He is thus working on a screenplay which will in fact be a kind of documentary-fiction about Mongolia. At the center, a real popular hero, Tunur, a sort of Robin Hood from the steppes whose life he is reconstructing. Phew. Not bad for someone who happened to write thrillers, or almost …
For example, I have four books on the fire at the same time. I have just finished a novel which is a kind of saga on the Armenian diaspora, of which I have already started the second volume. Chez Hugo, I just signed a contract for two other “American” novels.
The methodical groundhog
Even if he pretends to be lazy, Ian Manook therefore works a lot. And methodically, always in the same way. Its readers know it moreover since all its books begin with an impossible scene; the description of the tropical hurricane with which his most recent novel begins (Freeman) is a very good example. But we will especially remember the incredible priming painting Wild times, the second Yeruldelgger : a cow fallen from the sky impaled on the lance of a rider crushed, with his horse, by the incongruous ruminant, the whole forming a sort of funeral tumulus petrified by ice and covered with a thick layer of snow …
“The beginning of a story is absolutely essential,” explains the novelist; I’m spending a lot of time on the very first scene, which can roll in my head for a long time before I start writing it. But I work without a plan. Always. I don’t take notes. I write with a gesture, without returns. I pull on the thread and I see what is coming, all the details, all the colors; I don’t prune, I rush into history without erasures. Here and there, I write certain words or the beginning of sentences in red; I’ll come back to it later to clarify more or to develop a little more. This first scene is absolutely crucial. “
You can feel the incredible pleasure that Manook must experience in writing when you hear him recounting his “method”. After the famous first scene, he wrote a second one which is deliberately located at the antipodes; It is from the resulting shock between the “blocks” that the following tables will come, which try to make everything stand together and the intrigue develops. “Then it only remains to move all the pieces forward at the same time, to make all the stakeholders in the story evolve together,” he concluded, as if all this were obvious.
By catching his breath – in fact, I feel that it is rather to allow me to find mine -, Patrick Manoukian launches that he already came to Quebec at the end of the 1960s, that he particularly likes its nature and the wilderness … and that he would like to come back home to write a story.
“Quebec is a territory on which I have wanted to write for a long time. All I need is a real dramatic motivation … I thought for a while about the drama of indigenous women, but the subject is very delicate. When I find the frame I need, I will come back to spend some time with you. “
We hope so, right?