Memories and interviews

  A night with Colum McCann - Michel Canesi met the writer in Paris

"You'll be meeting Colum at his hotel around 7pm. He needs to take a plane for New York tomorrow morning so be nice and bring him back to the hotel before 10pm!" requested Colum McCann's press attaché.

And so it was that I arrived at 7pm at the Hôtel de l’Abbaye, where a bottle of chilled champagne quickly broke the ice.

"I didn't want to meet you before writing the novel, Michel as I wanted to avoid your experiences clouding my own creative work" apologised Colum. "But now, I'm really looking forward to it!”

Colum is very chatty... And so am I! We both felt that a few hours would not be enough to quench the thirst that we both have when it comes to talking about Rudolph Nureyev. As we dined "chez René", images of Rudolph flew in all directions. Naturally, I talked to him about his book that I had read uninterruptedly and which had touched me enormously. Naturally too, we also talked about the man that I knew and that he has never met, but of whom he has successfully portrayed all of the depth of his personality. The hours flew by, during which we were sometimes moved or sometimes amused by the memories that we evoked.

Suddenly, Colum was intrigued by a couple at the next table.
"Michel, we must speak to them! They almost certainly have a story to tell!”

So we spoke to them. They had met over the Internet: she was a buxom coloured lady, while he was a short, pale and thin man. She was a jazz singer while he worked in a bank! She lived in Anchorage while he was from Copenhagen! Yes, they certainly did have a story. This is Colum’s flair. These are without a doubt two new characters for a future book.

Once again we talked about Rudolph with the couple at the next table, and suddenly, the jazz singer asked Colum to sing à capella, something which he did without embarrassment. Unfortunately, my turn came and I had to sing a French popular song: "C'est toi que j'aime". “Encore Michel, encore…” cried my entourage. And I, lacking any sense of shame, did it all again.

Colum roared with laughter, enjoying every minute of it!

At 2:30 in the morning I accompanied Colum to his hotel. On the way we passed in front of a bookshop and Colum smiled upon seeing his book "Dancer" in the window: "I'm proud of my success" he said, "and I don’t care what other people think".

We said goodbye in front of his hotel:

"Would you like a last drink?" offered the tireless Irish writer.
"No, really thank you Colum, I'm going home to get some sleep!”
"Now I’ve got a friend in Paris!! Come on, show me your motorbike..."
"No, Colum" I really need to go home and get some sleep. And don't forget you’ve got a plane tomorrow morning!"

Rudolph, the jazz lady, the champagne, the Sancerre, Colum singing Irish songs... All of these memories are muddled up in my head. One thing is certain though: Rudolph would have loved Colum.

Welcome to the life and writings of Colum McCann.

Dancer, Colum McCann, 2003,
Weidenfeld & Nicolson, London