Joël Dicker et Amanda Buhler, My Big Geneva

Publishing an enigma during the pandemic would have been ideal, given the technical unemployment, boredom, confinement, marital problems, and fear… Joël Dicker’s latest novel The Enigma of Room 622 was initially due on March 17th, and what a treat it would have been! But after deliberation with booksellers and his readers, he chose to postpone the release date to emphasize encounters and sharing of experience, key elements of his book tours that he holds dear.

And so we met Joël Dicker at “Saveur d’Italy”, a small grocery store that smells like Tuscany, for a coffee and a chat: 

The digital age makes us write like robots, foregoing writing styles in favor of “Search Engine Optimization” so that Big Google can reference us. Reassure us and remind us how many readers have read your best-sellers to date.

Roughly 10 million worldwide. But it’s estimated that a book that sells well is read 3-4 times because people share it among themselves. So in terms of readers, it is often more if we count the shares.

A few words on Bernard de Fallois and the bond that unites a writer and his publisher?

These are two very different things. There is the bond that united me to Bernard and there is the link that connects an author and an editor because the former needs the latter to exist. Today, we can self-appear on platforms, but it is something else entirely. An editor is not a printer. Of course, he also has this role because he makes the book exist physically, but he is above all someone who pushes the writer to go beyond his limits, to reinvent himself, and take risks when necessary. I somewhat identify him with a boxing trainer; the boxer is in the ring, he is the one performing and beyond, there is someone in the shadows who is there for him.

Bernard de Fallois, on the other hand, was a very special editor for me because we had a close friendship and a master/student bond. There was a 60-year gap between us – he was born in 1926 and I in 1985 – from which a genuine link of apprenticeship was formed. Bernard had the emulation and the ability to whisk you away with him, to share his convictions with you, and to open your mind. 

Besides, we also met at a very special time in our lives. I met him aged 87, with an incredible publishing career behind him. He had been the boss of the largest editorial groups in France and had simply become a legend. For him, everything was done whilst for me, everything was yet to be done. 

When we ask Google if it’s better to read books or digital books, we are told that if we read a lot, then e-books are more economical. Quora also tells us that the digital books will never replace the books. How do you read?

This is a good question because I just bought myself a tablet! But this question omits the most important element in my opinion; Civic Responsibility. In a world where you have a multitude of choices, one has to know how to use them to our advantage.

A very simple example is precisely the tablet; it places us in a dynamic of reading more, but we have to do it with the responsibility of still needing booksellers and stores. I am not against selling on the Internet, but I find it crucial to support the booksellers and the merchants by heading into town for the next read.

So it all depends on how we use it.

Yes, because we have access to extraordinary things and the Internet is a brilliant invention, yet we are responsible for choosing its content. YouTube, for example, is a platform where you can watch opera, theater, National Geographics documentaries, or Naza’s awesome channel! But you can also choose to watch cats being put in microwaves. It’s just a question of education.

And last but not least our Proust questionnaire…

Your official canteen?
Right here, “Saveurs d’Italie”, 11 boulevard du Pont d´Arve. The best Italian restaurant in Geneva. It’s terrible because you always want to eat!

Dark chocolate or Milk chocolate?
Dark chocolate.

Your favorite object?
My computer. It’s unfortunately – or fortunately – what never leaves my side.

Your Robinson book?
The promise of dawn, by Romain Gary.

An artist on your playlist?
Ed Sheeran.

A website you are addicted to?
The Swiss weather forecast.

Never without …
A good book. Or my cell phone 🙂