'Writers are part of the cultural currency in France'

Douglas Kennedy

American author in Paris Douglas Kennedy tells Jessica Knipe how and why he has become part of the French literary furniture

American writer and France’s literary darling Douglas Kennedy owns homes in London, Berlin, Montréal, Maine and New York. But he spends the most of his time in Paris, and the French love him all the more for it. 

Far from the 5ème arrondissement in which one of his most famous novels is set, when this rolling stone laid down his hat, it landed in the heart of the 10ème. Tucked behind the Canal Saint Martin and the very bridges from which Amélie Poulain flicked her smooth stones, the quartier has become significantly more bobo in recent years. Tiny restaurants crammed with people eating Korean bibimbap sit opposite vegan canteens, also packed to the rafters. Further along, fashionable 'co-working' spaces rub shoulders with the Liberté boulangerie, where tall people in rolled-up trouser hems and statement eyewear buy their wholegrain pain de campagne. It’s so hip, it hurts.

But behind the giant wooden doors of Kennedy’s Haussmannian building, the bustle of the street fades away. A tidy stone courtyard leads to a winding wooden staircase up to his flat. The door opens, and sounds of opera spill out on to the landing around a man clad entirely in black. 

The apartment is impeccably decorated. Antique parquet floors complement modern furnishings, like the imposing purple B&B Italia chair sitting in front of a floor-to-ceiling mirror. “It’s simple,” says Kennedy. “I like clean lines. Life is chaotic and messy enough. I love that I can come back here and it’s quiet.”

Kennedy plucks a pencil from a pot on the marble table basse, before sitting down. “I always put a pencil in my hand for interviews,” he says, “I don’t know why… It’s equilibrium.”

This man’s sword is most definitely his pen. “I always hoped I’d be a writer,” Kennedy admits. “At first I thought I’d ...

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