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Manhattan’s Babe by Frédéric Beigbeder.
Illustration by Rafael Alterio.
Courtesy of Frédéric Beigbeder and Asouline.
Manhattan’s Babe by Frédéric Beigbeder.
Illustration by Rafael Alterio.
Courtesy of Frédéric Beigbeder and Asouline.
Manhattan’s Babe by Frédéric Beigbeder.
Illustration by Rafael Alterio.
Courtesy of Frédéric Beigbeder and Asouline.
Manhattan’s Babe by Frédéric Beigbeder.
Illustration by Rafael Alterio.
Courtesy of Frédéric Beigbeder and Asouline.
Manhattan’s Babe by Frédéric Beigbeder.
Illustration by Rafael Alterio.
Courtesy of Frédéric Beigbeder and Asouline.
Manhattan’s Babe by Frédéric Beigbeder.
Illustration by Rafael Alterio.
Courtesy of Frédéric Beigbeder and Asouline.
Manhattan’s Babe by Frédéric Beigbeder.
Illustration by Rafael Alterio.
Courtesy of Frédéric Beigbeder and Asouline.
Manhattan’s Babe by Frédéric Beigbeder.
Illustration by Rafael Alterio.
Courtesy of Frédéric Beigbeder and Asouline.
Manhattan’s Babe by Frédéric Beigbeder.
Illustration by Rafael Alterio.
Courtesy of Frédéric Beigbeder and Asouline.
Manhattan’s Babe by Frédéric Beigbeder.
Illustration by Rafael Alterio.
Courtesy of Frédéric Beigbeder and Asouline.
Manhattan’s Babe by Frédéric Beigbeder.
Illustration by Rafael Alterio.
Courtesy of Frédéric Beigbeder and Asouline.
Manhattan’s Babe by Frédéric Beigbeder.
Illustration by Rafael Alterio.
Courtesy of Frédéric Beigbeder and Asouline.
Lifestyle

Manhattan’s Babe by Frédéric Beigbeder Gives Assouline Its First Novel with Illustrations

By Eliza Jordan

February 6, 2017

Many may recognize the enigmatic public figure that is Frédéric Beigbeder—the author, journalist, TV personality, radio show host, director, and all-around bad boy Frenchman dedicated to telling transformative stories of today and the past. In January, Beigbeder released his newest book Manhattan’s Babe—the English version of his 2014 novel Oona & Salinger, which proves to be Assouline’s very first novel to include illustrations. To learn more about the book and his overall creative voice, we spoke with Beigbeder.

WHITEWALL: Can you take us to the beginning of the story, and perhaps tell us why was it important for you to release this version to the United States in English?

Open Gallery

Manhattan’s Babe by Frédéric Beigbeder.
Illustration by Rafael Alterio.
Courtesy of Frédéric Beigbeder and Asouline.

FB: I’m going back in time, and to a place I’ve never been to—an old place called Stork Club in New York City. The book starts there, and it’s a dream about the old New York. You have J.D. Salinger, one of the best American writers of the 20th century, and when he was very young, he fell in love with Oona O’Neill—the daughter of the great American playwright Eugene O’Neill. In 1940, they met and had an affair. Of course, for me, it’s important that it’s accessible to Americans because it’s their story.

WW: Salinger is known to be one of your favorite icons and characters. Why?

Open Gallery

Manhattan’s Babe by Frédéric Beigbeder.
Illustration by Rafael Alterio.
Courtesy of Frédéric Beigbeder and Asouline.

FB: There’s magic in Salinger. There is something light and deep at the same time. He’s always written short stories—stories that appear to be teenage stories that look not very serious or ambitious, but they are. All of the short stories, and The Catcher in the Rye, they pretend to be simple, but they are not. You can re-read them many, many times, and you’ll always find new clues or doors or windows that capture duty and melancholy. He’s unique. He was very much so a big fan of Scott Fitzgerald, and he is the equivalent of Fitzgerald for me after the war. He’s not only an American writer, he’s a writer for everyone. The whole world.

WW: Before you wrote your first novel in 1990 at 25, later moving on to write novels, short stories, and essays, you worked in advertising at Young & Rubicam. Are you happier to be writing pieces like the ones you are today?

Open Gallery

Manhattan’s Babe by Frédéric Beigbeder.
Illustration by Rafael Alterio.
Courtesy of Frédéric Beigbeder and Asouline.

FB: Oh, yes. I’m free! When I was in advertising, I had to obey the orders of big companies and I had to go to meetings and change my ideas all the time, which now, I don’t do anymore. Now, I do what I want and what I like, and that’s called freedom—and it’s great! I’m happy I’m not in advertising anymore. I do many different jobs. I’m also a journalist like you, I have a magazine, Lui, in France, I have a radio show, and I’ve directed a few movies also. In France, it is very often that artists have many different ways of expressing themselves.

WW: Tell us a bit about the story being “faction”—people and places are real, but the between storylines are made up.

Open Gallery

Manhattan’s Babe by Frédéric Beigbeder.
Illustration by Rafael Alterio.
Courtesy of Frédéric Beigbeder and Asouline.

FB: I’m very proud of this novel. I hope it’s something really different because it’s both fact and fiction. Everything is true—it’s a real story with real characters, but I use fiction to recreate the dialogue and all of the details. For example, we know that Salinger met Oona at the Stork Club, and we know that Salinger met [Ernest] Hemingway at the Ritz [-Carlton Paris] on August 26, 1944—so these are precise facts that help to write. You don’t have to invent everything. There are some guidelines and structure for the book. It’s a well-known history. But then it makes it difficult because you have to be careful not to say wrong things, so you have to check every detail. I was very curious. I had to imagine something that really happened, and nobody ever told this love story before, so I felt that I had a huge responsibility to make it sound and look real—and to not make mistakes.

WW: The book is also Assouline’s first illustrated novel. Who was the artist responsible for the illustrations?

Open Gallery

Manhattan’s Babe by Frédéric Beigbeder.
Illustration by Rafael Alterio.
Courtesy of Frédéric Beigbeder and Asouline.

FB: Rafael Alterio—he’s the son of a famous Argentine painter. He’s a young illustrator and I really like what he did because it’s like a dream. They’re not realistic drawings and it goes well with my text because we are both dreaming about a magic, disappeared America in New York during the 1940s. It’s nostalgic of an America that is very threatened today. It’s a good moment in American history for foreigners like me to remind Americans that they are great and beautiful, and they should be proud and nostalgic of the art and culture and the way of life of New Yorkers. I wanted to pay a tribute to this past, which is also maybe the future.

Open Gallery

Manhattan’s Babe by Frédéric Beigbeder.
Illustration by Rafael Alterio.
Courtesy of Frédéric Beigbeder and Asouline.

Open Gallery

Manhattan’s Babe by Frédéric Beigbeder.
Illustration by Rafael Alterio.
Courtesy of Frédéric Beigbeder and Asouline.

Open Gallery

Manhattan’s Babe by Frédéric Beigbeder.
Illustration by Rafael Alterio.
Courtesy of Frédéric Beigbeder and Asouline.
2016 American Presidential electionAmerican historyAssoulineEliza JordanEugene O’Neillfactionfaction storiesFrédéric BeigbederFrench magazinesFrench writerHemingwayLuiLui magazineNew YorkNew York CityNYCOona & SalingerOona O’NeillParisRafael AlterioRitzStork ClubThe Ritz CarltonTHE RITZ-CARLTON BAL HARBOURThe Ritz-Carlton ParisWhitewallYoung & Rubicam

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