Read all about it - but only in French

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 26 November, 1997, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 26 November, 1997, 12:00am

Madeline Porgin, 44, owner of Parentheses Bookshop, came to Hong Kong 19 years ago with her husband and a suitcase full of French literature. With a science degree from the University of Neuchatel in Switzerland, she worked in chemical laboratories until her love of books led her to open Parentheses in Wellington Street, Central. The shop is the only one in Hong Kong which sells exclusively French books.

Originally from Jura, near France's Swiss border, Ms Porgin has a 17-year-old daughter born in Hong Kong. She says she likes to visit France about four times a year, and when she's not reading or working, she likes 'food, friends, movies and a little bit of walking around the hills'.

What's on your mind? Looking at all the books I've just received for Christmas - there are a lot of art books, a lot of novels, and I have no time to read them. Maybe I will take time over Christmas. We receive so many at this time of year.

Have you been affected by the economic downturn? The last three weeks have been very quiet. I'm a little bit worried because we've ordered a lot especially for Christmas. But if business goes down, maybe the rent will have to go lower as well and at least we will always make a small profit. I'm not pessimistic, because something has to change, one way or the other.

Who are your customers? Let's say 20 big readers, then maybe a few hundred who come regularly for French newspapers and magazines. Sixty per cent are native French speakers, the rest are either local Chinese or overseas Chinese who have lived in Europe and want to keep in touch, or British people who have learnt French at school.

Which is your favourite work of French literature? There are so many. Overall, if I had to pick one novel it would be L'Etranger, by Albert Camus, or non-fiction, L'Homme Revolte, also by Camus.

What are you reading at the moment? Eureka Street, by Robert McLiam Wilson. He is from Belfast but I am reading it in French, of course. I like reading Milan Kundera a lot now too, especially now he is writing in French.