She's won a top foreign writer award, but in HK no one cares

PUBLISHED : Monday, 26 July, 2004, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 26 July, 2004, 12:00am

Book fair proves a tough chapter for French writers as autograph-hunters stay away

The winner of a mainland literature prize for best foreign novel in 2001 and a fellow French writer have cancelled autograph sessions at the book fair because of a lack of interest.

Novelist Pierrette Fleutiaux, author of Short Sentences, My Darling, had no one show up to her book-signing session on the opening day of the fair.

The embarrassing incident prompted the French consulate and sponsor Alliance Francaise to cancel Fleutiaux's other autograph session scheduled for yesterday. They also told French comic author David B. to skip his two book-signing sessions scheduled for yesterday.

'We stopped the autographs because there was nobody,' Fleutiaux said yesterday. 'It was the first day I arrived and nobody knew me.'

The French exhibited their books at the annual event for the first time this year as part of the fair's International Cultural Village. This is a new section that featured books from Poland, Egypt, Canada, Malaysia and Singapore. France was the only country that brought out authors for the fair.

Lawrence Yau Chung-hok, spokesman for the book fair organiser, said he was surprised that not one person turned up for the French novelist's autograph.

'We know they are unhappy,' he said. 'We are unhappy, too.'

One reason for the low turnout was that Hong Kong people did not know the author, he added. The other was probably because the consulate and Alliance Francaise did not do enough promotion.

Helene Roos, an attache to the consulate-general of France, said people might have turned up to Fleutiaux's autograph session if it was held at the booth, where people can see the books.

'In France, we are used to doing the autographs at the booths,' she said. 'It is something we have to improve on next year. We will find a way.'

Fleutiaux is well known on the mainland after winning the Best Foreign Novel Prize in 2001, which is decided by a mainland publisher and the country's foreign literature association. Short Sentences, My Darling is about a mother-daughter relationship based on her life.

It is her only book translated into Chinese. But only 20 copies of the Chinese version were available at the fair because the consulate could not get more copies from the mainland publisher.

The author said she was not disappointed about the autograph session because Hong Kong people did not know her. She added that she had enjoyed her stay with her husband in the city, which included visits to The Peak and Lamma Island.

'For me, it's such a wonderful experience just to be here and to meet people here,' she said.

Author David B., whose books are not available in Chinese, said he did not mind that the autograph sessions were cancelled. He has met local comic artists and publishers during the trip.