Reading, fusion of the weight of words and the power of the voice. This is what François Busnel advocates and what he also embodies. That's why he returns to host "Si on lisait à voix aloud". The reading contest, intended for middle and high school students, is broadcast this Wednesday evening on France 5. A fourth edition decided by an exceptional jury composed, in particular, of Éric-Emmanuel Schmitt, Dany Laferrière but also Carole Bouquet or Laurent Stocker. This competition in ode to reading marks the return to the air of the former presenter of "La Grande Librairie". One after entrusting the reins of his show to Augustin Trapenard, the one who remains producer of the program has many other projects. "From the docs of La Grande Librairie" on Balzac and Flaubert to a feature film in development, François Busnel is writing a new story.
" READ ALSO "I had not considered this case at all": behind the scenes of the surprising high school final of "If we read aloud"
LE FIGARO. - In what state of mind are you for this fourth edition of "If we read aloud"?
François BUSNEL. - I am extremely delighted with the return of this reading competition. The young candidates, aged between eleven and eighteen, are quite surprising this year.
What is the objective of this reading contest?
Among 120,000 applications in 4500 classes, eight middle and high school students were selected to read texts aloud. There is a fine line between reading and interpreting. Here, you are not asked to play but to be true. For the first round, participants were able to choose their text. Often, it is their way of having a self-portrait delivered, by meaning and voice. By reading a fetish passage, they convey a stronger emotion and reveal themselves. Here is the interest of the show.
What text would you have chosen in their place?
I could choose a play, which requires a lot of audacity because the risk is to recite it. I would obviously choose the tirade of "No thanks", discovered at the age of 17, which changed my life. I thought it was written for me because it was the greatest declaration of freedom, the one that made me want to work as a journalist. It's a rare job where no one tells you what to do, without a boss. You rise on your own and not by cunning. I could also have taken a poem like those of Boris Vian where the text rings.
What's new this year?
We have slightly changed the rules that will allow, unlike the previous edition, not to have ties. If I respect the choice of the jury, it's a shame to have two winners. We also made sure that the eight finalists were as prepared as possible for this great show. Of course, it's a competition final but on television. Our ambition is to make substance and form coexist. Guillaume de Tonquédec and Anne Loiret, who agreed to be coaches, spent a lot of time with our youngsters. These experienced actors gave them valuable tips and tricks to compete in this battle of reading aloud.
Tell us about the jury that will evaluate the young readers.
It is a very complementary jury composed of four personalities with different expectations. Three of them have already participated in "Si on lisait à voix haut", starting with Éric-Emmanuel Schmitt who is present every year. He is one of those writers read by both young people and adults. His simple language serves philosophical themes and complicated emotions. He sits as a juror at the Prix Goncourt. Also a judge last year, Cécile Coulon is the youngest of novelists. At 30 years old, she is the big sister of the participants who would feel intimidated by the stature of Eric Emmanuel Schmidt. Clara Dupond-Monod is a writer but also a journalist. His form of openness to the world brought another way of appreciating reading aloud. The new kid on the jury is Dany Laferrière, a member of the Académie française. He says that literature came to him through his grandmother's reading aloud to him right after his bath every night. This sensitivity of Dany, whose career is unheard of, can make the difference.
"Literature is a weapon of mass destruction for me!"
François Busnel recounts his memories as a young reader
Carole Bouquet and Laurent Stocker also participate. What is their role?
They will have the very difficult task of deciding, in their own way, the final finalists. After direct eliminatories, in the form of duels between the participants coached by Guillaume de Tonquédec and Anne Loiret, a final face-to-face will take shape. The morning of the final, Carole Bouquet and Laurent Stocker chose a text to decide between them. The same text that everyone reads personally. Which version will appeal the most? The actress also agreed to read a text, it was interesting to see her become a reader.
What is your assessment of "If we read aloud"?
That reading makes it possible to detect in a young person a voice in the making. Even as the show progresses, progress is discovered in the same voice. By instilling the power of it, we remind young people that it is an integral part of their personality. We discover the other by his voice. I believe in its power and nuances. It is very interesting.
In the digital age, do you still feel a craze among young people for reading?
Paradoxically, yes. Contrary to what is often said by relaying a rumor that is not necessarily information. Reading has not disappeared at all among young people. It is considered more as an alternative to digital that formats, a way of existing outside the "pack". Between eleven and eighteen, we try to stand out. All young people have smartphones, access to social networks so reading is a way to exist alone or in a chosen group. They find a link of readers in love with Tolkien, Alexander Dumas or Harry Potter. The great virtue of this contest is that it can create encounters among these teenagers who come from all walks of life. We realized that they were discovering each other, becoming friends and even continuing to see each other. It's a real non-virtual community but very real!
What were you reading at the age of the participants?
Reading is probably what structured me, clinging to reality while allowing me to escape from reality. I discovered behind the scenes of life thanks to books and clung to a form of truth thanks to best fictional friends like the Count of Monte Cristo or d'Artagnan. I fell in love with some women like Milady. I perceived them as real beings and not characters from novels because they were able to express emotions and feelings that I felt. All of them seemed more alive to me than a few fossilized people around me. The great power of books about youth is to offer a concentrate of emotions with the right words. Literature is a weapon of mass destruction for me!
"He is well into the clothes of the host of a literary program, he has all my confidence"
François Busnel evokes the passing of the torch of "La Grande Librairie" with Augustin Trapenard
During the month of June, two documentaries from "La Grande Librairie" will also be broadcast...
When I told Delphine Ernotte that I wanted to leave the presentation of "La Grande Librairie", I told her about my wish to devote myself to filmmaking and cinema. Together, we imagined how to tell the great classics of literature. I drew a lot of inspiration from podcasts and my experience as a great reader of biographies. As a monomaniac, I am never satisfied with a biography because I always find grey areas. So I take two, three, even four! I discover that the life of the authors - when we reread it in their works - can be told in an absolutely striking and fascinating way. In 90 minutes, "Les Docs de La Grande Librairie" puts writers back on their time. I tell in voice-over the lives of Flaubert, then Balzac, linking them to their works and the jolts of time. Our goal is to tell their story, to build bridges and connections. Proust said: "Do not look in my life, it is in my work". He just had no desire to have his life searched. This idea is a sham! Not everything is in the work but it is the starting point
Apart from "If we read aloud", you don't miss appearing on television?
Not at all! I found with great pleasure, the set of this annual contest but it is not lacking. Maybe because I have other projects but above all, I chose not to appear anymore. This is because of my film about Jim Harrison, Only the Earth Is Forever, which was released in theaters last year. I hosted "La Grande Libraire" for 15 years, obviously we never come out unscathed from these conservations with the authors but continuing to work as a producer is perhaps a good way to do it. I wanted to put myself in the shadows. Currently, I am very happy to prepare a feature film with major producers who leave me absolutely total creative freedom.
One year later, how do you view Augustin Trapenardat the helm of "La Grande Librairie"?
He is the right choice. There were not thirty-six people who could take the reins of this show. I wanted this decision to be made with Delphine Ernotte and Stéphane Sitbon-Gomez because they wanted the program to continue and I thank them for that. Augustin is well into the clothes of the host of a literary program. We talked a lot during the first three months, to the point where I was in control every Wednesday night. Since then, it has made its mark. I watch the show, we talk about it every time by phone. I am less present but still vigilant. Augustin respects the appointment that is "La Grande Librairie" with his personality. He has my full confidence and I am very happy that the show is renewed with him.