Sunday, 21 August 2011

Chanel confidential




Here is the interview on Radio 4's Today programme that I did on Friday morning with Hal Vaughan, the author of 'Sleeping with the Enemy'; or try this link, to listen again. There is so much to say on the subject of Chanel's time in Occupied Paris during the Second World War -- hence the fact that I devoted several chapters in my book to those years -- and of course, it's impossible to cover all of that in a five minute radio slot, though I was very glad that the interviewer was the excellent Evan Davis (never condescending, whilst also assured).
There is much that I find interesting in Vaughan's book, although we may not agree on the conclusive significance of certain intelligence archives, and it's slightly unfair of him to say that no one has written about her war-time activities before (I have, and so have many others, including Pierre Galante, a former French intelligence officer, editor of Paris Match, and ex-husband of Olivia de Havilland). As it happens, I think it's ungracious to dismiss other writers who are absorbed in the same subject matter: we have all shared similar obsessions, sought out hidden mysteries, tried to piece together untold stories. If Chanel's life was composed of a series of secrets, then it is also open to many interpretations. As a writer, I remain fascinated by how many different versions of the truth can be composed -- whether in private family histories or sweeping historical narratives -- and the fierce debate that surrounds these varying narratives. I suppose that is in part the theme of 'Daphne' (which engages with Du Maurier's own researches into the enigmatic Brontes), and it also underpins my biography of Chanel.
More books about Chanel are coming this autumn: I'm looking forward to reading the next one, 'Intimate Chanel' by Isabelle Fiemeyer. Until then, I'm still thinking about Chanel, wondering about her motives, whilst always -- always -- interrogating my own...

9 comments:

Mo said...

I heard this interview on radio 4 and think 'ungracious' is a very kind way to describe Vaughn. I was muttering much more unkind things towards the radio. I thought he came over very dismissive and arrogant. To believe all he reads because it has an official stamp on it seems naive to me. I doubt his research was as extensive as your ten years of work.

Justine Picardie said...

Thanks, Mo. I was glad that Radio 4 gave us the opportunity to have the debate.

enid said...

I listened to the radio interview and foung Hal arrogant and opinionated. You came across as erudite and informed. I love your book and think he is an oportunist.

enid said...

I am listening to the audio tape of If The Spirit Moves me and even though I wish you were reading it, it is so poignant i lap up each word. Thanks

jaywalker said...

Enid - I have finally got round to reading Sybille Bedford's memoirs and I'm so glad you and Justine recommended them. They are absolutely fascinating and I had forgotten how beautifully she writes. I can't put it down!
I found this by googling:
http://www.theparisreview.org/blog/2011/03/16/sybille-bedford-at-one-hundred/

jaywalker said...

Justine - on the previous subject of the London riots, you may find this interesting:
http://www.adbusters.org/magazine/71/generation-fcked.html

jaywalker said...

Article in our local paper today about the "My Five Best Bookshops in London" by an Australian journalist and writer - she chose Judd's and Skoob near Russell Square, London Book Review Shop in Bury St, Foyle's in Charing Cross Rd and Daunts in Marleybone.
I remembered the photo Justine had on here of Daunts. Also thought, modestly (G) that it's not a bad record that someone from Tasmania(me) has been in four of them.

Unknown said...

Justine, you have French names, Justine is French so is Picardie, the name of a northern French region which was occupied by the evil English during the 100 Year War yet you don' t seem to understand French culture. Maybe, you don' t speak or read French. Which is sad.

Erickaa said...

My name is Ericka and I am doing a biography on Coco Chanel. For this project i need an expert and I would be pleased if you would be mine. Please email me at erickatee972@gmail.com for details.

Thank you for your time,

Ericka