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Waiting for Bojangles by Olivier Bourdeaut

Updated: Apr 5, 2021

Finitude, 2015

Translated into English by Regan Kramer

Dear Mr Bourdeaut,


Your book inspired me to write to you. It also inspired me to listen to Nina Simone’s version of the song Mr Bojangles. In fact, I can’t stop singing it and listening to it! She has been my favorite singer for a long time, but I had never heard her sing that song.


The writer of the song, American country singer Jerry Jeff Walker, based it on a homeless white man he met in jail in 1965. This surprised me as in the American imagination Mr. Bojangles is a black man. This homeless white man had apparently taken his name from a black performer whose nickname was Bojangles.


I was attracted to your book when I read an article comparing it to The Catcher in the Rye by JD Salinger. After reading it, I didn’t really see the point of the comparison, except for the fact that the book was captivating throughout, easy to read, and touching, although both books did refer to mental illness. The woman in the bookstore said "more like Boris Vian" but I don't know his work.


What a pleasure! Sometimes in a book we can start to picture the author sitting at a desk writing, or feel he has a deadline and has to finish up quickly. It’s like an actor we don’t really believe in because we can see she is acting. This didn’t happen with your book, on the contrary. It is natural and beautiful, joyful and sorrowful, all at once, like life in fact, in spite of the fact your story is not about a very common life.


What I was most amazed at was the relationship between the book and Nina Simone’s Mr Bojangles. They seemed to go hand in hand, staying together all the time I was reading; this was the only time I have had this double experience. Really nice.



Cover illustration copyright 123RF/ValeriyKachaev
Cover by Valeriy Kachaev

Actually, to a degree it was a triple experience, thanks to the cover of my edition, which I looked at many times while reading, to see the very beautiful woman and imagine her and her husband dancing and their love for each other, unconditional and unavoidable!


A lot of contemporary French novels, at least the ones I’ve tried, are just, sorry to say, not worth reading. The style often seems pretentious, whereas with your book, your style let the story be important, and the readers too, and the things we love about life and maybe the things we fear or which sadden us.


At any rate, you have managed to free yourself from a rather rigid educational system (the French one, and I gather you’ve done so by sort of dropping out of it), and to create something which seems to be free of those pretensions and stiff structures.

`

I heard you say you were a megalomaniac, so maybe that is how you succeeded. If so, well, good for you, although I guess in that case you are probably not reading this letter!


Wishing you the best,


A reader of En Attendant Bojangles


Warning:

SPOILERS are present in this full version of the letter to Mr. Bourdeaut:

olivier bourdeaut bojangles letter
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Post on Florida by same author here.

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