Both generosity and numerous original ideas for making the guests welcome at the St Malo Book and Film Fair, reached new levels, last weekend, when, together with my youngest daughter, Rose Auriol, I spent three days in the beautiful Breton town. In the cobbled courtyard of the medieval town hall, both the mayor, France's cultural minister and many other dignitaries played host to a large gathering of international writers, publishers and filmmakers. An unending supply of the finest local Cancale oysters were served while bonne bouches were handed round by dinner jacketed waiters despite the searing heat of the day. Etonnants Voyageurs
, roughly, Amazing Travellers, is the largest annual exhibition of its sort in France, and over the three days laid on an almost unbelievable selection of seminars and films from morning to night. Russian film and literature was one of the main attractions this year, while writers from across the globe spoke at concurrent interviews in the many halls and marquees provided.
The Mervyn Peake exhibition, held in the Salle Bouvet was inspired in its layout, with every drawing given enough space in which to give it full attention. The film, dedicated to the life and work of my father and which ran on a loop, was so popular that at no time during the three days was it free of visitors either sitting on the carpeted floor or in the comfortable seats provided by the organisers. Over 50,000 people attended the fair many of whom would have seen his illustrations to Treasure Island
or his own Mr Pye
and other works for the first time. In two days, every copy of Calmann Levy newly published Alice
in French, was sold.
Patrick Gyger, director of the Swiss museum La Maison d'Ailleurs, which put on the impressive Mervyn Peake Lignes de Fuite
show at Yverdon-les-Bains last year was also closely involved in the mounting the St Malo exhibition. His flair for organisation and the complicated logistics involved in transporting the work around Europe, was again displayed and for all to see.
A quite magnificent event then, in which attention to detail, French savoir faire and the inherent style of the nationality plus the impressive surroundings in which the events took place made this a venue not to miss in 2011.