The Literary questionnaire of
Actress and friend of the House Zita Hanrot unveils the readings that shaped her view of the world and influenced her career.
Does your lifestyle allow you to read as much as you’d like to?
Yes and no. Because of smartphones, I read less than before. But with my job, I am lucky enough to have to read in preparation for projects, and it is always on my terms. At the moment I am completely immersed in Toni Morrison's Song of Solomon. My choices always echo what I want professionally, both as an actress and as a director. Reading is like food, it allows me to find inspiration everywhere.
Is there a particular book that has affected how you lead your life?
Yes, I would say all the books by Anne Dufourmantelle, a psychoanalyst who died a few years ago. Her books are sublime, especially L'intelligence du rêve and La Sauvagerie maternelle. Her writing is concrete but still leaves space for the imagination. It is full of metaphors as she presents the cases of some of her patients but never in a clinical or boring way. She seeks out the secrets that are hidden there, and creates bridges. These are books we keep and that we can plunge into when needs be. It is a magnified reality, a bit like with cinema. It is very inspiring.
What is the most liberating book you have read?
It is hard to choose but I would say Sex and the Series by Iris Brey. It is very interesting as an actress or a director because it examines the representation of women's bodies and female pleasure in Western TV series, and the way they are viewed. It raises a lot of questions about what can be considered normal, but also what is not. I realised that even I, a young woman of my generation, have a biased view that I need to deconstruct.
“With my job, I am lucky enough to have to read in preparation for projects (…). My choices always echo what I want professionally, both as an actress and as a director. Reading is like food, it allows me to find inspiration everywhere.”
What is the most harrowing book you have ever read?
Mind of Winter by Laura Kasischke: it has an ultra-anxious, claustrophobic ambiance, full of tension, with its reversal at the end, like a movie twist, that makes you see the whole story differently. I had this icky feeling for days after I finished reading the book.
Which fictional heroine would you like to be?
Aomame, the heroine of Haruki Murakami's trilogy, 1Q84. She is a lone warrior, a pirate. On stage, I would love to play Nora in A Doll's House by Henrik Ibsen. I worked on this play when I was at the Conservatory. Nora is very modern in all her contradictions: she is a woman who has always been under domestic control, first by her father, then by her husband, and who is trying to free herself from all that. It is a story of awareness, struggle and emancipation. Issues that remain the same today.
“On stage, I would love to play Nora in A Doll's House by Henrik Ibsen. I worked on this play when I was at the Conservatory. (…) It is a story of awareness, struggle and emancipation. Issues that remain the same today.”
What is the best place to read?
Anywhere I don't have my phone! So, mostly on holiday. Otherwise in my bed, and in my father's garden in Marseille... The important thing is to be in a bubble.
Are you more a romance novel or an adventure novel?
I like it best when the two genres are combined. Stendhal's The Red and the Black is a perfect example of that.
Do you prefer long novels or short stories?
I like both: I love reading short stories. Chekhov's short stories, which are magnificent, and Maupassant's short stories, which I read over and over again when I was a teenager. And now I have finished The Human Stain by Philip Roth. It is like short films and feature films. It is not the same work, but both are equally rich. I love going from one to the other.
Which book would you like to see adapted to film?
I’ve just finished shooting the adaptation of Thierry Beinstingel's book Ils désertent with a screenwriter and director I adore: Florence Vignon. I can’t wait to see it onscreen.
The title of a book you always offer as a gift?
Tortilla Flat by John Steinbeck. It is the story of people living on the margins of society, who hang out in San Francisco. Very endearing characters, offbeat, on the edge. I was seventeen when I read it, and I have such a powerful memory that I want everyone to discover it.
Toni Morrison, Song of Solomon, © Vintage, 1998.
Anne Dufourmantelle, Intelligence du rêve, © Payot & Rivages, 2012.
Anne Dufourmantelle, La Sauvagerie maternelle, © Calmann-Lévy, 2001.
Iris Brey, Sex and the series, © Éditions de L'Olivier, “Les Feux”, 2018.
Laura Kasischke, Mind of Winter, © HarperCollins Publishers, 2014.
Haruki Murakami, 1Q84, Traduction du japonais par Hélène Morita. Tomes 1 et 2 : © Belfond, 2011, pour les traductions françaises. Tome 3 : © Belfond, 2012, pour la traduction française.
Henrik Ibsen, A Doll's House, 1890.
Stendhal, The Red and the Black, 1830.
Philip Roth, The Human Stain, © Vintage Classics, 2019.
Thierry Beinstingel, Ils désertent, © Fayard, 2012.
John Steinbeck, Tortilla Flat, Traduction par Brigitte V. Barbey, © Éditions Gallimard, “Folio”, 1972.