• Thu, Dec 16 2010

Penelope Bagieu: Meet Paris’ Most Popular Blogger (And Her Alter Ego)

What is the blogging community like in France? In New York, it seems like everyone has a blog to the point where it’s a cliche, and even girls who aren’t writers think of themselves as Carrie Bradshaws in training. Is Paris the same way?

PRECISELY.

The third Josephine book (Spoiler alert!) ends with her pregnant and in a happy, committed relationship. Will the series end there, or do you have plans to keep the story going further?

I will need to take a break from her, as I had planned before beginning this book, because I must focus on the film that we’re about to write. But I guess I can’t really get rid of her that easily- [writing her has] turned into some sort of habit after all this time. My brain keeps popping “Josephine ideas” every day, even if I’m working on something else at the time. I suppose I miss her already or something. Well, anyway, I have all the “fourth book material” in my head, so it’s just a matter of time. In one or two years, maybe.

What kind of feedback have the books gotten in France? What about from other countries?

I meet readers regularly, and mostly, they told me that the latest book was their favorite, so I’m really pleased. Usually, what I hear the most is “this is SO me”, and that’s what makes me so happy about going on with this character. At some point, it reaches other girls.

Josephine’s boyfriend Simon is Jewish, and she isn’t. Why did you choose to downplay their interfaith relationship?

In France, we view religion very differently from the United States. To belong to a community (religious, ethnic, or other), and be ostentatious about it, is not something you want to do in France. Our country is based on the principles of a unified secular state, where all the citizens are first FRENCH citizens.  That’s what explains the laws about laïcité (secularism), the ban on visible religious signs such as the veil for Muslim women. People don’t talk about their religion – ask someone if they are Jewish, for example, and it’s too direct, even impolite. That is not done.

There is a lot of anti-Semitism in France, lots of clichés. I wanted to show that the differences between religions do indeed exist and that it should not be denied, but it’s also true that plenty of people don’t care at all about one’s religion. They are living together and it does not pose a problem.

It seems like American women are obsessed with figuring out what French women do to stay beautiful or how they pick out their clothes. Care to offer up any tips?

I guess that’s because we walk a lot (nobody owns a car in Paris), we drink excellent wine, and we don’t work as much as American women! As for fashion, I beg to differ, since my all-time favorite clothes come from vintage shops in Portland, Oregon. I was completely amazed by the style of girls out there, and stole a lot of ideas and style tips from them ! It happens to me all the time: people will ask me “wow, I love your coat/ring/boots/belt/hat, where did you get it?”

Two words: Portland, Oregon.

Editor’s Note: This interview was conducted in English and French and has been condensed and edited for clarity.

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