The Mona Lisa Speaks
Release date: May 6, 2013
by Over The Edge Books
WHAT IS IT ABOUT
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Emmy nominee Christopher Angel was inspired to write The Mona Lisa Speaks, his first novel, during a visit to the Louvre, where he dared ask, “why is the Mona Lisa so famous?” The answer, in part, surprised him: few know that the Mona Lisa was stolen in 1911, and went missing for two years. Wondering what happened in those intervening two years launched his own fictional update of the story.
A professional film-maker, Christopher’s most recent movie as a writer/director is This Is Not A Test – a satire about domestic terrorism that aired on Showtime. He was nominated for an Emmy for his work on James Cameron’s documentary, Expedition Bismarck, and won a student Academy Award for his short film, Mr. October. Christopher received his B.A. from Yale University, where he was a Humanities major, and an MFA in film-making from the University of Southern California.
INTERVIEW WITH CHRISTOPHER ANGEL
Today, as part of the Virtual Book Tour of Christopher ANGEL with his thriller/suspense art heist story, I’m delighted to interview Christopher on France in his mystery!
1. Christopher, your book opens in Le Louvre.
When did you visit it for the first time?
What do you like most in it, apart from the Mona Lisa?
I first visited Le Louvre when I was five years old, and my family was living just outside London in England. I remember the trip well – taking the ferry from Dover, and then the major sights of Paris. Even at that age, I knew there was something special about the Mona Lisa. I have returned to Le Louvre every 5-10 years since. Today, I love the museum for its amazing breadth of collections – there are always hidden surprises in some out of the way room. And if you get away from the Mona Lisa, it can be surprisingly quiet. Also, I love the architecture – the melding of the old and new. The modern pyramid entrance is justly famous, and such a dramatic way to arrive in the museum.
2. In your novel, you mix both art and mystery, and art and modern technology: what made you use these “mixed media”? Why do you think it is working?
That’s a great question! Art and technology was one of the themes that most attracted me to this story. It’s is something I’ve studied and been interested in since college, where I first read Walter Benjamin’s brilliant essay, “The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction.” In our modern age of perfect digital copies, we still value this relationship with the “original,” “actual” work of art – that’s why there are still huge crowds at Le Louvre in front of the Mona Lisa. But I hope my novel, through the theft/mystery aspect, asks us why we feel that way. How does a work of art speak to us, and how does seeing the original version differ from seeing a copy? In many ways, it’s a cultural value – it’s about what society values, and how we define and participate in fame. Should that be a part of art? There might be no way around it!
3. The Mona Lisa was indeed stolen in 1911. How much of this event inspired your own story?
On my most recent trip to Paris, I just couldn’t believe how huge the crowds were in front of the Mona Lisa. I was curious, given some of the other great paintings in Le Louvre, why the Mona Lisa had become so famous. I went back to my rented apartment on the Ile Saint Louis, and googled “why is the Mona Lisa so famous?” That’s where and when I first really heard the story of her actual theft in 1911. The more I read, the more interested in this story I became. That was the original spark for me to sit down and write the novel. But, as I explain above, I was also very interested in how modern culture values art, in this time of digital copies, so I decided to update the story to modern times.
4. Rob, a Canadian, falls in love with Paris. Why did you decide to give him the Canadian nationality? In his eyes, how does France compare to Canada? What do you personally think of both countries?
After my family left London, when I was 6, we moved to Toronto, Canada. My mother is actually French Canadian, so I grew up hearing French spoken at my grandmother’s house, and have always had an interest and affinity for French culture. I decided to make Rob a Canadian because I felt I could most accurately write his voice for my first novel, plus I was inspired by one of my favorite writers, Robertson Davies. I think Rob falls in love with Paris quite quickly. First, he grew up basically in the wilderness of the Yukon (which is similar to Alaska) so it’s quite a contrast. But, he’s quite worldly, and loves discovering new art, food, music, and all that Paris has to offer. I, myself, also love Paris more than any other city in the world, and hope to live there some day! What is interesting is the relationship between French Canadians and Parisians. In some way, French Canadians, who were cut off from France in the 1760s after the Seven Year’s War, are like anachronistic French people. We are always a big curiosity to Parisians, especially for our very different accents and even some of our peculiar turns of phrase!
5. Any out of the beaten path places you would recommend to a tourist going for the first time to Paris, or any work of art in Le Louvre you think is not enough known?
I have a map of the locations in my novel on my website at www.TheMonaLisaSpeaks.com. But I definitely recommend the Catacombs, as an amazing, unique tourist experience. Inside Le Louvre, my favorite place is the “Salle Rembrandt.” Rembrandt’s use of light and dark to direct our eye is amazing! My favorite work of art in all of Paris is actually at the Musee d’Orsay – it is Rodin’s “The Gates of Hell.” It’s a monumental and amazing sculpture that depicts a scene from Dante’s Inferno. It even includes a mini version of The Thinker. An amazing sculpture!
WHAT DO YOU THINK?
DOES THIS RESONATE WITH YOUR OWN EXPERIENCE
OF ART AND MUSEUMS?
SHARE YOUR THOUGHTS IN A COMMENT PLEASE