Nicolas Mathieu



Image of Nicolas Mathieu, head and shoulders visible
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“In Oxford, Mississippi, I basically hope to live a fantasy. I want to experience the heat described by Faulkner and encounter the people he depicts, or at least their grandchildren..."

Since childhood, reading and literature have pretty much consistently held the top spot in my life. After completing my studies in history, cinema, and art history, I worked a number of often-disparaged and underpaid jobs, from home tutor to all-purpose penman to struggling screenwriter, and so on and so forth. 


Among the less shining moments of my career, I spent five years typing up minutes for company board meetings. This rather thankless task actually provided me with great insight into the inner workings of the corporate world. It was then that I began to understand the close relationship between body and economy; how this world operated under the various forces at play within it. 


In my reading, my yearning to write, and my academic career, I had always been eager to distance myself from my origin story in lower-middle-class provincial France. But while performing these bread-and-butter jobs, bearing witness to downsizing schemes, and spending time with laborers and low-ranking employees, I realized that my work should also reflect the people I had grown up with. I wanted to write about the places I knew, the bodies I was familiar with, and the lifestyles that had once been my own, all of which were underrepresented in contemporary literature. 


Due to its social element and realism, my work may be likened to that of an Annie Ernaux or an Émile Zola, but it is inspired more concretely by Americana, noir fiction, and Southern literature. And Their Children After Them actually borrows its title from the same Bible verse that inspired the name of James Agee’s renowned work, Let Us Now Praise Famous Men. This Southern style of literature – the works of Faulkner, Robert Penn Warren, and others – has had a powerful influence on me. 


After studying history and cinema, Nicolas Mathieu (b. 1978 in Épinal, France) settled in Paris, where he would take on a long succession of jobs (including screenwriter, television broadcasting intern, writer at a reporting company, home tutor, and so on). While living in the capital, he wrote several scripts and short stories before publishing his first novel, Of Fangs and Talons (2014), about the closure of a factory in the Vosges region. In 2018, he was awarded the Prix Goncourt for his second novel, And Their Children After Them, which follows the lives of young teenagers in the east of France. His most recent works are Rose Royal: A Love Story (2020) and Connemara (2022).