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Telephone : +33 6-69-38-80-10
Quentin Foureau lives in the Mayenne, in the former province of Maine, today in Pays de la Loire [France]. He is a storyteller. In life he is passionate about history, cinema, literature, hiking and wildlife.
OJL : Hello Quentin Foureau.
Quentin Foureau : Hello.
OJL : Four quick questions before getting to the heart of the matter. As you live in the Mayenne, can you tell us what your favourite coffee is there ? And what do you like to take there ?
Quentin Foureau : In Mayenne, you will find “Le Quai des Flâneurs”. It’s a café-bookseller where you can enjoy a local beer or a glass of wine while reading on the indoor terrace.
For my part, I’m not a big fan of beer, I prefer the blood of the vines (laughs). So I’m more attracted to wine. Particularly Burgundy or a soft white.
OJL : And what is your favourite park or place ?
Quentin Foureau : It’s very difficult for me to choose just one…
_In the Mayenne, I like the towpath of the river of the same name, dotted with locks.
_Also Sainte-Suzanne, the medieval “Pearl of Maine”.
_The ruins of Clairmont Abbey.
_In the village where I grew up: Louverné, there were old paths that led to lime kilns and a castle that has now been razed: these places helped shape my imagination.
_And recently, I found the magnificent fortress of Lassay-les-Châteaux, a village where all the beauties of Maine come together… at the southern gates of Normandy.
OJL : Next, what was the last book you read ? And the last song you listened to ?
Quentin Foureau : _About the book, I have just finished the first volume of “Mythago Wood” by Robert Holdstock.
_About the music: “Under a violet moon” by the group Blackmore’s Night. But chronologically, I am responding to this interview after listening to the fabulous chivalry song “The Witch of the Westmorland” covered by Stan Rogers. I love these songs of history as much as legends…
OJL : Finally, do you have a quote and/or proverb that you like ?
Quentin Foureau : “The tale tells lies, but tells truths”. I don’t remember from whose pen this proverb comes, but that doesn’t matter.
Another quote, attributed to Gustav Mahler, is also very dear to me: “Tradition is not the worship of ashes, but the transmission of the flame”.
OJL : Let’s talk a little about you now. How could you introduce yourself ?
Quentin Foureau : Like a traditional storyteller, or a storyteller with a traditional repertoire. I seek to transmit, through voice, the sometimes very local legends of France & Europe. Tales that have spanned the centuries thanks to other storytellers before me.
OJL : How did you become a storyteller ?
Quentin Foureau : I encountered the story in 2014, during a fantasy literature convention where I had a stand as an author. I was then trained in Rennes by the storyteller François Debas from 2015. And it was the following year that I started storytelling in front of an audience.
First in small festivals and cafes. Then in libraries, museums, bigger events, schools and colleges.
At the same time, I wrote some fantastic short stories, I responded to calls for texts, I conducted studies in “Comparative Literature and Art History”.
I decided to make storytelling my profession in 2020.
_First because it was obvious that this practice made me happy every day.
_Secondly because it seemed that my way of storytelling found its audience, finally because the teaching profession I tried two years previously had absolutely not suited me. I had been a librarian for two years, a fascinating job, but for me nothing beat a daily life entirely made up of tales and legends.
This decision was immediately followed by the first lockdown. I then had the idea of telling the story every weekend of this period online and live on social networks… This is what launched my professionalization.
As soon as the lockdown ended, schools, libraries, individuals and cultural structures contacted me to make room for a storytelling vigil within their walls.
OJL : Who are the artists who shaped you ? Who struck you down ? In a few names and why.
Quentin Foureau : There are several :
_Baudelaire and Lovecraft when I was a teenager, to open the doors to the nocturnal and thrilling fantasy.
_Bernanos with its twilight mystique.
_Baricco (take the time to read his book “Océan Mer”) for his often moving poetry.
_The storyteller Sophie Pérès, whom I met in 2014 in Lannion.
_And Claude Seignolle: great collector, anthologist and author.
OJL : Why not choose a pseudonym or stage name to practice storytelling ?
Quentin Foureau : By using my real name, and not another that I invented, I leave the main role to history in this magical moment. The ideal would even be for people to forget that I’m there while I’m telling a story, so offering an additional character would add to the ephemeral existence of the oral tale… And then, now that I’ve been telling stories for ten years, it would be a little late to choose a stage name (laughs) !
Even within the musical storytelling duos of which I am a part (“Cataèdes”, “La Faim du Monde” and “Fanfaracontes”), I tell stories under my real name.
OJL : Let’s talk a little about your work now. What are you creating ?
Quentin Foureau : My daily work is to find tales, myths and legends in ancestral traditions.
Then to adapt them orally and with my own words to restore their evocative and symbolic power in the minds of the listeners. It is a live performing art.
Indeed, I tell stories during “on stage” performances. Whether on a real stage, an activity space in a library, the CDI of a college, in a barn or under the apple trees of an orchard.
What I try to create is to give new vocal and dreamlike life to silent stories… Or even forgotten ones. Because they are very old and recorded in old books, little published or out of print.
My creations are therefore relatively ephemeral, even if I have been telling certain stories regularly for sometimes ten years…
But, given the success of the online and live storytelling sessions during the 2020 lockdowns, I am seriously thinking of resuming this dynamic with a new setting. New ways of offering these “lives” (direct), and even releasing several recordings of thematic tales, on discs or “podcasts”.
Also, I plan to turn to my writing desk again to offer a first novel in the coming years, and of course collections of tales and legends, this time coming from my imagination but strongly inspired by the traditional collection which most marked me. All this is often asked of me by the public after my shows. And my job, just like my passion, is to respond to these wonderful requests.
OJL : It seems that you also write. What have you written and published ?
Quentin Foureau : So there are several works to cite:
_My horror stories written in my younger years, published in collective anthologies, mostly available here.
_In 2020, I had the pleasure of directing, for this publishing house, an anthology on the horrific rewritings of tales from Brittany: “Nuits de Bretagne”.
_Other short stories, with a more mature style, will soon be released by other publishing houses.
_ The rest (collection of stories, first novel) are only projects in preparation, but it will now be more convenient for me to move them forward in the Mayenne.
OJL : How can you define your style ?
Quentin Foureau : A colleague recently defined my way of storytelling as “full of simple poetry” and “very mystical”.
And this corresponds well to the states into which I want to immerse the adult viewers.
With the children viewers, I especially aim for wonders and reactions : my style is then undoubtedly more lively, more energetic, more mimetic also when I have to embody animal characters or archetypes.
When I write, Bernanos being a reading capital for me, I hope that we find in my style, a little of its supernatural and profound mysticism in my modest prose.
OJL : What techniques do you use ?
Quentin Foureau : I use many of the techniques that were passed to me by François Debas, the storyteller who taught me everything, during the courses that I had the pleasure and honour of following under his direction.
Most of these are exercises from theatre, particularly improvisation theatre, but also methods of pronunciation and bodily expressions in order to tell stories with my voice as well as with my gestures, my body and my entire presence.
Orally, I especially try to embody the characters as vividly as possible, while building the setting with my gestures, my gaze and my descriptions. I often enter a slight daze, perhaps close to a form of trance. And to let myself be absorbed by the story I tell…
For example, I will tell the story, or part of the story, from the point of view of a secondary character, to enrich my vision of the setting and the scene. I can also, to find how to embody a character and tell it better, try to mimic it in several situations.
I also benefited from the advice of a singer friend, who passed on to me valuable methods of warming up and voice placement.
Finally, after ten years of practice, I was able to find my own storytelling exercises and techniques : I use writing more and more often in the form of notes, plans, even maps to get an overview of a tale of which I do not know the historical and geographical context.
For example: I recently told “La Lorelei”. This German legend in which an aquatic divinity of the Rhine causes the shipwreck and death of navigators at a dangerous bend in a river. As I did not know Germany, the fact of observing, reading, writing and assimilating key words and drawing a map annotated with this legend was of great help to me.
OJL : Can we place you a personalized order ?
Quentin Foureau : Absolutely ! Besides, I consider myself a story hunter, who constantly has new ones to tell. Thus, you can very well “order” me by asking me for a session on a particular theme, as long as this theme is affordable from the angle of the story, and the research and rehearsal times are comfortable enough to offer the best possible result.
In the context of the school environment, I often suggest that teachers prepare “à la carte” sessions according to what the students have seen, are seeing or will see during the year. For example, I was able to prepare an entire session on pre-Columbian Mesoamerican mythology, which I did not know at all and which is fascinating ! At the end of the month, I will go and tell stories during an evening dedicated to bats. Therefore, I conducted research to build a repertoire on the subject. And spectators will hear myths and legends from all over the world during this night.
OJL : What are your sources of information ?
Quentin Foureau : I obviously have a large library of storybooks at home (laughs). I also go to libraries a lot, whether municipal or universitarian.
In this regard, I would like to point out that many collections of traditional tales are available for free, completely and legally on the internet.
_“Wikisource” offers a large number of them. From the oldest translations of the Brothers Grimm, to the funereal and fantastic legends of Le Braz.
_“Gallica” is a significant source. Because you can view scans of old books there. And above all, you should know that you can find the entire “Revue des traditions populaire” there… which is a gold mine !
OJL : Can we subscribe to your newsletter ?
Quentin Foureau : Not yet, because I’m not proposing one. But my website will be ready soon, and I will make it possible !
In the meantime, I publish my artistic agenda every month on my social networks Facebook, Instagram and more recently on LinkedIn. If I don’t do it, it’s because no performances are planned for the month in question or because they are all private (weddings, birthdays, etc…), so there is no point announcing them to an open public. I also regularly share photos and video clips of my performances.
OJL : Do you have an anecdote about the creation of one of your performances ?
Quentin Foureau : During my storytelling sessions during the first lockdown, I opened an account on Tipeee to which everyone could make a donation. Following a particularly generous donation, I contacted the person to thank them warmly. In his response, this man explained to me that it was his turn to thank me, because his partner, who was going through a deep depression, found a little happiness and wonder during my storytelling sessions. And this only during these moments of dreams and ancestral imaginations.
I was deeply touched by it. And I blame myself for not having been able to do even more… Now that I have found my good roots and that my living conditions there will henceforth be more peaceful, I will be able to do something about it. Better late than never…
OJL : Last question. You definitely have friends who are doing amazing things ! If you want to promote them a little, now is the time !
Quentin Foureau : With pleasure. Here is a selection of seven of them:
_L’Enrubannée: creator of medieval-inspired belts: https://www.instagram.com/enrubannee/
_Claire Tardieux: illustrator specializing in watercolour: https://www.clairetardieuxillustration.fr/
_ La Griesche: illustrator, painter and singer: https://www.instagram.com/la_griesche_art/
_Calvaire Drach: illustrator specializing in military themes: https://www.instagram.com/calvaire_drach/
_Amélie Davias: illustrator of tales and legends:
_Le Miroir Fou: illustrator specializing in medieval engravings:
_ Angie Besnard: opera singer and singing teacher:
OJL : Bravo for what you do. May Our Lady protects you.
Quentin Foureau : Thank you for this interview. May Our Lady also protects you too.