A Parisian bomb attack in 1982 is seared in Rhea Tregebov's memory — so she wrote a novel about it
This interview originally aired on Jan. 25, 2020.
Rhea Tregebov is a Vancouver-based poet, novelist and children's writer. Her latest novel, Rue des Rosiers, is based in part on a 1982 terrorist attack on a Jewish delicatessen in Paris. It centres on a young Canadian woman swept up in the traumatic events.
Tregebov was actually living in the French city at the time and the attack is one that she will never forget. She stopped by The Next Chapter to tell us why.
Rhea in real-life
"The 1982 attack on the Paris delicatessen was the inciting incident for my novel. I wanted to write the book because I was living in Paris at the time.
"I was living in the tiny perfect apartment that my protagonist Sarah is living in. It was a five-minute walk from the Jewish delicatessen that was attacked. I could have been there but I wasn't.
I wanted to write the book because I was living in Paris at the time.
"In fact, I wasn't even in Paris that day, but I heard about it. This terrible attack was an act of tremendous inhumanity that felt arbitrary.
"It was happenstance that I had been spared being there. I imagined what it would have been like to have been there on that day when I started writing the book."
Agency in action
"I have a fascination with how ordinary people cope with agency in their lives. I'm a person for whom agency has not been that easy. I think other people perhaps have more of a sense of purpose or more of a sense of power.
"My protagonist both in this novel and in my previous novel is someone that does not feel entitled; they are hesitant to act, perhaps hesitant morally as much as anything else.
This terrible attack was an act of tremendous inhumanity that felt arbitrary.
"I'm interested in this collision between people who do not feel empowered when they are swept overboard by the waves of large historical events. And in Rue des Rosiers it's a singular terrorist event which does seem random and inexplicable."
Rhea Tregebov's comments have been edited for length and clarity.
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