Read the 2017 Man Booker Prize shortlist
12 October 2017
Podcast about the Library’s Proust book group
17 October 2017

Interview with Adam Begley

Interview with Adam Begley


Author Adam Begley returns to the Library to talk about his book The Great Nadar: The Man Behind the Camera on Wednesday 18 October. Here he answers questions on his first memory being in a library and how he got interested in Nadar. 

What are your earliest memories of being in a library?

I believe the first time I kissed a girl was in the basement stacks of the school library – but all my early library memories are hazy. More recently, I spent days and days in the BnF reading Nadar’s correspondence. Nineteenth-century handwriting! Reams and reams of it. It’s a curious state when you’re super excited and wearied at the same time. Reading rooms are as a consequence somewhat magical to me – they’re places where you experience wild emotions in hushed surroundings. 

How did you come to be interested in Nadar?

There was a massive exhibition of Nadar’s photography in the summer of 1994 at the Musee d’Orsay in Paris which traveled the following year to the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. I saw the show at the Met and it convinced me that Nadar was one of the great portrait photographers of all time – if not the greatest. But nearly twenty years passed before I tried to find out about Nadar’s life. The catalyst was Julian Barne’s Levels of Life, an unusual book, part essay, part short story, part memoir, n which Barnes briefly sketches the contours of Nadar’s curious career and impressible character. Thanks to Barnes, Felix charmed me, as he had charmed so many others. When I discovered that though there were three biographers of Nadar in French, there was none in English. I decided to take the plunge.


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