Interview with Irène Laureux from Remain In Light by Collin Kelley
Irène Laureux is a native Parisian and has lived in a lovely apartment at rue Rampon in the 11th arrondissement for more than 50 years. She’s still a beautiful woman at age 69, an almost movie star quality about her with luxurious blonde hair, downturned mouth and inquisitive dark eyes. You could imagine her in one of Truffaut, Malle or Godard’s New Wave films. Madame Laureux works from home as a book editor for one of France’s most prestigious publishing houses. Her husband died in 1968 and Madame Laureux suffered from agoraphobia for many years, living as a virtual prisoner in her apartment. By chance, she met a young American writer named Martin Paige, who was staying at the hotel opposite her building, and through a series of extraordinary circumstances, she was able to overcome her fear of the outdoors. Madam Laureux kindly agreed to sit down and talk about her remarkable life over a glass of red wine and pack of Gauloises – her cigarette of choice.
CK: Tell me about your life in Paris and how you came to settle on rue Rampon.
IL: I came to live here with my maternal aunt after the Nazis murdered my parents. They were both part of the resistance. When my aunt died she left me the apartment and I’ve been here ever since.
CK: And how did you meet your late husband?
IL: Jean-Louis was a guest at the Bel Air Hotel. I occasionally help with hotel security, so on of my nightly checks, I happened to see him…
CK: This was before your agoraphobia?
IL: Well… I’ve suffered from it since I was a child, but my work for the hotel was of a more observational nature. I have a very clear view of the hotel from my gallery, so I often check on guests that may cause trouble.
CK: So you’re essentially a peeping tom?
IL: I reject that term. My work has prevented thefts, assaults and suicides. I have nothing to be ashamed of.
CK: I’m sorry… let’s move on. So you met your husband in your duties for the Bel Air.
IL: Yes, he was here from Nice interviewing for a teaching position at the École des Beaux-Arts. It was a whirlwind courtship and we married soon after he accepted the job.
CK: This might be painful to answer, but how did your husband die?
IL: During the riots of 1968. His body was found near Notre-Dame. He’d been shot.
CK: Was Jean-Louis active in the May protests?
IL: Yes… he and his students in the graphic design department created all the famous posters seen around Paris. He took part in many of the demonstrations.
CK: Do you believe the government murdered him for his activities?
IL: I cannot say. The police gave up years ago.
CK: But you haven’t given up? I understand that a local detective is searching for answers and so is your friend, Martin Paige.
IL: (hesitates) Martin has been a wonderful advisor.
CK: Doesn’t Martin live here with you?
IL: Yes… he’s also an editor at the publishing house.
CK: There are rumours that he is your lover. Care to comment?
IL: That is an outrageous claim, monsieur! Martin is young enough to be my grandson.
CK: Did you meet Martin while you were peeping… ummm… working for the hotel?
CK: And he cured you of your agoraphobia? I find that remarkable.
IL: He didn’t “cure me” as you suggest, and I find your insinuations very invasive. Martin was injured in the bombing of the Saint-Michel metro station in 1995. I was able to overcome my fear and come to his aid. After that, Martin worked with me so that I could finally leave my home.
CK: I don’t mean to imply anything, madame. I just want my readers to understand that you have a remarkable story and very interesting people surrounding you. Now, one last question – who is Frederick Dubois?
IL: (long silence) How do you know that name?
CK: Your detective, Monsieur Hugo, is searching for a man named Dubois. Does he have something to do with your husband’s murder?
IL: I don’t want to answer anymore questions. (She rises, walks towards the front door and opens it, indicating I should leave)
CK: Wasn’t Frederick Dubois one of your husband’s students at the École des Beaux-Arts?
IL: Please leave. (She is now closing the door on me)
CK: Wasn’t Frederick Dubois, in fact, your husband’s secret lover? Do you think he played a part in Jean-Louis’ death?
Madame Laureux slammed the door in my face after this question. As I said, a very mysterious woman with an intriguing past. Had I been able to complete the interview, I would have asked her further questions about Monsieur Dubois and why there is another detective, a Bernard Sullivan from London, no so indiscreetly keeping tabs on her every movement.