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Jean-Paul Delfino

Writer, musicologist between France and Brazil



Photo credit: ©Ouarda Silly

Jean-Paul Delfino, born in 1964 in Aix-en-Provence, is a screenwriter, novelist and writer. As a child, Jean-Paul had three dreams: to play football, to be a French teacher and to become a novelist. He grew up in a family of teachers and pursued his dreams, which he will all made come true, by dint of his talent and nerve. At a very young age he took part in the French football team selections, but a serious knee injury forced him to stop playing his favourite sport at the age of 17. As a teenager, he played guitar to seduce girls (and it worked!), but as soon as he discovered João Gilberto's bossa nova, music took on a whole new dimension: it was a revelation, supreme and founding, an "electric shock" that determined the rest of his life. He will say, "At the age when one cultivates one's secret garden, mine became tropical, without I wanted it". He became a teacher in a private high school and left the job after a year, for lack of conviction. The writing remained...

At the end of two years of journalism studies in Bordeaux, he lazily wrote a collection of short stories for his final dissertation... and became valedictorian of his class. A "first swindle" of which he remains very proud. Various freelance jobs followed and a radical conclusion: "If you're not Albert London, it's not worth it to be a journalist... ».

He went to Brazil for the first time with a very specific editorial project: the Bossa Nova. He was 20 years old and had the strange sensation of going home. He learned the language in less than a week. During his three years there, he got interviews with the greatest (Gilberto Gil, Baden Powell, Nara Leão, Caetano, etc.). As soon as he returned to France, he published his first book, "Brasil Bossa Nova" in 1988 (Edisud), an anthology of bossa nova of which he fell in love. His book, prefaced by Georges Moustaki, received the Grand Prix du Label France Brésil. He then wrote a series of black novels, published by Métailié, set in the Phoenician capital, his home town, with "L'Île aux femmes" and "Tu touches pas à Marseille" (1999), "De l'eau dans le grisou" (2001) and "Embrouilles au Vélodrome" (2002). At the same time, he published several radio plays for Radio France, as well as several books for young people.

After the publication of his detective novels, he devoted himself to writing a series of novels on the history of Brazil, entitled "Suite brésilienne", which to date includes nine novels. In 2005, "Corcovado" (Métailié, Amerigo Vespucci Prize 2005, Gabrielle d'Estrées Prize 2005) was published, initiating the series and featuring a young man from Marseille in the 1920s discovering Rio de Janeiro. At the request of his editor, he soon completed a trilogy with "Dans l'ombre du Condor" in 2006 and "Samba triste" in 2007. Then, motivated by the numerous letters from his readers, he followed in the footsteps of the ancestors of his two colourful recurring heroes, Jean Dimare and Zumbi, brushing up Brazilian history from the end of the 17th century to the 1980s, inserting his little stories into the big story with "Samba triste", "Zumbi" (Buchet-Chastel). Published by Le Passage for the next 5 novels, he continued his saga with " Pour tout l'or du Brésil " (2011) and " Pour l'amour de Rio " (2012) around the influences of the Portuguese domination and the intrigues of the court. He signed the seventh volume of his "Suite brésilienne" with "Brasil" in 2013, a fresco that opens with the defeat of King Dom Joao VI and the beginnings of Brazil's independence. His 8th opus "Saudade" was published in 2014, and tells the story of Brazil at the dawn of the 20th century, while slavery is in its final hours and Rio de Janeiro gradually becoming a metropolis with an international reputation. The 9th volume was finally published in 2015 with "12, rue Carioca", which takes the reader from Rio de Janeiro to Marseille, and takes him to a France and Brazil ready to enter the 20th century...

His novels, very well documented, are full of humour which is, according to Jean-Paul Delfino, the best weapon to denounce any kinds of powers. Jean-Paul then claimed to write to move people and advocated "popular literature" that goes through the guts. Always believable and well-documented, his stories require a great deal of research - the ultimate for those who have fled from journalism and raised their penchant for idleness to the art of living!

After "Brasil bossa nova" (1988) and "Brasil: a musica" (Parentheses, 1998), Jean-Paul continued his anthologies of Brazilian music with "Couleur Brasil" in 2014, published by Le Passage and in co-publication with Radio France, a work that tells the story of Brazilian music in 40 songs. Jean-Paul unveils the greatest Brazilian musical standards, mythical songs hummed all over the world, which he punctuates with anecdotes revealing a fantastic world. His writings on bossa nova were sublimated by his book "Bossa nova, la grande aventure du Brésil" in 2017 (Le Passage).

In 2016, his novel, "Les Pêcheurs d'étoiles", was published, winner of the Prix des Lycéens du Salon du livre de Chaumont, which takes the reader on the trail of Erik Satie and Blaise Cendrars, and into the Paris of the Roaring Twenties. Jean-Paul then became the winner of the Prix des Romancières 2019 for "Les voyages de sable" published for the 2018 literary season, a splendid fresco around a malediction: immortality. With these two novels, he feels that he has taken a new step in his career as an author and then as a novelist. Today, he is beginning to accept without blushing too much that he has become a recognized writer. He thus confirmed his status with the publication of his latest novel "Assassins" in 2019 (published by Héloïse d'Ormesson), which tells the story of the last days of Émile Zola at a time when the climate in France openly displays deleterious anti-Semitism. 

Long hair and headband, earring, cigarette in the beak... Jean-Paul goes through life in a relaxed manner, assuming his style and choices in all circumstances. With Provence as his home and Brazil as his homeland, this music-loving and Portuguese-speaking writer could only cross paths with Pierre Barouh... It was the latter who, during his last visit to Brussels, told Philippe Quevauviller that "Jean-Paul is a great friend that you must meet". He tried to call him, but could only leave a message on his answering machine. Another underground river had also been created, via Emmanuel de Ryckel, whom Jean-Paul had contacted in 2016 while writing his book "Bossa nova, la grande aventure du Brésil". The contact was therefore announced and a first meeting took place in November 2017, when Jean-Paul joined the Bossa Flor program to tell "his" bossa nova during a show on the history of this music. He came back a year later, and this time met another lover of Brazil, Didier Sustrac, whose meeting with Philippe had also been generated by Pierre Barouh... It is a kind of family that is created around Saravah, in the spirit of the passers by of the French song and Brazilian music, and Jean-Paul met again Didier and Emmanuel Donzella, another common friend of Pierre, for a new bossa nova evening in February 2020. 

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