A Description of Oakland by François Bon

Updated: Sep 11, 2019

French writer and translator François Bon was the guest of the writing residency A Room with a View from June 29 to July 23, 2018, to conduct his project entitled A Description of Oakland.

"A Description of Oakland"

In July 2018, French writer François Bon was the guest of the writing residency A Room with a View with the goal of completing a project entitled "A Description of Oakland." He took this opportunity to describe and question Oakland as an "urban laboratory", to meet the people who are transforming this artistic, urbanistic and social territory, and to explore Oakland's singularities. He has documented his observations through filming and writing, the materials of which can be found on his website.

Since his first experience at Bobigny (a town located in the northeastern suburbs of Paris, in Seine-Saint-Denis), at the 14th floor of the Karl Marx Tower, François has never stopped exploring urban reality in his works, both from a social and an urbanistic point of view. As a creative writing teacher, he is convinced of the importance for literature and writing to be linked with concrete actions in the field and to integrate a questioning on public spaces and territories. In other words, the writer has to leave his position as a mere observer if we want literature to continue to have an impact on our current world. Thus, for François Bon, reflections on cities (such as the ones that have been led by Michel de Certeau, Jean-Luc Nancy, Bruce Bégout or Michel Lussault on American cities) are an essential laboratory for the forms of narratives that are present today.

François Bon took three trips to the West Coast in 2013, 2015 and 2016, and visited the Jack London house and museum. Doing so helped him to get progressively familiarized with Oakland not only as the city of this celebrated author but also as an urban interface opening on the globalized ocean. He was stricken by the gigantic port of Oakland and its endless arrivals and departures of container ships – the emerged and material part of our numerical world. The port served as a starting point in François Bon's questioning, as you can see here or here in his video diary.

François Bon's project A Description of Oakland aims at describing and questioning Oakland's position as an "urban laboratory" of sorts. François Bon will use the opportunity of this residency to meet the people who are transforming this artistic, urbanistic and social territory, as well as to explore Oakland's urban singularities and to document his discoveries though filming and writing.

François Bon © DR Jean-Luc Bertini, 2011.

More about François Bon

François Bon was born in Vendée, in 1953. He published his first book, Sortie d’usine, in 1982. Among the publication of numerous other books, both fictional and autobiographical, he wrote a trilogy on rock music (biographies of the Rolling Stones, Dylan, Led Zeppelin). In the 2000s, he experimented with drama, documentary films and creative writing workshops. In 1997, he created his first website, which has now become today his main experimentation platform: He currently teaches literary arts at the National School of Arts Paris-Cergy. He is the founder of Tiers Livre Éditeur.

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