Arnaud Rykner

In the end, fiction is just that : a form of tinkering to try to tell the truth when you can’t.

Writer, playwright and professor of literature, Arnaud Rykner is fascinated by closed worlds. His texts forge a singular language in which the music of words and the harmony of voices sound the blows of the human soul.

Published on 25/12/2019

2 min

A scholar, novelist and playwright, Arnaud Rykner began his literary career by writing a critical work on the New Novel (Théâtre du Nouveau Roman or Theatre of the New Novel, 1988) and some of his leading authors such as Marguerite Duras and Nathalie Sarraute. It was thanks to her that he met the director Claude Régy, for whom he became an assistant before staging plays by Maurice Maeterlinck (Les Aveugles or The Blind, 2001) and Bernard-Marie Koltès (Dans la solitude des champs de coton or In the Solitude of Cotton Fields, 2010).

At the same time, he developed a body of fiction in which fantasy (Mon Roi et Moi or My King, 1999) blends with reality (Blanche or White, 2004) around a central concern: to make singular and solitary voices heard, such as that of the writer Robert Walser, the inspiration for his novel Dans la neige (In the Snow), in 2016.

From his first novel, Mon roi et moi (1999), Arnaud Rykner places closed doors and monologue at the heart of his stylistic work.

Around these motifs, he patiently weaves a work in which confinement holds an increasingly important place, whether it is a room in which a woman is held (Nur, 2007), a train that runs to the concentration camps (Le Wagon or The Wagon, 2010) or, more simply, the loneliness that imprisons one’s own self (Dans la neige, 2016). From "I" to "he," voices intertwine throughout musical writing, sometimes stripped to the extreme, that seems irresistibly drawn to emptiness and silence.

Initially recognised for his academic work – which notably led him to contribute to the inclusion of Nathalie Sarraute’s works in the prestigious Pléiade Library – Arnaud Rykner became a figure of contemporary French literature with the publication of Le Wagon (The Wagon) in 2010. Awarded the Jean d'Heurs Award for Best Historical Novel in 2011 and translated abroad, this striking account of deportation earned him critical acclaim and an international audience.

The writer then asserted a taste for uncharted territory, taking him to Japan in 2019 to a residency at Villa Kujoyama where he experimented with new forms of writing and connecting with the world.

  • 1987


    Arnaud Rykner directs « La Voix Humaine » (The Human Voice) by Jean Cocteau. He publishes his essay Théâtre du Nouveau Roman the following year.

  • 1999


    The author publishes his first novel « Mon Roi et Moi ».

  • 2011


    « Le Wagon » wins the Jean d’Heurs Award for Best Historical Novel.

  • 2019


    Arnaud Rykner joins the Villa Kujoyama residency to write his 10th novel.

The Institut français and the project

In 2019, Arnaud Rykner was selected to spend time at the Villa Kujoyama, a residency for artists in Japan supported by the Institut français.


Find out more about Villa Kujoyama


L'institut français, LAB