Berkeley-based writer Sara Houghteling has a debut novel on the shelves called Pictures at an Exhibition, which tells the story of Max Berenzon, son of a Jewish art dealer in Paris and his quest to recover his family's priceless art collection, looted by Nazis during World War II.
SFist asked her a few questions:
SFist: Your family has some history in Paris. Did they have any connection to the pre- or post-war art world you write about?
Houghteling: My great-great-grandfather was a majolica painter in Italy—this is the closet genetic connection I can claim to any fragment of the art world. My family’s only immediate connection to Paris in the post-war period is through my grandfather, who worked for the Marshall Plan mapping bridges.
How much time had/did you spend in Paris, prior to or while writing the book?
I’ve spent about two years living in Paris—the first was as a twenty-two-year-old English teacher at the American School in Paris, and the second as a Fulbright in Paris. Prior to this, as an undergraduate, I worked for the Let’s Go: France travel guide series. The editors asked us to indicate landmarks (like, Youth Hostel, Train Station) on a map, which I was completely incapable of doing. However, I loved learning about the history of the places I visited, especially the artists’ houses in the South of France—Picasso, Matisse, and Chagall were all neighbors down there.