Within a decade, Eric-Emmanuel Schmitt has become one of the most read and acted French-language writers in the world. His books have been translated into 43 languages, and more than 50 countries regularly perform his plays.
Born in 1960, Eric-Emmanuel Schmitt attended the Ecole Normale Supérieure, France's leading humanities university, and was awarded the country's most prestigious teaching certificate and a doctorate in Philosophy.
Initially known to the public for his works for the stage, he shot to fame with Don Juan on Trial first performed in France in 1991 and afterwards produced by the Royal Shakespeare Company. Further productions of a new version rewritten by the author are to be staged in Belgium and Germany at the end of 2005.
Then followed The Visitor in 1993, a triumph that won him three Molières in 1994 for best actor, theatrical revelation and best play. The Visitor has been translated and performed the world over. A musical version was staged by the Théâtre Impérial de Compiègne with music by Stavros Xarhakos and later put on at the Royal Opera House in London.
In the wake of this second success, Eric-Emmanuel Schmitt left his job as a lecturer in Philosophy at the University of Savoie to become a full-time writer.
Golden Joe was produced in 1994 and Enigma Variations in 1996 at the Théâtre Marigny with Alain Delon and Francis Huster. Currently Schmitt's most popular play, Enigma Variations has been put on in all the great capital cities, including Tokyo, Berlin, Moscow, Los Angeles and London with Donald Sutherland.
The Libertine was performed for the first time in 1997 at the Théâtre Montparnasse with Bernard Giraudeau and Christiane Cohendy before embarking on a major international career (Zürich, Berlin, etc).
A monologue about Buddhism, Milarepa, followed a few months later, first performed in a co-production by the Théâtre Vidy in Lausanne, Switzerland, and the Théâtre des Gémeaux de Sceaux. It was later performed at the Avignon Festival in 1997 and again in Paris in 1999. This script gave Eric-Emmanuel Schmitt the idea to continue a series of short texts on the theme of religion, which later became the Cycle de l'Invisible.
Frederick or The Crime Boulevard was produced almost simultaneously in Paris with Jean-Paul Belmondo and in Germany in Cologne and Baden-Baden.
Between Worlds ran continually during the 1999-2000 season at the Théâtre Marigny (Popesco Hall), its success making three consecutive castings necessary.
Monsieur Ibrahim and the Flowers of the Koran, first performed in December 1999 by Bruno-Abraham Kremer, was staged at the Avignon Festival in July 2001, then in Paris at the Studio des Champs-Elysées in September 2002. Since then, it has travelled the globe non-stop at the instigation of the Minister for Foreign Affairs. Monsieur Ibrahim ran again at the Théâtre Marigny (Popesco Hall) during the whole of the 2004-2005 season. In the same year, Omar Sharif le César was named best actor for his role in François Dupeyron's film of the play.
After this second opus of the Cycle de l'Invisible came a third, Oscar and the Lady in Pink, stunningly adapted for the stage by the Comédie des Champs-Elysées in February 2003 with Danielle Darrieux, who won a Molière for best actress for her performance of the child and the lady in pink.
In September 2003, Charlotte Rampling and Bernard Giraudeau starred in Partners in Crime in its first production at the Théâtre Edouard VII. The play was a sell-out for several months.
Since November 2004, Jacques Weber has been playing to a full house at the Théâtre Montparnasse in The Gospel According to Pilate, Eric-Emmanuel Schmitt's adaptation for stage of his novel of the same title. At the same time in the little theatre, a young actor, Frédéric Quiring, just 30 years of age, has been starring as Jesus in The Night of Olives. Both plays are published under the title My Gospels by Albin Michel.
In January 2008, he staged Sentimental Tectonics at the Théâtre Marigny in Paris. This is an intense and witty psychological thriller in which cruelty is veiled in tenderness. The central protagonists, Diane, played by Clémentine Célarié and Richard, Tcheky Karyo, suffer the seismic waves of passionate love.
Meanwhile, Eric-Emmanuel Schmitt has also been writing novels. In 1995, The Sect of the Egoists was published to critical acclaim. In the year 2000, The Gospel According to Pilate established his reputation as a novelist and won him the prize, 'Grand Prix des Lectrices de Elle'. Since then, each new novel by Eric-Emmanuel Schmitt features in the bestseller lists for several weeks or even months.
After this radiant work, he published The Alternative Hypothesis (2001), a darker novel about Hitler, the historical Führer, and 'Adolf', a fictional alter-ego. This was followed by a whimsical and satirical variation on the Faust myth, When I was a Work of Art (2002).
The 'novellas' in the Cycle de l'Invisible have met with huge success in the French-speaking world and beyond, both on stage and in the bookshops. Millions of readers of all generations have taken to their hearts Milarepa on Buddhism, Monsieur Ibrahim and the Flowers of the Koran about Sufism, Oscar and the Lady in Pink about atheism, Noah's Child (2004) about Judaism and Le sumo qui ne pouvait pas grossir (2009) about zen buddhism.
Keen to find new modes of expression, he produced a work of 'autofiction', My Life with Mozart, which appeared simultaneously in 8 countries from Korea to Norway. This union of words and music will be adapted for actor and soloists and performed on various stages. To offer a taste of the first film he wrote and directed, the author brought out a series of short stories, Odette Toulemonde and Other Stories celebrating women's quest for happiness. Both the book and the movie, Odette Toulemonde, toured Europe in 2007. His latest collection, Ostend's Dreamer, is a tribute to the unexpected power of imagination. A third collection appeared in 2010: the four stories that make up Concerto in Memory of an Angel explore the question, are we free or merely the subjects of fate? Can we change?
Also in 2008, Eric-Emmanuel Schmitt returned to the novel with the publication of Ulysses from Bagdad. Not for the first time, Schmitt reveals his prodigious talents as a "chameleon story-teller", to quote Fabienne Pascaud of Télérama, with this tale of the exodus of one of the millions of contemporary men in search of a place on earth - a stowaway. Ulysses from Bagdad is a picaresque saga for our time that ponders the human condition and poses the question, are boundaries the bastion of our identities or the last rampart of our illusions?
In the realm of non-fiction, Eric-Emmanuel Schmitt published his doctoral thesis in 1997 under the title, Diderot and the Philosophy of Seduction.
A keen music-lover, he has had his French translation of Mozart's The Marriage of Figaro produced at the Théâtre Impérial de Compiègne in 1997 and 1998, and he is finishing a translation of Don Giovanni.
While he continues to write fiction and plays, Schmitt is now a committed film director. In the wake of the success of Odette Toulemonde (2007), a film about happiness starring Catherine Frot and Albert Dupontel, he has adapted Oscar and the Lady in Pink (in cinemas late 2009), featuring, among others, Michèle Laroque, Max Von Sydow, Amira Casar and Mylène Demongeot.
Although he keeps his distance from the worlds of literature and politics, Eric-Emmanuel Schmitt now has a list of prizes to his name. In the year 2000, he was awarded the 'Grand Prix du Théâtre' by The French Academy for his work in its entirety; in 2004, he won first ‘Public Choice’ in the German Book Awards in Leipzig for his novella Monsieur Ibrahim and the Flowers of the Koran, while in Berlin he took the prestigious ‘Die Quadriga’ prize for ‘the humanity and wisdom he brings people with his humour’. Also in autumn 2004, the literary magazine Lire conducted a survey among its French readers to discover which books had ‘changed their lives’: Oscar and the Lady in Pink featured alongside works such as The Bible, The Three Musketeers and The Little Prince and was the only book by a living author to get a mention. In 2010 his book of short stories, Concerto in Memory of an Angel, was awarded the prestigious Prix Goncourt de la Nouvelle (short story).
Eric-Emmanuel Schmitt lives in Brussels. All his works are published by Albin Michel.