By CAROL ARMBRUSTER
On Sept. 27 French author Bernard Werber (left) discussed his lifelong interests in the world of insects and humans and how he put them together in creative fiction.
Mr. Werber wrote his first story at age 7, "Les Aventures d'une puce" ("The Adventures of a Flea"). The four-page story described the daily life of humans from a flea's point of view. Mr. Werber went on to develop the themes and literary devices of this first story into both a career as a science reporter for Le nouvel observateur (1983-1990) and as the author of a fictional trilogy featuring ants. The Empire of the Ants (1998), first published in France in 1991 as Les Fourmis, is set in the 21st century and tells the story of a family that moves into a newly inherited house and thereby threatens the existence of the longtime resident and very vigorous ant colony.
Mr. Werber, who cites American authors Edgar Allan Poe and Philip K. Dick as important literary influences, writes an entomological thriller with philosophical implications. A work of pacifist advocacy, it examines civilizations large and small, calling into question their supremacy and endurance. Empire of the Ants soon became a cult favorite in France and was translated into 17 languages around the world and assigned to philosophy and natural science classes. The ant trilogy was completed with Le Jour des fourmis (1992) and La Révolution des fourmis (1995). Mr. Werber also read from his latest book, L'Empire des anges (2000) [Empire of the Angels], which is the second volume of his second trilogy, the Thanatonautes Trilogy. This trilogy offers a view of human civilization from a life beyond this one.
The program was sponsored by the European Division, the Science, Technology and Business Division, La Table Française, the Library of Congress Professional Association, the What If ... Science Fiction and Fantasy Forum and the Alliance Française de Washington, D.C.
Ms. Armbruster is a French area specialist in the European Division.