Sebastian Faulks: ‘I always feel that the glorious thing is just beyond my reach’

The novelist talks about alter egos, his place in history, and the differences between French and English patriotism

Sebastian Faulks, 65, was born in Newbury, Berkshire and is best known for his bestselling historical novels set in France – The Girl at the Lion d’Or, Birdsong, Charlotte Gray. In his new book, Paris Echo, the narrative is shared between an American post-doctoral researcher and a Moroccan teenager.

Your novel gives a foreigner’s eye view of Paris. How much time have you spent there?
I first went there at 17, for three months. I was living with an old lady off the Avenue de la Grande Armée, a continuation of the Champs-Élysées. It was a lonely, intense time. I read a lot and went to galleries and films in the afternoon. I loved the city but felt too young and poor to get plugged into its main artery. In ...