Our new English editor arrives - welcome (back) Lara!
You can take the girl out of cafébabel, it seems, but you can't take cafébabel out of the girl. Lara Lise Bullens, who's half-Swiss and half-Dutch, did a two-month internship at our Paris office at the end of 2016. And now she's back to spend the next 10 months as our full-time English editor!
cafébabel: Did you enjoy your two-month stint in the winter with us?
Lara: It was cold! [laughs] But it was great! I mean, if it wasn't a good experience I wouldn't have come back.
cafébabel: What made you want to come back?
Lara: I wanted to continue a chapter that I didn’t feel was finished. I felt I wasn’t done here yet.
cafébabel: What have you been doing in the interim?
Lara: I went home to both respective countries [Switzerland and the Netherlands] for New Year's and Christmas to see my family, and when I came back I was sending out job applications left and right, going to interviews. I helped some friends working for the project Are We Europe, editing and finding contributors and writing for them, and I was also working in a restaurant. Just a very easy-going, straightforward life for a few months.
cafébabel: If people ask you how you're enjoying Paris now, is the answer still "It's great, it smells of pee!"?
Lara: Definitely! It's great even though it smells of pee, and I have to add: it's great even though when you're biking behind a bus, you have to cleanse every time you get off your bike because of the pollution.
cafébabel: The last time we spoke you were reading a book called When Nietzsche Wept. What are you reading now?
Lara: I'm reading The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood. I told myself I wanted to start reading more books by women. I found myself, just out of habit, picking up a load of classics by white men, and I wanted to start reading books by different people in society and see the world through their eyes. It's a fascinating book, it's absolutely terrifying - it gave me nightmares! - but it's great so far.
cafébabel: And thank God that it's not at all topical right now.
Lara: It's a fitting time to read a dystopian novel like this, especially a feminist one right now.
cafébabel: There's a lot of evidence to suggest we're living in a dystopia right now: Brexit and Donald Trump, and Marine Le Pen getting twice the number of votes her father got 15 years ago. What do you do to stay hopeful?
Lara: I tell myself that a lot of people have this habit of being reactionary. It's an unhealthy habit, but it can be a good thing, because it means that there's going to be a lot of backlash against the rise of these populist, right-wing nationalist movements. There's a lot more initiatives now that are surfacing, and that gives me a lot of hope. You go to the streets in Paris whenever anything happens and there are people raising their voices, and that's kind of comforting.
cafébabel: What do you want to get out of the next 10 months here?
Lara: What's really great is that there's been a lot of shifts in the company and in the magazine. We have a new boss now, which changes the dynamics, changes for the website are on the horizon, and there's a new editorial line which is all about long-form, high-quality journalism, and I want to be a part of it.
I'm really excited to take all of these ideas I've had for months and really get them going, and have a job that gives me the time to do that. I'm going to Lyon at the end of May to attend the European Lab. I just asked on my first day if I could do it, and they immediately said yes. There's so much space to be creative here that you don't get from other magazines.