Perla Servan-Schreiber: Growing Joy

5 years ago by

Photos Yann Audic

Perla Servan Schreiber’s book about being an old woman (that is how she describes herself with pride) hasn’t yet been translated in English. It will, because it is necessary for all of us to read it. Especially us women, so caught up in the fear of aging and the obsession about staying young.

Even more essential than reading the book is to just bask in Perla’s presence. All of us young women of every generation need to bring in our life figures of old women, whether they are real, symbolic, whether we know them or just listen to a podcast… Because these women are here to show us how it’s done, beautifully, joyfully and they’re here to call BS on the obsession over being young.

Perla is an intellectual, a woman with a fascinating career (she founded the magazine Psychologies with her husband Jean-Louis) and Perla cooks, a lot, often, and for everyone, even my team and I when we visited her in her Parisian (beautiful, of course) apartment. She walks for long hours in Paris, she’s not a mother but she is the grandmother of eight children, she’s leading her life with grace and you can’t even imagine how moved and inspired I have been by this interview.

This interview was recorded in French, so this is a translation you’re going to hear. I really hope you love it as much as I did.

[podcast_episode episode=”277601″ ]



On the joy of food…
My family was a very modest family, very happy, and food had an absolutely fundamental place in our lives — when you don’t have a lot of means, everything goes into your food, because it’s not expensive. And you can get a sense of abundance. You feel like you’re rich because of what’s on your plate, and being at the table. My mother was an incredible baker and cook, and that brought so much joy to our family that was otherwise not that well-off — food was what brought us joy.

On her teenage years…
I had an adolescence where I had to defy a lot of restrictions — like even going dancing. I was so passionate about rock-n-roll. Since I loved dancing, rock was the place where I stood out. And you love standing out when you’re 14 years old. And all of that was really a nightmare. Ladies would come to the house and say “we saw your daughter on a scooter” or “we saw your daughter coming home,” “she smelled like cigarettes when she was with my daughter” and of course our sweaters smelled like cigarettes when we came home. So it was just awful!

On dreaming of freedom…
I dreamed of coming to Paris. Being financially independent. Not getting married and not having children. I wanted NOTHING to get in the way of my freedom. Freedom was an obsession in my life.

Perla Servan-Schreiber: Growing Joy

On getting her job at Elle magazine…
One day I met a man at a dinner with friends and he asked what I did for work. I said I was looking for work and he said “come see me tomorrow morning.” It was as simple as that. He was running Elle magazine. And that’s how I started working at Elle! Nothing to do with what I’d studied — law, right?!?

On valuing her private life…
When things start cutting into my private life, I just really can’t stand it. That’s also something I’ve always been clear about. I did the best possible work, which really benefited all the magazines where I worked, but my number one priority is my private life.

On her husband…
We were extremely different, at least our upbringings. I’ve told you a bit about where I came from. He was born in 1937, during the war, and went into hiding with his parents and family in Megève in a cabin for three years. So he is kind of a mountain guy, and I hate the mountains. He also had a home in Provence in the Luberon — I hate grass and the countryside — I ONLY like the city and the sea!

On the freedom to be wrong…
Sometimes you’re wrong. But that too is a freedom. Learning and accepting being wrong. Mistakes are no big deal. Cultivating a feeling of failure is the only thing that’s regrettable — that’s what holds you back from pursuing your goals, whether it’s a love interest or professional or friendly or anything else. But being wrong, what’s the problem?

Perla Servan-Schreiber: Growing Joy

On aging…
But we are at this moment in society where we are breaking with so many things — as you know, whether it’s social, political, the way we work, lots of things. We’re also going through that rupture in regard to age. But we still have this imaginary notion of aging that really doesn’t correspond to the reality of aging these days. That’s why I wanted to shout out: Yes, we can remain seductive, active, popular, have desires, have sexuality — because older women’s sexuality used to be totally erased.

On solitude…
Having lived alone for forty two years, I am very attached to my solitude. Unlike someone like Jean-Louis who got married at 20 and went from his mother to his wife and then a second wife. It was difficult for him to accept my need for solitude, but it’s because I lived alone very happily, ever since I’ve been in a couple, that need for solitude comes up in a huge way. Of course, I am lucky to have a very large apartment, and even when it was much smaller, we each had our own office, since both of us work a lot. So we meet up when it’s time for tea. It’s as if we were in different places the rest of the time. That’s very important for me, to have my little goldfish bowl to myself. And I also need to be able to go off on my own.

On advice to her younger self…
Listen to that little voice. Don’t be afraid of that little voice. She knows where you should go. And if it happens to not be the right direction. That’s okay. It’s that mistake that will open the way to your path. I love the Indian proverb that says: Never ask for directions, you’d risk not getting lost.



Perla Servan-Schreiber: Growing Joy

Buchinger-Wilhelmi Clinic

Special thanks to Perla for letting us record in her beautiful home in Paris. Be sure to check out her latest book here. And a special thank you to Jayme Lake and Brittany Bigelow for making the English audio of this episode possible!


Add yours
  • Katerina January, 28 2019, 9:31 / Reply

    Beautiful, full of wisdom. Thank you for a different point of view! And Lulu is so cute, her eyes say it all!

  • La chance! je l’adore :)

  • Elle est passionnante et rayonnante, quel beau rendez-vous, merci Garance.

  • Keep searching! Love these kinds of interviews.

  • Sunny Side January, 28 2019, 11:15 / Reply

    Merci Garance pour ce sentiment de bienveillance/amour dans votre échange. Ces perles de sagesse et ton rire vont m’accompagner. L’acceptation joyeuse de la réalité signifie-t-il que tout est à sa juste place ?

  • It’s very well dubbed but for people who can speak French, it would have been amazing to have two versions, especially one in French to hear her voice and her words.

  • Linne Halpern January, 28 2019, 11:50

    Hi Marion,
    We actually do have two versions – one that is Garance and Perla’s conversation in French and another that is dubbed with the English translation. If you click over to the French side of the article (top right corner of the page), you’ll be able to access the full podcast in French, as it was originally recorded.
    Thank you so much and hope you enjoy it!
    xx Linne

  • Quelle personne éminemment sympathique !!! Et quel plaisir d’avoir pu suivre cet interview en français ! Merci, Garance !

  • Merci, je savoure. “On attribue encore à la seule jeunesse la beauté, l’imagination, l’énergie… Autant de vertus qu’on peut parfaitement avoir à 60 ans, 70 ans, 80 ans… “

  • Merci pour ce podcast en Français ?????si seulement ceux en anglais étaient doublés/ sous titrés

  • Christelle January, 28 2019, 1:54 / Reply

    quelle femme merveilleuse ! cela fait du bien d’entendre ses propos tellement libérateurs <3

  • J’ai vite note dans mon cahier “l’acceptation joyeuse de la realite” et que je vais, de ce pas, mediter en silence !
    Merci de nous faire partager cette belle rencontre.

  • Merci merci merci pour cette interview … et aussi d’avoir posté en français. Quel délice ce podcast. Tu as une si belle diction et voix si douce Garance :) Et Perla … vive Perla!!

  • Merci pour ce moment. Une constatation cependant -non pas une critique- , nous sommes une fois de plus dans un cas où il faut un certain niveau de vie pour pouvoir s’entretenir, aparemment cela va au delà d’une crème de jour, pouvoir aller en retraite etc…c’est génial d’entendre tout cela mais, difficile d’accepter le vieillissement quand tout diminue, y compris ses revenus. Il arrive alors que l’on mange moins par necessité. A quand Garance des articles avec des personnes plus près de celles qui rêvent de tout cela mais ne peuvent pas, tout simplement. Merci pour ces beaux instants en français.

  • Bravo pour ce commentaire !

  • Jorge Alexandre Teixeira January, 29 2019, 2:31 / Reply

    Loved It !!! What a Delightful Conversation …

  • raymonde GRIMBERT January, 29 2019, 4:04 / Reply

    Un grand merci pour cette lecture en français.

  • monica barbara vannucchi January, 29 2019, 6:05 / Reply

    Merci Garance pour cette belle interview en francais! Grazie di averci fatto conoscere una donna straordinaria e allo stesso tempo di una semplicità e chiarezza disarmanti. Ho adorato tutto della sua storia e del suo modo di raccontarla; è radiosa e umile e forte, un esempio di femminilità potente per tutte. Leggerò il suo libro, sento che ho molto da imparare da lei.

  • Oh, wow, I cannot tell you how much I enjoyed listening to this. What a woman! So inspiring. I loved noticing how fond of you (Garance) she was. I went straight away to order two of her books after listening – the one she is describing of course and one of her cookbooks as well, because, well, how could I resist! I’m soon going to feed my soul with her beautiful words and body with her food. Now, that is nourishment of the highest order! I’m so happy to come across a positive example of ageing. I want to continue looking forward to living my life and I think I’m going to be very inspired. Thank you all for this wonderful podcast. x

  • Sure its a lovely podcast, but couldn’t listen to the whole thing because the translation seems too impersonal. Better VO!

  • J’ai adoré l’interview et quel bonheur de t’entendre en français. J’adorerais t’entendre ponctuellement sur des podcasts courts.
    Perla est très inspirante.

  • Wonderful, inspiring, and wise. Thank you

  • sonia vidoni January, 29 2019, 2:50 / Reply

    J adore cette femme et ses livres…

  • L’un de tes meilleurs podcasts Garance – tellement agréable de t’entendre parler en français tu es encore plus à l’aise et plus attentive que d’habitude! Une invitée fascinante.

  • Que d’émotions…. quel moment exceptionnel. Merci pour ce podcast qui nous remet sur un chemin que l’on oublie souvent , la simplicité, le partage .
    Perla Servan Schreiber est vraiment une grande femme.

  • Mathilde January, 30 2019, 3:06 / Reply

    J’ai écouté tous les Pardon my French. Certains m’ont beaucoup émue et marquée. Mais celui-ci me touche et m’émeut profondément. Quel moment passionnant et quelle femme magnifique… Sa douceur, sa sagesse, sa bienveillance et sa liberté sont bouleversantes. Quel bien cette heure d’écoute m’a faite !! Merci Garance pour ce cadeau, (et pour tout le reste). Je vais le partager… !

  • Merci Garance pour continuer à nous faire partager avec tant de générosité ces doux moments de profonde sincerite.Je suis en mission au Kosovo en ce moment,pas mal seule,pas toujours facile de trouver les ressources intérieures pour mieux vivre au quotidien.Dans ces moments de doutes et de fragilité,écouter ce podcast m’a fait profondément du bien et va me mettre bien joie pour la semaine!Merci à elle,Merci à toi.Continue!Afectueusement

  • Fabienne January, 31 2019, 6:28 / Reply

    Merci pour ce moment avec Perla qui est une Personne magnifique ! J’ai lu ses ouvrages et elle m’apaise plus encore de l’entendre. J’ai 67 ans et j’espère que son exemple reste pour moi . MERCI GARANCE .

  • Super un podcast en français !!! merci ça nous manque <3

  • DaveysHouse February, 1 2019, 10:32 / Reply

    Dear Garance,
    All these interviews with wise women are the best ever! And in French, so gorgeous. To hear you both slip in and out of “tu” and “vous” depending on the moment, your beautiful voices, the depth of the conversation… such happiness!

  • LOVED this – Thank you! Cannot wait for the book to be translated to english! xx

  • Bernadette February, 3 2019, 8:41 / Reply

    Merci Garance pour cet interview en francais! Tres inspirant!

  • Bless your team for reading, but their voices were so out of character for both you and your guest, that I had to stop listening. I appreciate so much the effort- it must have taken ages to translate, but may I recommend that it’s filmed instead with subtitles? Garance I have such an appetite to hear conversations from interesting authentic French people; please continue these kinds of projects! From one single and phenomenal 43 year old to another… Sending much love ! x

  • I anxiously await the translated version! Thank you.

  • Olivia Schuman February, 3 2019, 2:34 / Reply

    Yes! Please more interviews with older women.

  • Thankfulness to my fatyer who told mme about this web site,
    this web site is genuinely amazing.

  • Dommage que l’interview ne soit pas disponible en français aussi

  • Linne Halpern February, 16 2019, 5:52

    Hi Valerie,
    The interview actually is available in French, if you just click over to the French side of the website on the top right hand corner. Hope you enjoy!
    xx Linne

  • Margarita Auffant Najri February, 19 2019, 7:34 / Reply

    Maravillosa entrevista a una mujer nada común. Gracias

  • What’s up friends, its great piecce of writing concerning teachingand completely explained, keep it up all the

  • When will the English translation of Growing Joy be released the US? I can’t wait to read it! Loved this interview. Thank you.

  • Darcy North April, 12 2019, 8:51 / Reply

    Garance mentions doing a write up of her various self-care methods / treatments etc. Has that happened and if so, is there an available like to it? I’m very interested. Thank you!

  • Maye Srouji April, 19 2019, 8:29 / Reply

    Please could you also make the french interviews available in French :)

  • Veronica McCarthy April, 19 2019, 9:14

    Hi Maye! This interview is available on the French side of the site in French. Let me know if you mean something else! xVeronica

  • Je referme son livre qui est une véritable source de lumière. Merci aussi pour cet entretien hors piste.

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