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Gerard Elson speaks to French novelist Marie Darrieussecq about how she learnt to play with French language, Charlie Hebdo, and how psychoanalysis saved her life.

KYD-INT04-Conversations

Since she published her first novel, Truismes, in 1996 (English translation Pig Tales, 1997), Marie Darrieussecq has become a steady, notable figure in French literature.

She is no stranger to controversy. With its narrator’s blasé descriptions of rape, consensual sexual abasement and even murder, Pig Tales – being the story of a beautiful young masseuse who begins to turn into a sow after taking a job at a beauty boutique/massage parlour – raised the hackles of conservative readers and critics who were unwilling to look beyond its grotesque, nouveau Sadeian surface to engage with the troubling questions it allegorised. The novel has since been published in 34 countries, and sold over one million copies in French. Jean-Luc Godard tried, and failed, to mount a film adaptation in the late 1990s.

Born in Bayonne, French Basque Country, in 1969, to a middle-school French teacher mother and a technician father, Darrieussecq completed a doctorate of literature in Paris in 1997 before beginning her own short-lived career as a teacher.

Pig Tales’ phenomenal success – which at the time reportedly aroused the jealousy of Darrieussecq’s stablemates at her longstanding French publisher, P.O.L. – led her to abandon teaching in favour of applying herself full-time to her writing.

Naissance des fantômes followed in 1998 (English translation My Phantom Husband, 1998), and consolidated what would prove to be two signatures of Darrieussecq’s novels for many years to come: a thematic interest in the psychological implications of loss, and  a concerted effort to upturn clichés of expression and metaphor systems when writing about subject matter routinely codified as ‘female’.

New books have followed at an average rate of one every two years, always attended by acclaim. In 2006, Darrieussecq became a psychoanalyst.

A bracing aspect of Darrieussecq’s fiction is its indifferent handling of taboos, particularly those relating to female sexuality. Amid the scientific argot of the Antarctic White (2003, English translation 2005) there can be found a breathtaking description of a protagonist’s vulva; Clèves (2011, English translation All the Way, 2013) dramatises the first sexual stirrings of a pre-adolescent girl, complete with scenes of masturbation and wet dreams.

The publication of Darrieussecq’s most vivid portrayal of bereavement, Tom est mort (2007, English translation Tom is Dead, 2009), again found her the object of heated attention in France. ‘Psychological plagiarism’ is the improbable accusation Camille Laurens levelled at Darrieussecq at the time, claiming the novelist had stolen her narrative – the tragic death of a four-year old boy – from Laurens’ 1995 memoir of maternal grief, Phillippe: ‘Reading Tom is Dead, I had the feeling that it had been written in my bedroom, that she had sat on my chair, lain in my bed,’ wrote Laurens.

Advocators for Darrieussecq were quick to point out that Laurens’ late son was a newborn; that Darrieussecq’s book was set in the Sydney and Blue Mountains regions of Australia; and that many novels employing an intimate maternal narration had been written about the death of a child. Laurens, herself an author on P.O.L.’s list, was dropped by her bewildered publisher following the public attack on Darrieussecq.

When we meet, Darrieussecq is in Australia to promote her latest novel, Il faut beaucoup aimer les hommes (2013, English translation Men, 2016) – her second, after All the Way, to feature her character Solange.

In addition to her appearances at the Sydney Writers’ Festival, she has just appeared on ABC’s Lateline to discuss her recent involvement with the controversial French satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo: a stout believer in free speech, Darrieussecq offered her services to the publication in the wake of the January 2015 terror attack on its offices by Al-Qaeda militants, which killed 11 of the newspaper’s staff.

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KYD: What was your relationship to language growing up?

MD: I grew up in a small village in France, in the southwest, in Basque Country, near Spain. Basque Country is in both France and Spain, the two parts separated by a frontier. This little ‘non-country’, home to two million Basque people, has a long history of claims for independence, including a terrorist phase after the death of Franco. I was born in Bayonne and raised in a small village nearby.

Growing up where I did, I was raised in between three languages – which is very rich for a writer. I knew very early that French was a language among other languages. There is an academy of French writers who sacralise French as something that you can’t touch, that you can’t change. Which is completely stupid, because the French language [is always] changing, a lot, all the time.

My mother spoke to me in Basque, or in Spanish, when I was young. So, I began to think that my mother language was plural, and something that you could play with. Not a scared state of nature, or something like that.

I don’t want to do too much French-bashing, because we are very good at that in France, but some French seem to think that French-speaking is a natural, biological thing, that the whole planet speaks French! The English are good at that, too. [Laughs.]

KYD: What did that impress upon you at an early age?

MD: I’m sure it gave me a lot of freedom and strength. I learnt to be playful with French. I couldn’t write in Basque and it was hard for me to write in Spanish. I was raised attending a French-speaking school in a Basque French Republic.

The Republic had many good things, but crushed the little cultural particularities of the local culture. My mother was forbidden to speak in Basque [when she was] at school, for example. And for my generation, the idea of ‘Basque’ was almost prehistorical. For the new generation, it’s almost the reverse. They are taking up the language, and the culture – the identity – again.

When I was young, my dream was to go to Paris. Paris, Paris, Paris! Because it was such a small place, where I grew up. Apart from the very interesting Basque culture, there was no ‘culture’. There was surfing, and there was rugby.

KYD: What led you to train and practise as a psychoanalyst? By this point in time, you were already a successful novelist.

MD: Are you interested in this because you are doing therapy? Or studying [it]?

KYD: I did a round in my late twenties. It was a vital experience for me.

MD: Psychoanalysis may have saved my life. I was depressed in my twenties. I was completely paralysed by life.

What it enabled me to do… It didn’t enable me to write. But it enabled me to write for an audience, to address somebody other than myself. It disconnected my writing from my neuroses. This was crucial. I’m saying this because there’s still this cliché that psychoanalysis sterilises the artist. Which is not true at all. It enabled me to free myself from myself.

I did a second round of psychoanalysis after my first child was born, because it was a tough time. And then I did a third round: in order to qualify as a shrink you have to do a round when you complete your studies. In France, you can either go to the universities, or you can also train at some private schools.

I studied psychoanalysis – not exactly therapy – the real Freudian way. The couch. I’m in between Freudian and Lacanian [in my methods], actually. The first school I went to was strictly Lacanian. And we fought – you always fight with these people. Then I went to a second one, and a third. And the third one was OK.

There, I started to receive my first patients under supervision. It’s a long story. To make it short, I was an independent psychoanalyst for eight years. But I quit. Because the one thing you ask of your shrink is to be there. And I had to be there for a dozen people, at least twice a week, sometimes more.

KYD: You burnt out?

MD: I love to travel. Once my kids had grown up I realised I could travel again, but I also realised that my [commitment to] my patients prevented me from travelling! So, I gradually quit practising, as they finished [their rounds], one by one. My last patient only finished very recently. 

KYD: Was it difficult to give up? 

MD: It’s a huge responsibility. But also, it’s like cocaine! It’s fabulous. You can really get addicted to it. When you write, you spend a lot of time inside of yourself. It can be very lonely. You might walk the dog, or drink tea, or wine. But otherwise, you’re [just] writing. But when you receive a patient, when the person rings the doorbell – wow! It’s like a shot of adrenaline.

I’ve always struggled with depression. Writing and depression are closely related. In the beginning, I started [practising as a psychoanalyst] because I wanted to do something more active than dealing with words. And also I knew I owed psychoanalysis something.

What I loved was that I couldn’t stay in my pyjamas all day long anymore. I had to be there for people.

KYD: Did you enjoy, or feel empowered by, any sense of authority, or advancement, reversing the roles to be an analyst yourself?

MD: Authority? No. It’s not authority. It’s something else. It’s more like solidity. Like being a rock. Some patients were actually very authoritarian with me. You have to be really tough. Some people will say very nasty things to you. Or get very angry, or very sad. Which is absolutely why they’re there. You have to be solid. 

KYD: Have you drawn on these experiences since in your writing? Along with a shot of adrenaline, does each visit also give a shot of inspiration?

MD: I think I will write a book about it. It’s such an interesting matter.

KYD: A non-fiction work?

MD: Yeah. In the Lacanian school, of course, like in any other school, it is absolutely forbidden for the analyst to speak directly about the patient. But on top of that, we believe that it’s impossible to write up the case: the result would necessarily be a fiction. Because the process is oral, and the accidents of language when you speak are totally different from those that occur when you write, it would be impossible to write it authentically in a linear way.

Analysis is not chaotic, exactly; it spirals. Very often, you go through the same things, over and over. For years, sometimes. But always a bit differently. The shrink’s part is crucial – because the shrink has a memory, an unconscious memory that’s really working when the patient is speaking. I know I was bad at some things, but I was very good at listening to echoes. When the patient had already said the very words I was hearing, I could sometimes say, ‘Ah! Two months ago you said the exact same thing.’

L’écriture du cas – writing the case – is a near impossibility, that’s why Lacan… At the end of his life, he was a bit crazy. But it’s why he drew, made figures, of his cases, that looked like knots. They give the structure of the analysis more than story, the tale of it, ever could. How could you tell it? Sometimes, a case goes for twenty years!

As for inspiration, yes and no. I’m sorry to say it, but everybody has the same story. But, in a very different style. That’s what’s really interesting. Everybody has a terrible childhood. The only people who had marvellous childhoods are the psychotics. It’s a really good way of knowing who is completely crazy or not! [Laughs] Because it’s totally normal to have a shit childhood. It’s totally normal to have terrible parents, to still be angry at them as an adult. Then, everybody has been heartbroken at some point in time. Everybody has a hard time at work, or a hard time focusing. See? We all have the same story. There are different types of traumas, true. But in a way, not so many. The style of the telling, our personal way of living through things, is unique each time.

KYD: I know analysts make copious notes on their patients, but I would always marvel quietly at how the wonderful woman I was seeing could apparently recall, in an instant, my precise relationship to someone or other. Even if I’d only previously mentioned them in passing. I always saw her immediately after another patient – she’d walk them out, then usher me in. So it wasn’t like she had time to swot up on me right before we’d start.

MD: This has to do with the atmosphere of somebody. In the beginning, I was always worried, [as] the person would be coming and I would be thinking, Shit, what’s the name of his grandmother? But then, the person arrives, and everything comes back to you, like that. It’s all there, in the atmosphere of the person.

KYD: Do you miss it?

MD: Like I’ve said, I loved it. It’s a wonderful world. But I really do wonder if you can have another job.

KYD: Do you mean another job concurrent to being a psychoanalyst, or another job in the sense of ever truly moving on and leaving it behind you? 

MD: The first option. It took a huge part of me. Although I didn’t have so many patients, they exhausted me. I wrote less in those years.

KYD: Crucial to the new novel, Men, is cinema. Academic film studies will still often incorporate a psychoanalytic component, generally informed, broadly speaking, by Lacan. Is this coincidental? Or are you also a proper Left Bank cinephile?

MD: Not really. When I finally left my small village, and I arrived in Paris, I discovered real cinema. I learnt that there was not only Schwarzenegger and Star Wars [1977]. Which are good, too.

But the first ‘real movie’ I ever saw was Husbands [1970] by Cassavetes. It made me realise that you can have a shot with drunken people where nothing happens – they just sing, and do silly things – that lasts for twenty minutes. I fell in love with Cassavetes; I saw all of his movies. So, I became a cinephile in Paris, the place where you can sit in the cinémathèque for hours, in the front row.

That period lasted maybe three years, and was very often related to a boyfriend. After we broke up, it would be jazz, or something else, with another boyfriend. [Laughs] I was very young.

KYD: There’s been talk of adapting Pig Tales as a film for years now. 

MD: As a project, it’s been going on forever in Hollywood. It’s never going to happen. But, I met the producer; there were talks of Scarlett Johansson. She would be great, I think! But this is really the inspiration for Men. I was fascinated by the milieu, the people, by their artificiality. And also by their kindness, these people of West Hollywood.

Hollywood is the greatest industrial machine that there is to build up stereotypes and to spread them across the planet. Many people in Hollywood are very open minded. That’s not the point.

What I mean is [that Hollywood] always depicts the same story, the same way of loving someone. Gay love, or straight love, it doesn’t matter: it’s the same. It starts at some point, [the couple endure] various sentences, and so on. There are many other ways to love somebody, and in independent movies, you get to see those ways.

But not in Hollywood. So, I became interested in – and it’s a cliché to say even this – in the way Hollywood labels people. In the case [of the couple in Men], Kouhouesso is black, so he’s always a boxer, a dealer, or a cop. And Solange is a little Parisian woman, so she’s always the romantic interest, or a bitch. I’m very interested in clichés. Those two, they try to escape the glue of the clichés.

But it’s not symétrique, being black and being a woman. [Though] their stories both involve domination; they each know things about that.

Cinema was very useful as a metaphor for a love story. Because when you are in love with somebody, you are in the same movie. But when you break up, you realise there were two different movies. That’s the way the book works. But I didn’t plan that in the beginning.

KYD: You’ve described Men as being a book about a woman who discovers that she’s white.

MD: I’ve lived that story, [albeit] very differently. I’ve loved many men, and some of them were black. You learn that you are of a certain colour, and that that implies certain things. And that you can’t escape history, and the violence of the world. In the beginning, she just wants to be in a bubble with this man.

But, he keeps on reminding her that they are part of a history, and that their story is political. She couldn’t care less. And he can be tiresome. But loving him forces her to learn, and to think about things she has always taken for granted. And so, she learns that she’s white.

 

KYD: It’s an interesting inversion of the literal metamorphosis in Pig Tales. Solange’s transformation is one of consciousness, contrasted against an unchanging exterior. But both she and the narrator of Pig Tales are forced by the events of their stories to think very hard for the first time about what it means to be a woman – specifically, women who are young, aspirational, attractive, and white.

MD: I hadn’t thought about that. I suppose it’s always a matter of skin, and who you are in that skin.

KYD: As in all of your work, you touch upon many knotty issues in this book. Solange, for instance, is quite politically incorrect in some of her thoughts—

MD: She’s very ignorant!

KYD: Her ignorance makes her the butt of much of the book’s humour. Yet this never feels cruel.

MD: Writing the book, I realised at some point that I was making her too much of a fool. She’s not a stupid person, she just doesn’t have a clue what Africa is. So, I rewrote the beginning of the book, and now, she’s just ignorant sometimes.

I actually think she’s very brave. It’s her first time travelling in Africa. I’ve travelled a lot in different countries in Africa [myself]. I remember my first time, years ago, travelling to the Ivory Coast. I was very excited. I wanted to see elephants, of course!

I asked a driver there, ‘Have you ever seen elephants?’  He said, ‘No.’ Then I asked the driver, ‘Have you ever seen gorillas?’ (Gorillas, by the way, absolutely do not live in that part of the world.) The driver said, ‘No.’ Then I asked, ‘Lions?’ And he said, ‘Lions? Yes, I saw a lion once. In the zoo, in Abidjan.’ Then I understood that this guy was a city person, just like me.

All of this [conversation] was in French, which is quite exciting when you’re a French person in West Africa. It’s a violent story behind that, of course, but all I could think at the time was, We’re speaking French! This is great!

I’ve gradually learnt about Africa, but it took a long time. I’ve travelled in many different African regions since 2001, from Ethiopia, to Mozambique, to Niger and Cameroon… And I’m still very ignorant. I was in Rwanda, just ten days ago.

KYD: What brought you there? 

MD: I go there once a year to teach creative writing to survivors of genocide. That’s the point where writing and therapy are very close, for people who’ve lived through something like this. They really have a story to tell; it’s absolutely necessary for them. If they can write it, it’s even better. But they don’t have the tools, like narrative structure. But then again, how can you tell this sort of story?

I’ll tell you about the guy who is the most gifted. I really hope I can help him. When he tells his story orally, it’s perfect. But when he tries to write it… The genocide began in April 1994. When he tries to write the word ‘April’, he says, My mind is blank. I can’t write April. Many of them have these kind of symptoms.

KYD: How did you get involved with this?

MD: I’ve been going for the past three years, and am going again next year. I got involved with an association called EGAM [European Grassroots Antiracist Movement] that works with an association of survivors in Rwanda.

EGAM is one of the biggest anti-racism associations in Europe. They do a lot of work with widows, with children, in [many of] the places where genocide has happened. They work a lot with the last Shoah survivors and with Israel; they work with the Roms and with the Armenians. They have plans for Cambodia. They work for the memory of genocides, and against genocide happening again.

KYD: You seem to give a lot back. 

MD: I get bored. Incredibly easily. Writing is very boring. I stay home, I write, and then I have to do something else. I have three kids…

KYD: Other people take up lacrosse, or hot yoga.

MD: I do Pilates also! [Laughs] I’m either very depressed, or hyperactive.

KYD: What prompted you to begin writing for Charlie Hebdo last year?

MD: On the night of January 7th, we – my husband and I, and all our friends – we were shocked. Nothing equivalent had ever happened to us; not even September 11 got close.

Paris is a small city, so you always know somebody who knows somebody who works at Charlie Hebdo. It’s very easy to connect with them when you’re a writer. I wrote an email saying, If you need me, I’m available.

I learnt just after that, via text, that their webmaster, who was 23, had two bullets in his spine. He survived; he recently got married. But [upon learning that] I thought to myself, Nobody is going to be checking the emails at Charlie Hebdo. So, I wrote a letter.

Several weeks later they contacted me to say, We need you. So now, I write for them every three weeks, which is not too much. I’ve hired two other writers; now we are four. I couldn’t write every week; it’s too much work. And also it’s too much tension. I go there about once a month. I don’t really need to go there, being a columnist. But I like them.

KYD: What’s the atmosphere like there now? 

MD: I don’t like going there. It’s a secret place: it’s a bunker, right in Paris. It’s like in a spy novel. All the guards, and doors. It’s like a bank.

But it’s not fun at all; it’s really not. Even the [staff] who were not wounded physically are very wounded psychologically. You can feel the absence of the dead people. Most of them were cartoonists, and I’ve learnt that you can replace a writer, but you can’t replace a cartoonist. He or she has to know about politics, about art; he or she has to be funny, and be very aware of what is happening in France at the very moment, to be able to play on words, and so on. It’s an amazing job. When you are a writer, you don’t have to know about art, and you are not obliged to be funny!

KYD: Why go there, if it disturbs you? 

MD: Because they ask me to. Because they feel lonely; they feel surrounded by cops. They need to laugh, and they need fresh air from the outside. But I’m scared. I really love them all. I admire them a lot; they are beyond scared. They survived.

It’s a totally different context, of course, but they can exhibit similar symptoms [of trauma] to the people I’ve met in Rwanda: the survivor’s guilt, the fear… When I get out of the building, I’m scared of this ‘soft point’ in the street. You can’t be protected in the street. We go to lunch together, sometimes in a big group, sometimes just a few of us. I can never forget the threat when I’m with them.

KYD: You once said that you always write your worst nightmares.

MD: That’s true.

KYD: I wouldn’t say that is necessarily apparent in the case of each of your novels. 

MD: Passion is a nightmare.

I have a big theory, about the distinction between passion and love. Love enables you to live. When you are in love, you are in good company. You can work, you can breathe, you can eat. You can have a life.

When you are in passion, you are bad company to yourself. You are not really in love: you fantasise, you project things you have inside yourself onto the other person. You can’t eat, you can’t breathe. You can’t work.

So [in Men], Solange cancels really good jobs, to be free [for Kouhouesso]. She even cancels her yoga lessons! [Laughs]. It’s a big mistake. Somebody who is available all the time is not sexy at all. Everybody knows that – it’s in all the old plays of the seventeenth century! Passion is a disaster. It’s exquisite, it’s delicious, and I’m happy I’ve lived some passions.

But I prefer love. And the boredom that comes with love, the routine. At least, that’s the point where I’m at now, at 47. It may change! [Laughs]

KYD: What compelled you to return to the character of Solange after All the Way?

MD: It’s very simple: she’s me, if I didn’t write. I don’t know how I would cope without the writing. She’s not as educated as I am, but in a way, I’m very naive and candid too. My husband makes fun of me, because I’m always amazed by things. Solange is always a bit scared, but she’s very brave. I like her. She’s a good protagonist. I can move her around, and have her experience many different things in her naive way.

The icon for me of this is my first character in Pig Tales. She is totally naive, totally ignorant, and living through horrible things, but almost happily. I love those characters, because you can play with the reader. The reader has a little advance on the character.

Nabokov did that, wonderfully. I’m doing it in my way. Also, I’ve reached an age where I’ve become fed up with making up new characters. Perhaps I don’t have any more in my bag. So I have this small village, which looks a lot like the small village where I was born. I have Solange, her best friend Rose, and some other characters. I’ll continue to play with them from now on. The new novel I’m working on deals with Rose. Solange will appear in the background.

KYD: I’ve read that you wrote a doctoral thesis on autofiction and tragic irony.

MD: Oh, you mean the thesis I wrote in my twenties, when I almost killed myself? [Laughs]

KYD: The tragic irony plays out in your novels. But the autofiction— 

MD: It’s not very interesting. It was an idea of my academic supervisor’s, when I was studying literature. I wanted to write a thesis about Hervé Guibert, a really good French writer who had recently died. He wrote a lot about HIV. He was the very first writer, with Raymond Aron, to openly say that he was dying of HIV. He wrote novels and autofiction about that. He also created a scandal because he wrote a shocking truth: that his intimate friend Michel Foucault didn’t die of cancer, but of HIV.

Autofiction is more than a novel made up of the details of your own life. It’s something else. For example, under his own name [in À l’ami qui ne m’a pas sauvé la vie (1990), translated to To the Friend Who Did Not Save My Life (1993)], he wrote, ‘My name is Hervé Guibert. I had HIV for three months, but I’ve recovered.’ Which is fiction, because in the ’90s, you couldn’t recover. He wrote his life after HIV, he invented a life that couldn’t be.

I was very interested in the form. It has tradition. In France and elsewhere, people have written under their very name that they have been to Mars, for example. Even Cyrano de Bergerac wrote of his life on the moon [in L’Autre monde ou les états et empires de la Lune (1657), translated to The Other World: Comical History of the States and Empires of the Moon], under his own name.

My supervisor said that writing a thesis about Guibert would not be good for my career, and that I should write about autofiction, and about Guibert within that concept. It was not a bad idea, because autofiction became very fashionable in France after that. Nowadays, the term seems to be equivalent to ‘autobiographical novel’. Which it isn’t.

Really, though, I almost died writing this thesis. I wanted to write novels! I didn’t want to work, I didn’t want to be a teacher. Then I got a grant for a PhD, so I had to do it. It gave me three more years without having to work. I wrote my thesis in the afternoon, and my novels in the morning. It was a horrible time. [Laughs]

KYD: Pig Tales caused a real stir when it was published. What was the response like to All the Way, which contains some quite explicit descriptions of a prepubescent girl’s sexual awakening?

MD: It didn’t cause such a mess. I think this is because I was part of the landscape [by then].

KYD: People had a better idea of what to expect from a Marie Darrieussecq novel?

MD: When I wrote Pig Tales, I was completely unknown. My name was impossible to pronounce and to spell. My publisher, P.O.L., was quite unknown at the time, too. Now they are famous. I chose them – and I say I ‘chose them’ because the novel was accepted by four different publishers – because they were very literary. We’ve been going very well together for 20 years now.

The book created a scandal. It still amazes me. It’s not that outrageous. I guess it was not just the metamorphosis, but also the criticism of French fascism… When I wrote All the Way years later, [the public] knew who I was and that I would write about certain things. Of course, there are still people who don’t understand, the old fashioned critics. One of them, in Le Figaro, counted the uses of the word ‘bitte’ – ‘cock’ – and wrote, How can you write a book with sixty-three uses of the word ‘bitte’?! He didn’t get what narration is. This young girl, she won’t say ‘phallus’ or ‘penis’. She says the words she hears at school, of course.

Some people will never get me.

KYD: At the end of the first section of that book, it’s revealed that Solange is only ten years old. It registers as a shock.

MD: It’s actually based on my diaries from those years. People don’t realise that girls talk about all of this so directly. That time, in the ’80s, was a strange period. It was after the period of so-called sexual liberation, but before HIV. We had this window of freedom, but we didn’t know what to do with it. We were lost: all the boys, and all the girls, and the parents, even more so. To be a virgin when you were 16 or 17 was to be a pariah. So we had to do it. Which was hard. We didn’t know what our own desires were. Even now I don’t really know this. So how can you know it when you’re only 14, like Solange is [later in the book]?

It was very crude. We did things that we shouldn’t have done. It was a crazy time. We had fun also. We drunk a lot. This was all in the village; we had the education of farm-boys and farm-girls, who see animals fucking all the time. It was a mixture of the very modern ’80s, and farm culture. Which was like dynamite.

My Parisian girlfriends of my age said it was not the same for them. For starters, they didn’t have fields to fuck in. They could fuck in cars, or their parents’ houses. It’s not the same as being outside!

KYD: The teenage Solange is very aware of all the male attention she receives.

MD: She’s not a victim. Some people have told me it’s a Lolita point of view, but it’s not exactly, because Solange is more active. She’s a seducer like Lolita, but she’s only a victim of herself.

KYD: She almost seems more passive in Men. Though in the new book, she’s practically debilitated by her passion for Kouhouesso.

MD: I think Solange had never focused on a man before. She’d obsessed over ‘men’, and sexuality. But this guy really wows her. It’s completely new for her.

KYD: Marie, thank you for talking with Kill Your Darlings. It’s been a pleasure.