Meet the author: “Il faut beaucoup aimer les hommes”

As with the previous “meet the author” (see Steiners Geschichte): I have not read the book. As with the previous “meet the author”: I attended an interview with novelist Marie Darrieussecq. Unlike “Steiners Geschichte”, Marie Darrieussecq’s “Il Faut beaucoup aimer les homes” has been on the market since 2013. It was awarded the Prix Médicis in November 2013.Unlike with author Constantin Göttfert’s novels, I’ve read earlier novels by Marie Darrieussecq. Or rather: tried to, for her novels are occasionally very putdownable and sometimes no easy read.

Marie Darrieussecq was being interviewed about her latest novel, because a translation had become available. Personally, if at all possible – and certainly where Dutch translations are concerned – I prefer to read any book in its original language. At several occasions, I accidentally found out Dutch translations of great (modern) novels leave out pages, if not chapters of the original. So I now steer clear of Dutch translations. For who wants to watch half a Mona Lisa, a third of a Picasso, a quarter of a Damian Hirst, three-quarters of a Banksy, or of any great or interesting work of art? Perhaps I’m naïve in presuming English and other translators stick closer to a text. The good news is, that most of Marie Darrieussecq’s novels are available in English, though not yet this one.

As Marie Darrieussecq mentioned in this highly entertaining interview: the title of this novel is a citation. Marie Duras somewhere wrote « Il faut beaucoup aimer les hommes. Beaucoup, beaucoup. Beaucoup les aimer pour les aimer. Sans cela ce n’est pas possible, on ne peut pas les supporter. » (One needs to love men greatly … otherwise they are insufferable.) This certainly had the majority of the audience in stitches. And one of the themes of this novel is indeed how much a woman loves a man – far more than he loves her – and how love influences her.

The heroine of this book is Solange, who’s also the heroine of “Clèves” (English title: “All the way”). As ms Darrieussecq mentioned: Solange is something of an alter-ego. Ms Darrieussecq invented this alter-ego by thinking: what would have happened to me, if I had not had the chance to receive the education I have received.

Solange is now older and an actress in Hollywood. For this novel, Ms Darrieussecq posed herself the question: “What if a white woman falls in love with a black man?” Are such relationships – she dislikes the term “mixed” as any relationship is mixed – still a problem today?

She presumed racism would be less of a problem these days, but told here audience that the same week she won the Médicis prize for this novel, France’s Minister of Justice Christiane Taubira had had to cope with shocking racism. It was one of the few serious moments during this lively, entertaining interview.

Unfortunately enough, Marie Darrieussecq only read once from her French novel. It would have been interesting to have heard her read paragraphs not only taking place in George Clooney’s Hollywood, but also in France and Africa, to illustrate how love affects Solange. For Solange follows her man to Africa, as he wants to film Conrad’s “Heart of Darkness” there.

Of course one of the questions posed was: as the centre of the novel is Solange, why not keep out till the very last chapter, that her great love is black? But ms Darrieussecq told the interviewer and audience, that she did start out with this idea, but was unable to write the novel. So she had to rewrite. It are answers such as this one, which make a “meet the author” event so very interesting.

Will this novel be a good read? Based on this interview, it will be and will even be at times very hilarious. However, as ms Darrieusecq warned her audience: her readers seem either to love her books, or hate them.

Yet: if I compare what Marie Darrieusecq told her audience about her novel to what earlier the same week, Constantin Göttfert told his audience about “Steiners Geschichte”, I’m quite sure the latter is the better and more impressive book – for both male and female readers.

On faut beaucoup aimer les hommes“, Marie Darrieusecq, POL., 2013
Clèves” or “All the way”, Marie Darrieusecq, English version 2013

Youtube: author interviewed about “On faut beaucoup aimer les homes”, 2013
Youtube: author interviewed at the University of Arizona, 2012

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