Interview with Véronique Olmi: Departure to freedom | book | Culture stage BR

We associate the year 1968 with departure and liberation, new ideas, new rights for women. But until social change occurs in everyday life, it doesn’t take time, and it doesn’t happen 1: 1. French writer and playwright Véronique Olmi tells the story of three sisters brought up far from Paris according to traditional role models – in the whirlwind of time each of them has to find their own freedom. conversation

Judith Heitkamp: How do you capture the epoch?

Véronique Olmi: What interested me in the book, more than the hot period in Paris in 1968, were the aftermath. It did not happen in 1968, but a little later, not in Paris, but in the provinces. It was a long way off in the 1970s, there was no TGV, no cell phones. To this end, I chose characters who were not necessarily convinced of progress from the beginning, a practicing Catholic family. How and how do you change as an individual despite all the obstacles? How does the world reach you through meetings, newspapers, books, media, how can you form your own opinion, take courage against your own upbringing?

Slow and long process … and always different?

Yes, families are never the same depending on the child’s place in the order of siblings. The oldest does not have the same parents as the youngest. And fortunately, siblings have different personalities and desires. Therefore, in French, the novel is entitled “Les evasions particulières”, “special escapes” – each sister goes her own way. For some it is a theater in Paris, for others a growing awareness of animal welfare and the environment. Finally, music and its Christian faith. Realizing that her religion is a religion of danger, that the Christian message she believes has changed … These three girls, not the same age, not necessarily in the same place, joined by great sibling love, but very different , take very different paths.

They tell about a family “in good faith”. At the same time, literature in the Catholic environment is usually more interested in scandalous stories.

The parents in this family are – like my parents – very religious people, but absolutely not fundamentalist. They wanted to courageously follow the Pope’s orders and considered it morally right to follow the principles of the Catholic Church. There is, however, another story in the book, a scene that the youngest Mariette experiences at the church’s youth camp – a story that really happened and that I witnessed as a child. One night a priest said, “We play hide and seek in the dark and I choose a girl to hide with.” The girl he chose later told us about the assault. And what shocked me, but also interested me in the book – I did not believe it. I thought this girl was vulgar, I thought she was making up dirty things. They always say it takes an entire village to start a family, but up to what point does this apply? The whole group may be blind and thus become associates. I really blame myself for this reflex and at the same time find it very interesting, very telling …

Is there a lot of your life and family in this novel?

The starting point is my family in Aix-en-Provence with a father who I loved very much and who is actually the father in the book. A man very, very attached to his daughters. But not only did he not understand her development – he was afraid of it. Because of her. My father could not relate to “women’s liberation.” And it cost him a lot because he couldn’t reach us anymore. It worried and worried him. For me, the father is a very interesting personality with his contradictions and complexities, a helpless hero.

This also applies to the mother. It is also torn between tradition and modernity.

The Catholic tradition in particular stunted couples, especially at this time. You were always wrong, you were always guilty. The rules were strict, shame was everywhere. You can’t live like this. You cannot thrive when everything is hampered by a system of punishments and rewards that make people children rather than treat them like adults.

In this novel, everything is in motion – even the parents thrive. Did you say you have different parents depending on the position in the sibling order?

Yes, fortunately everything is in motion. It’s a different world for parents who are expecting their first child and who have a common goal of starting a family than for parents who are left alone because all the children have left. Often you see completely lost people, because the family is built on children, and sometimes, apart from the children, there is little other than a lack of understanding and loneliness.

Speaking of the ’70s, what do you think is the biggest change of that time?

For me, this is consent to contraception and abortion. What today is again questioned almost all over the world. France was very late on women’s suffrage, contraception, abortion, women’s right to work and money. And then it happened very quickly in a few years, admittedly, under the conservative government of Giscard d’Estaing – and because of Simone Veil. Then came the age of majority at 18. Suddenly, the woman became not only the man’s partner, but no longer belonged to the state. She no longer had to bear children for state, demographic and military reasons. Suddenly she became a subject, not an object. Symbolically and concretely, this is the most important progress.

What does this mean for the three life-hungry sisters at the Impatient Center? Sabine, Hélène, Mariette – initially brought up in the spirit of the old idea of ​​the role of a woman, and as they grow up, everything changes …

It means feeling stuck, shocked and convulsed. It is not easy, you do not give up the ideas and values ​​of the family tradition overnight. What works within you, shakes you, changes you. You have to form your own judgment and believe in your right to a fuller life than was recommended by your upbringing. A bit complicated. There may also be fear of being betrayed by your own family and leaving your clan. Tempting and relaxing. And with guilt …

The eldest, Sabine, dreaming about the theater and going to Paris, takes a course with actor and drama teacher Jean-Laurent Cochet – and finally provokes her own expulsion. His acting is outdated to her. You were with Cochet too – so you know the conflict between admiration and impatience?

Oh yes, Cochet was someone, a very good teacher, but very strict on women, very misogynistic. On the one hand, his courses were great because you rediscovered or rediscovered great classics – but at the same time it was a strong exclusion of women. It was wrong. In the book, he is one of those champions to be left behind, one of those fathers to be killed. Symbolic but necessary.

Would you like to slam the door the way Sabine does?

The story is true. We actually all went, the whole class, and made our own festival for end of year auditions. It wasn’t one person, we were following, about ten people, she was really walking.

And the other sister, Hélène? He is committed to fighting animal cruelty ahead of his time – probably because the second has to do something completely different from the first?

No, but because he has such a special place on the site, he lives alternately with his parents and the family of a wealthy uncle. I grew up this way. My parents got checks from my uncle because I was supposed to be with him most of the time. Hélène also has this strange childhood and the advantage that he moves between two worlds, adapts, observes the differences between classes. By the way, that dog that I am talking about in the book really saved me. Even then, many people were alarming about the environment, such as Rachel Carson from Printemps silencieux in 1962, whom no one was listening to.

Pretty hard, such a double life, you always take care of yourself, right?

Yes, it’s a bit complicated. On the other hand – as in any difficult situation – you just have to find something good about it. We all have a special childhood, a little dented, different. But then I think you have to make decisions.

The smallest, Mariette, is the most empathetic.

Her mother almost incestuates her with secrets, very difficult secrets that her father doesn’t want her to know. It is common for parents to burden their children in this way, it is said “to tell them the truth”. But these stories are not stories for children, and are often too bad for them.

These three sisters now have their own children and even grandchildren. Do their experiences still influence our society?

All generations influence each other without even knowing it. With the achievements you take for granted, you don’t necessarily see what struggles they came from. But I think our children’s generation cares about the environment and is questioning politics again. With its own urgent needs and struggles. And that’s good.


RadioTexte brings you a two-part reading from The Impatient on June 12th and 19th.

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