Full and sweet
by Camille Froidevaux-Metterie
Sabine Wespieser, 224 p., €20
The philosopher Camille Froidevaux-Metterie has made the body of women her subject of study, which she has nurtured in a number of essays, including Un corps à soi (Le Seuil), written in the first person – the “I” deemed necessary to add the lived experience to one’s own experience.
For her first foray into fiction, she remains in her chosen field by focusing her remarks on twelve women, at all ages in their lives, to whom she gives the floor. In the center of this female choir sits Eve. She was born by PMA according to the will of Stéphanie, her mother, who did not want to “endure the immemorial burdens of female domesticity”, sending the societal injunction to shame, which advocates that it takes two to be happy. Moreover, they will be three since she has chosen Greg, her homosexual friend, as an “intimate” father for her daughter.
The long journey of women
This happy event triggers in family members and close friends – grandmother, sisters, nieces, aunts, cousins, girlfriends, nanny – an avalanche of reactions and gives the author the opportunity to explore once again , meticulously and with tenderness, all the stages that mark out the long journey of women’s lives.
And the one who opens the ball for this round is Eve with “full and soft” flesh. In the warmth of her cradle, she wonders if her mother will manage “one day to get rid of this anxiety that has always accompanied her love”. Then follow one another the busy and neglected wives, the lovers with fantasized or absent sexuality, the afflicted divorcees, all destabilized by the onset of menopause… “One fine morning you wake up and you are no longer a woman, you are become and we will remain the memory of a woman”, laments Corinne, Stéphanie’s friend, who does not live her celibacy badly.
Then come the words of the teenage girls who rustle with speculation, with the eruption of their first period, the vertigo of the first time. Like Charline, Stéphanie’s niece, who, victim of a rape during a party, dissolves in her fear and does not find the courage to talk about it, because she dreads hearing the same questions: “Why didn’t you say no? Why didn’t you scream? I could not. I couldn’t…” Finally resound the diatribes of Nicole, the cantankerous grandmother, who mourns the very beautiful woman she was and rejects Stéphanie’s family sham, this crazy project of motherhood alone…
Scanning sometimes with crudity every corner of these evils that assail the intimacy of the body, Camille Froidevaux-Metterie draws with small touches the carnal and plural portrait of the woman of today in all her universality, her beauty and her vulnerability.