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“Towards violence”, the story of a filial relationship vitiated by the cult of virility.

“Towards violence”, the story of a filial relationship vitiated by the cult of virility.
“Towards violence”, the story of a filial relationship vitiated by the cult of virility.

Vers la violence could be read as a tale or a sociological essay on the origins of violence, whether feminine or masculine, and its effects on the lives of those who are confronted with it.

It is precisely this mixture of literary genres that makes the success of Blandine Rinkel’s book. She tells us without pathos the relationship that Gérard has with Lou, his daughter. A “little monster of virility” brought up like a man by this uncompromising father, keen on heroic deeds. Throughout her childhood and adolescence, the young Lou will indeed find it difficult to get rid of the fascination exerted on her by this man who also frightens her. Her mother, too, assists helplessly at her husband’s outbursts of anger…

A true revelation of the recent literary season, this book, already awarded the first Méduse Prize, is also a medium through which Blandine Rinkel deploys her thoughts on the construction of identities (male and female) in our societies without detours and frills.

Interview with Blandine Rinkel

Terriennes: On the occasion of the recent literary season, you published a book (Vers la violence) which analyzes the workings of violence through the relationship between a father and his daughter. How was this text born?

Blandine Rinkel: This text is born from its title. I wanted to tackle themes and relationships that were less conciliatory than those I had tackled in my previous texts. I had had the feeling of being too polite, too domesticated in my way not of writing but of defending my first two books. I had the feeling of a misunderstanding. I felt something less domesticated, harsher rumbling inside me. I wanted to go for something more frontal and immediately, this title was the starting point for writing the book. I also had the idea of ​​writing about a filial relationship and how you inherit violence, and how you transform it.

Precisely the book insists on the way in which the father instills violence in his daughter and the difficulty of the latter to get rid of it…

What seemed interesting to me was to describe a violence that must happen, but does not happen. Concretely, there is no blow. But a threat hovers, and creeps into everyone. Lou, the daughter, internalizes the possibility of violence that her father represents in her eyes. She is both fascinated and scared by him. It was this disorder that interested me. Describe a climate, an atmosphere that goes towards violence.

We feel something could happen and this reprieve changes behaviors, gestures: it shapes a kind of human being always on the alert, like an animal that knows it is being hunted. But at the same time being on the alert also means being alive. Violence, we are afraid of it and at the same time it can vitalize us. To defend oneself from a possible attack, one learns to stand up straight. The character of Lou becomes a dancer and learns, literally, to hold on through dance. She is a woman who builds herself against this paternal model – while inheriting his energy.

Dancing actually plays an important, even emancipatory role for the character, even if she practices it at first as “a combat sport. A sport requiring iron self-discipline…”.

It’s her way of finding a way out, even if at first it’s above all a way to turn against herself and her body, the violence she suffers from her father. Dance contrary to the cliché that we can have (light exercise, innate grace…) is an activity that requires a lot of sacrifices when you practice it at a high level. Lou talks about it as a quasi-military activity. Her body is stiff, she stands straight. She maintains herself by doing eight daily hours of warming up and stretching. And then, little by little, she discovers another relationship to dance, to language, to people. Perhaps more sensual: more aquatic than military. I tried to write this outbreak. A body which thought to be only a sum of tense muscles, and which discovers other possibilities. That of abandonment, in particular.

Reading the book also makes it possible to understand the origins of the violence exercised by the father on his daughter. Not only has he himself been subject to violence from his parents, but above all, he has hardened following several personal dramas…

It is a form of curse, which runs over several generations. This is often violence. It is rare that someone completely innately takes to being violent. It is violence that we inherit. In the writing, I wanted to resonate an archaic, ancestral violence. Where does the violence we inherited come from? By dint of links, perhaps we could go back to antiquity, to the first men. Barbara Henrenreicht, who wrote The Rite of War, is interested in the origins of violence, particularly among men. It traces a history of humanity where men, vulnerable to wild animals, much stronger than them, have developed defenses, weapons, have invented war. The use of force, to protect oneself, not to be too vulnerable. We attack to defend ourselves, at the start. And then it takes root. And in the book, there it is, it’s a father who scares his daughter, perhaps to keep his own demons at bay.

What is the biographical part of this text?

At the very beginning, there were autobiographical materials, but everything has really been transposed. It mattered to me that it was really a novel to be more free in writing, to be able to go further, to radicalize the questions that life poses in a disorderly way.

What is a novel?

I like what Milan Kundera says: the novel is a moment when moral judgment is suspended. I tried, for Vers la violence, to shape a kaleidoscope of points of view, of impressions, of scenes from which we question what seemed to us to go without saying, we question our a priori, we suspend a moral obvious. We experience and reflect again.

You borrow from the beginning of the book certain codes of the tale to mix them with those of the novel to deploy reflections on the cogs of violence, whether male or female. A process that gives the text a sociological character. How do you explain this aesthetic choice?

It’s not original but I believe that, from the mixture of literary genres, springs the singular. By borrowing from fairy tales, mythology, sociology, we tinker with something that belongs only to ourselves. It’s also just the mixing of genres – in every sense of the word! – creates the indeterminate: we don’t know what will spring up. And that’s what interests me, to seek out what doesn’t yet exist, what hasn’t yet been done, formulated, see what can spring up again.

What are the texts and authors that have allowed you to build yourself?

My first real encounter with an author took place around fourteen with Virginia Woolf. The Waves is a book that I really liked, which accompanied me at several ages. A book that expands you, gives you the impression of being larger, of having access to the interiority of other people, with qualities of language absent from everyday life. And then afterwards, among contemporary authors, I could cite Jakuta Alikavazovic, for her relationship to fiction, her taste for both poetry and gravity, for reality. Poetry is not cutesy: it can make life worse, in a positive sense. His writing shows that. I also read a lot of essayists. I am thinking of the anthropologist Nastassja Martin. His book Croire aux fauves was important in the writing of my book.

What about the other authors (Constance Debré, Virginie Despentes, Monique Wittig, etc.) cited in the book? Have they influenced your writing, your thinking and your relationship to literature?

I have read them, and each one interests me. I don’t agree with everything, I’m not carried away by everything in the same way, but they all say something specific and powerful about the era and what we do with our genres, reading them and responding to them clarified the direction of certain pages of my novel.

What has changed in your writing in three publications?

I believe that this book is much more frontal, more direct than my previous books where I tried to say things, but went through cross roads. This one is a little less mannered, perhaps. It’s also the first time I give pride of place to a male figure. I tried to describe with empathy and intransigence a figure of a man. This is an approach that interests me. Take a look at the man, and maybe even, eventually, I would like to try it anyway, write a book from a male point of view.

What does literature represent for you?

It’s a vast question, but perhaps literature is a way to access lives other than our own (as the other said), to dig into them and, at the same time, to expand time and the space in which we live. It may allow you to experience yourself a little more than alive. I write, in any case, because I find that we are cramped in life as it is presented to us. We must choose, ceaselessly, restrict. And, through books, we can live other lives, other sensitivities, get out of ourselves at the same time as we become clearer. Expand ourselves, have the impression of living a little longer than the time allotted to us on this earth.

The article is in French

Tags: violence story filial relationship vitiated cult virility

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