[March 30 2022] : Magazine
interview with CONSTANCE DEBRÉ by OLIVIER ZAHM
photography by CASPER SEJERSEN
style by CAMILLE BIDAULT-WADDINGTON
french writer constance debré recently published a new novel, nom (name), an autofiction in which she advances her radical political program: “i am for the abolition of inheritance, i am for the abolition of parental authority, i am for the abolition of marriage, i am for the abolition of filiation, i am for the abolition of the family name, i am against guardianship, minority, i am against patrimony, i am against domicile, nationality, i am for the abolition of civil status, i am for the abolition of the family.”
OLIVIER ZAHM — You speak of a manual for existence in your stories. Is literature a tool for living these days?
CONSTANCE DEBRÉ — The first thing I seek when reading other authors is a manual for existence because we understand nothing about life and our own lives. That’s what interests me in literature. For me, it’s not a distraction. It doesn’t serve as an escape from the world or from myself. The purpose is to try to understand what I should do for myself. I’m looking for answers I can use right away, a manual, a practical philosophy. More generally, what I’m looking for is thought. I believe in philosophy over psychoanalysis. So, I poke about in books. Others, at least for the most part, manage to enunciate clear ideas in their books.
OLIVIER ZAHM — Georges Perec, the French writer, has a lovely novel title to that effect: Life: A User’s Manual.
CONSTANCE DEBRÉ — Yes. It’s perfect. Another book of his I enjoyed a lot is A Man Asleep. It’s about a guy who suddenly starts to abstain from everything, but we sense he’s looking for the right move. He thinks it’s a matter of restraint, until he starts to feel that his restraint is, in the end, a kind of slow, untenable death.
OLIVIER ZAHM — You once said: “My books don’t relate my life. They explain what is happening, and how we should live it.” We all need a manual for life because we’re completely lost. CONSTANCE DEBRÉ — Events are the only material we have to feed on. For me, once you start writing literature and not philosophy, you have to be factual. Life is made up of the...
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