Platitudes and feminism at a discount: we read the first novel by Clémentine Autain

Lila hates the expression “falling in love” because it tells about something that escapes, a fall. Yet, alone in her hotel room as she brushes her teeth, puts on a T-shirt and puts her cell phone to charge, Lila can’t find any other words to express how she feels. “We do not know it yet at this time, but this incipit of the novel Assemblies by Clémentine Autain (Grasset) not only reveals the plot of the book, it is also a deeply moving evocation of the figure of the author, who, unlike the characters, manages to find the words.

READ ALSO: “Downing the enemy”: the new Gospel according to Juan Branco

Literature is words that are not satisfied with being just words said Pierre Jourde in his excellent essay Literature without a stomach. This is what Clémentine Autain does, who stubbornly refuses any ease of language in order to achieve the universal in a style that is reminiscent of the best pages of Katherine Pancol. She creates a new language, on the border between journalistic tics, elements of political language, personal development coaching and Anglicisms: “ a mind in a turbulent zone », « Jeanne (…) makes her way to the toilets », « Antoine steps out of his comfort zone », « Estelle takes a whiff of reassurance », « a battery of arguments », « their body language », « Lila revisits her own look », « desire with a capital D », « break the codes » « she came out of her bubble », « why the hell does Antoine put himself in a corner? », « a vintage side “.

never read

Two sentences perfectly sum up the quintessence of the writing of the novelist. One seems to come directly from mail from readers of Current wife : “ The idea of ​​working directly with this young deputy whom she admires, the one who unleashes the Web and regularly dries ministers, puts stars in her eyes. The other could compete with a generator of language elements: The parliamentary assistant puts herself on automatic pilot to introduce her to the galaxy of movements for gender equality. »

READ ALSO: We read “The Young Man” by Annie Ernaux, an Annie-hilé novel

The encounter scenes relegate our great authors to oblivion and could easily appear in the master class by Bernard Werber for budding writers: “ She knew immediately that there would be a before and an after this second that upset her. », « Antoine’s aphrodisiac effect takes everything away, his unbearable Bonjour Mademoiselle, his solid gold wedding ring that still shines, his Rolex sticking out of the sleeve of his suit. As for the love scenes, they are just as sublime. Do we just sometimes regret that we did not use certain formulas for perfume advertisements, such as: ” So she lets herself be transported by the vapors of desire “.

Despite the perfection of the style, the novelist cannot prevent herself from accompanying the story with reflections on language, as if she could not be satisfied with her formulas, which are nevertheless incomparable. Thus, when she tells us that one of her characters ” matted the buttocks “, she wonders immediately:” how else to say it? “. Honestly, we can’t see. Moreover, she does not hesitate to reinvent the language, as when she says of her heroines that they are ” always ready to make four or five hundred shots (do you have it?), or that another character felt like they were waiting ” a century or two “.

Accompany the reader

It is also the precision of his words that challenges. On several occasions, she does not fail to detail that when a character thinks, he does it ” in her head “. Moreover, when she confuses the expressions ” to make a campaign ” and ” beat the countryside it can only be a distraction.

She also has the immense merit of taking the reader by the hand so that he does not get lost in the maze of his complex thought. Clémentine Autain is Gilles Le Gendre turned novelist. When Lila, who has a date with Antoine and must choose her pair of shoes, ” stops without hesitation on her wedge heel pumps “, she adds astutely: “ as if she wanted to grow in front of Antoine “, in case we did not understand. Similarly, when Estelle, who was looking for a competent therapist, ” falls on Mrs. Serein “, the narrator takes the trouble to add:” This surname had inspired him with confidence, it had sounded like a stroke of fate. The surname was probably too subtle for the quidam.

READ ALSO: Taha Bouhafs case: why the attitude of France Insoumise questions

Admittedly, there are two or three inconsistencies, such as when one of the heroines ” lost foot ” and ” forget all his plans while kissing her lover. She had previously started with ” enter his penis », it must be recognized that this is rarely the ideal moment to start a conversation. Similarly, when the narrator wonders: After all, isn’t she becoming someone else? Unless she becomes herself, which remains another », we are not sure to understand all the subtleties of the reasoning. But these slightly less successful passages are more than compensated by a very detailed explanation of how Jeanne makes herself vomit, or the full description of Lila’s near-complete waxing which feels invisibly changed, like in the best commercials. for sanitary napkins.

Erase snapshots

As for the plot, we can not summarize it as it escapes the clichés. To make it quick, we could say that it is the story of a somewhat bourgeois and conservative forties who seduces everything that moves despite his faults, starting with the three heroines of the book, then who dies of a heart attack. , thereby freeing these poor victimized women from the grip of patriarchy. But it would be an insult to this major work to reduce it to these approximations by forgetting, for example, its metaphysical scope: “ they had lamented the time that flies by at the speed of lightning “.

In reality, the psychological depth of each character is staggering. Lila, for example, ” has never endured to remain wisely in the place reserved for him “, as saying that ” it’s not now that it will begin “. Sacred Lila, here is one that is not shy! She doesn’t fall in love with just anyone: When Antoine gave her a broad smile, Lila saw in her front tooth, which overlapped another, a singular charm, the signature of a personality. “. Luckily he didn’t squint, she couldn’t have done otherwise than dedicate her life to him. When she writes, in her new essay in progress: This wind of financialization of the economy is hitting the world like a hurricane », Lila is suddenly seized by a doubt and « judge his sentence agreed “. It is, however, by far, one of the best in the book.

President’s blessings

Joan, for her part, always listen to the music loudly, it’s loud ” and ” loves to wait for a man, or else she doesn’t know how to do otherwise (We hope she will deconstruct this addiction urgently!). She is ” came to politics first through ecology “, and when she drinks a can of Coke zero, ” blames himself for not drinking sustainable development “. Fortunately, she makes up for it by drinking soy milk », walking around with « his organic canvas bag on which is printed GRL PWR », and loving « gossiping about all these blessings from the President “. “That’s the girl! we would want to be enthusiastic if the novel’s desire for elevation did not constantly remind us of restraint.

Finally, Estelle, Antoine’s polydeceived wife, has however ” need someone to remove make-up, go to bed, perhaps finish Jérôme Ferrari’s latest novel, turn off the light “. Far from the cliches, she notice how much heating the credit card relieves his depression “. She discovers late, blinded until then by her husband’s sexism ” these printed terms that come almost blank in his head: sorority, gender, patriarchy, queer… Words familiar without being well known that suddenly seem disturbing to him “. It’s so true: when will we finally break the taboo of their employment?

Read also: Clumsy activism and clichés in spades: we read Aymeric Caron’s novel

The answer may lie in the death of Antoine. This is what one of the characters suggests to Lila: I’m sorry, but you have to wonder if his death didn’t save you. ” In case this moral worthy of the greatest fables of La Fontaine is not clear enough, it will be mentioned again by another character: ” I have the impression that Antoine’s death symbolizes the end of a world. To put it another way, a good non-feminist is a dead non-feminist. Fortunately, women are now watching. Thus, if one of the heroines sees nothing wrong with the attitude of the man who scrutinizes his behind, she calls him an “asshole” when he offers to pay for his drink because ” in each seemingly innocuous act between a man and a woman, two thousand years of history between the sexes are likely to invite themselves “. Gallantry will not pass!

Finally, there is in the author an inimitable art of falling. No chapter escapes it, nor the one that ends with this witticism: She lets herself be driven by the desire of this man who seems to know what he wants, where he is going. She just wonders if he hasn’t changed his deodorant “, nor this other, even more moving and which one still wonders if it is not a tribute to the late Tonton David: “ Something is wrong. »

We will therefore not be surprised that the fall of the novel takes us to the highest spheres. Some naively believed that the greatest excipitates had been written by Flaubert in sentimental education or Giono in A king without entertainment. It was before reading the last lines of Clémentine Autain’s novel. Lila, who listens to the conversation of two feminists, is ” struck by the accuracy and simplicity of the words spoken, she walks towards the two women: And now, how do we do it? ” How do we do ? Let’s dare to formulate an answer in the form of a proposal: what if we read real books?

Clementine Autain, AssembliesGrasset (!!!), 234 pages, 20 euros.

We would love to say thanks to the author of this write-up for this amazing content

Platitudes and feminism at a discount: we read the first novel by Clémentine Autain

Check out our social media accounts as well as other pages related to them