Making us see

“I truly believe that our societies work by a constant effort to not see reality. There is another scene I often recount: it was when Jean-Luc Godard was receiving an honorary César in the 1980s or in the 1990s, during the Césars ceremony in France. Godard was invited to go on the stage set for the ceremony, in order to receive his César, given that night by Isabelle Huppert. So he went on the stage. All the people in the room, dressed in tuxedos and expensive dresses, were expecting him to deliver a speech in which he would thank his producers, his screenwriters, eventually his mother, as people always do in this kind of situation. But instead, Jean-Luc Godard said, more or less: I would like to thank the telephone operator who works for Gaumont, the cleaning women, etc. And suddenly, the audience laughed. If you thank a screenwriter, everybody thinks it’s moving, but if you thank a cleaning woman, people think it’s funny. Godard was making an important statement about the system that sustains the art milieu; he was underlining the fact that, when you make a piece of art, a movie, there are some people who clean the studio for you, some people who stay ten hours a day in an office to answer the telephone for you.

The situation is the same when you are a writer: you are invited to give a lecture, your publishing house pays for a hotel room for you, and someone in this room cleans your bed, cleans your bathroom. It’s all a system. So when Godard pointed out the way this system works, people laughed as if it was a joke. I saw their laughter as a kind of physical, bodily response in order not to be confronted by what Godard said. Their laughter was a strategy to escape reality, to not see a structurally violent situation.So when I write, I ask myself, How can I prevent people from escaping what I’m trying to show?”
–Édouard Louis



“Pierre Bourdieu and Michel Foucault taught me something very important: that there is no truth without anger. That anger is a key to understand our world(s), that it’s maybe even the most scientific tool human beings invented.

If I take a concrete example, my mother had to face, during all her life, extreme difficulties: poverty, precarity, male domination, and male violence. She wanted to wear make-up but my father didn’t want her to; he would say that make-up was for sluts (sic). During twenty years of her life, she endured this masculine violence, but most of the time, when she was talking about herself, she would say: But my life is OK, it could be worse, I cannot complain. Why so? Because her mother and her grandmother before her, and her daughters endured the same violence. This violence became so systematic, it was so present around her, that she ended up thinking that it was «normal». That’s a tragedy; how can you change the world if violence is so systematic that people end up not seeing it anymore?

Only if you are angry you understand that this violence is not normal. Anger is what allows you to take a step back and to understand the social structure you are stuck in. Bourdieu’s and Foucault’s books are full of rage, and so are my books, I hope.” –Édouard Louis

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