Thursday, 30 August 2018

Uncensored Self-Portrait


33/52 Violette Leduc: La Bâtarde (1964) What would subscribe best Violette Leduc's novel La Bâtarde is uncensored self-portrait. She hits the spot in 2018 when myths and taboos about womanhood are broken with honest new works of art and social media discussions. Leduc writes down all things that hold a meaning in her life and does it with brutal honesty. She doesn't leave out even the ugliest parts, something that a writer is allowed to do when making an interpretation of their life. It seems she wants to reveal herself without caring too much about the opinion of the public. The novel is personal and goes to private moments that no one would see or hear about if she didn't choose to tell. As we know from the discussion we get to take a part today, it is liberating to see realistic images on what it is to be a human.  

Leduc's descriptions about her romantic relationships are very passionate and full of life. When she pictures her first love with Isabelle she lingers in their desire and sexual tension. She tells about a relationship that has very poor possibilities to survive. After she lets go of Isabelle she meets Hermine. In a relationship with her she is a bit cold and uncaring. At first it seems like she is just placing Isabelle with someone she doesn't care. Violette doesn't stop Hermine for overworking and giving all the money she gets for Violette's clothes and restaurant dinners.  Leduc writes thoroughly what is in her mind, the feelings she is having and what is happening in her body. Her straight forward style makes the novel interesting to read right from the beginning. In a modern way she shows the most deepest ponderings as they are. She concentrates on details and achieves authenticity leaving out common and referential notions. Instead of introducing broader concepts she tells directly what those mean to her and what kind of appearances they get in her life.

Through the book Violette struggles with her looks. She sees herself ugly and brings up comments she has gotten from others that would make her notion look accurate. Somehow when I read the novel it was out of context in her life that she brings up her looks and it made me think if she brings it up just because of vanity. She has interesting life, friends in cultural circles, lovers, possibilities and encouragement in her career. Yet she talks about her looks like it was a thing to stop her from achieving something. Maybe it is her own aesthetic that she is not pleased with herself and she would like to look different. There might even be a deeper contradiction what is in the mirror and what she feels she is.  It is also true that random ill meaning comments press us down for years. Yet it might also be that she has time to analyze her own looks and develop a problem, namely her nose that needs to be fixed. The struggle she has with her identity and how to express herself is easier to comprehend. She lets Hermine to spend money and dress her like a doll with pretty clothes. She enjoys her new clothes and the look Hermine has created for her. But same time she has a need to express her masculine side too, a thing that Hermine doesn't approve. 

When Leduc writes about wartime she describes her love for money. It is said that in the most difficult times our true nature reveals. Violette is living in the countryside where there are possibilities to buy food outside the food card limitations. Because she has rich acquaintances in Paris she sees an opportunity to earn money in black market. She creates a circle of professionals who deliver her food and she sells it to people who can afford to buy it at any price. As she puts it it is in her nature that she loves beautiful objects. She becomes more greedy in her business and there is no Robin Hood in her. She makes money and keeps it herself. When she analyses afterwards the decisions she has made she doesn't explain or try to make things look better. She admits her own greediness. She even states that she would have eaten her own shit to get more money. There were situations when she could have done something good for others with her money, for example a poor boy is starving in front of her eyes and she had a possibility to help. She also looks from her window how her neighbors are taken away without an expression of sadness. She is in the flow of doing great herself and becomes blind. The years to come are harsh and remind cruelly about the past moments and it becomes impossible to understand one's own behavior. Maybe she has a bad consciousness, who knows, and that is why she wants to write it all down as a confession. Still I felt Leduc is not making an atonement she just reveals how things were and what she went through those times. And we can't know what kind of person the main character of the novel has become afterwards, we just know the past ans a glimpse of the present moment. 

What inspired me to read this novel was Martin Provost's film Violette that tells about how she became a writer and her one sided love towards her mentor Simone de Beuvoir. The title of this post is uncensored self portrait because the relationship she describes between Isabelle and Violette has also been written in her previous book, Thérèse et Isabelle, a novel that was partly censored at the time of publication in 1954.  This novel was not censored and what comes to her direct style she herself doesn't censor the issues she brings up.



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