François Bégaudeau delivers “bareback literature” within the framework of the university world

With “My Cruelty”, the author delivers a penetrating novel that uses irony as an antidote to cruelly dismantle and delight the worst of times and the suffocation of morality.

After the rattling portrait of a bourgeois family on holiday in “Un Abduction”, you take on the university bourgeoisie …

I did not really have this word bourgeois in mind when I wrote, especially since the university world is quite insecure and we are here at a small provincial university. Although certain characters embody interesting power figures, I wanted to show how the university environment is a world of narcissistic rivalries, where in the shelter of intellectual struggles, rivalry of small roosters, competitions between men actually take place. This book is interested in affects: we may have read 400 books and pontified about 18th century literature, but we are still a man with more or less brilliant desires.

Paul, professor of literature, the hero of the novel, delivers the story of his life and a series of events that took place at his university …

In the beginning of his monologue to Juliette, a psychologist friend, Paul announces that his story is an investigation of a laugh. At the age of 13, he had a sad experience and he heard himself laughing when we don’t usually laugh in those kinds of situations. And this strange reaction will repeat itself throughout his life. Young Paul discovered betrayal, and he will now discover the pleasures of revenge. At first, it is quite unsuitable for its time. When you are a writer, you are often at a distance from your time,

more pleasant in previous centuries, that conversation with the dead. But to take revenge, Paul will return to game, as they say, he wants to taste social networks, set foot in his time and get rid of the morality that afflicts him. Alas, the sprinkler always ends as we know …

Like Paul, you are playing here with our time, with its debates about abortion culture, male dominance, the issue of consent …

We live in a cacophony of burning topics, fascinating in itself, but which is emptied of their significance because they are viewed from a moral angle. What bothers and irritates me is this lack of mental compass. So we can have two attitudes: not to get involved, which seems very wise to me, or to bring clarity to this chaos. The novel can make fun of all that, turn into a “joyful mess” – the very definition of literature – this “creepy mess” that is preached long in the air. When you capture the era through writing, it becomes disgusting fun. If this book were to have an opponent, it would be the moral reflex. By flattening the current public debate, we are showing its emptiness.

You claim a scripture based on irony as an antidote to a condemnation rhetoric. There is the corrosive, even disturbing …

It is the amoral side that is disturbing. A lioness devouring a wildebeest is a sight that can be enjoyed, and it is this enjoyment that disturbs, not the lioness that eats the wildebeest. In the word cruelty I mean the word raw, as in going bareback, as Nietzsche or Rimbaud, this ability not to lie to oneself. I try to make raw literature. To lie bare and raw is to talk about reality. I am always wary of moral justifications. Man rarely acts on the basis of virtuous motivations that are always behind an emotional spring that must be exposed.

“My cruelty”, Gallimard, Verticales Collection, 312 pp., € 20.

To choose or not to choose

On April 10, author François Bégaudeau, who defines himself as a non-proselyte-holder, does not go to the polls, although he admits that an election campaign can provide some excitement and that he has already voted in the past. Convinced that the question of voting or not is at stake, he has just published with Divergences editions, Comment s’occupier un dimanche d’election, an essay that seeks to show voters without ever throwing voters out or glorifying non-voters. , that their gesture in his view is anything but political.

Leave a Comment