Poetry News

The Rawest and Most Authentic Violette Leduc

By Harriet Staff
Violette Leduc, La Batarde, cover

For this month's installment of the Paris Review Daily's monthly column, Feminize Your CanonEmma Garman writes about Violette Leduc, every poet's favorite Violette Leduc. "As the novelist and Leduc champion Deborah Levy has said, [Leduc's] publisher’s prudishness seemed to rest on the fact that Leduc’s narrative is driven by the female libido—almost unique in literature then and hardly more commonplace today." More:

Leduc is often referred to as a “writers’ writer,” which carries connotations of highbrow experimentation. Yet her oeuvre, far from being tricksy or inaccessible, contains some of the rawest and most authentic conjurations of human subjectivity—self-loathing, vanity, lust, greed, joy, despair—that readers will ever encounter. Leduc’s fellow writers will, however, derive particular pleasure (the kind accompanied by wincing recognition) from her brutally frank meditations on the writing life. In La folie en tête she reflects:

And my writing?
It saps me. What does it inspire in me? Laziness, hollow hours, excuses for lazying my life away. I am literature’s parasite. I must write. Then I change my mind. I spend my time at the cinema, in empty churches, in grimy little parks. I run away from my exercise book. It is my refuge. Yet I search for places where I can take refuge from it. I neglect it without abandoning it entirely. I am sickened by it all.

Leduc has been hailed as France’s greatest unknown writer. An excellent 2013 film about her life, Violette, starring Emmanuelle Devos and directed by Martin Provost, raised her profile in a moderate way. But in the popular imagination, she is eclipsed by the Left Bank literary eminences who were her friends and fans. An outsider in life thanks to her unpretty face, no-filter personality, her status as a “bastard,” and her forthright bisexuality, Leduc had the gift of the true artist: an inability to compromise. Of course, that gift is also a curse... 

Read the full piece at the Daily.


Originally Published: August 10th, 2018