30 December 2010

Régis Jauffret's Sévère: The Fight for Free Expression

I've not yet read any of Régis Jauffret's books, although from what reviews and extracts I've so far read they are both very powerful and very disturbing, although they are far from being the purely sensational read that their subjects might suggest: for one thing, Virginia Woolf and Marcel Proust are among Jauffret's biggest inspirations. This post is prompted by a wish to support a wildly inappropriate reaction.

Regis's novel Sévère is inspired by the murder of the very wealthy banker Édouard Stern by his lover Cécile Brossard. The trial uncovered Stern's world of ruthless business dealings and his voracious appetite for sex with both men and women. It is of course very common for writers of fiction to be inspired by real-life events, and Jauffret clearly states at the beginning of Sévère that this is a work of fiction: the characters have no more reality than the paper they're written on: close the covers and they cease to exist. Seven months after publication in March 2010, Stern's relatives demanded that the book be banned, which of course strikes at the root of any of the freedoms that authors hold dear. By extension, surely any freedoms any of us hold dear?

Many noted French authors have signed a petition against the family's actions, and these are just a sample: Virginie Despentes, Christine Angot, Pierre Guyotat, Philippe Djian, Jonathan Littell, Bernard-Henri Lévy, Philippe Sollers, Michel Houellebecq, Sophie Calle, Eric Reinhardt, Marie Darrieussecq, Emmanuel Carrère, Atiq Rahimi, Jean-Philippe Toussaint, Catherine Millet, Matthias Enard, Annette Messager, Claude Lévêque, Nicolas Fargues, Yannick Haenel, Elisabeth Roudinesco, Frédéric Beigbeder.

The full list is here, and can now be signed by any member of the public: 'Pour signer la pétition, envoyez vos prénom, nom et ville de résidence par email à l'adresse courrier[at]inrocks.com avec "Jauffret" en objet du mail': To sign the petition, send your first name, surname and town of residence by email to courrier[at]inrocks.com with 'Jauffret' as the subject of the email.

Unfortunately, it appears that none of Jauffret's many books has been translated into English, although there may well be some translations in other languages.

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