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“For me, there is always a problem when we talk about the female body and more particularly about a sexual assault”

Interview with Inès Bayard


Inès Bayard’s debut novel was called by the New York Times “a cry of anguish and fury about how easily men get away with committing sexual violence, and how devastating the consequences are for women.”


Le malheur du bas, published last year in Chinese translation by Nanjing University Press under the title 隐痛, translator Jiao Junyi, is a novel of extraordinary depth and power. Marie and Laurent, a young, wealthy couple, have settled into their large Paris apartment and decide to start trying for a baby. This picture-perfect existence is shattered when Marie is assaulted by her new boss. Deeply shaken by the attack, she discovers she is pregnant, and is convinced her rapist is the father. Trapped by her own silence and isolated within her family, her despair pushes her to take the worst possible way out in a setting of insufferable ordinariness. Marie closes herself off in a destructive silence, ultimately leading her to commit an irreparable act.


“I wrote it without imagining it was going to be published. It was very lonely, very personal writing. I don’t know if we can really speak of shock, because everyone tells me this book shocked, I am sorry. Rather, it is a book of understanding about the body,” Inès Bayard said in a recent interview with Karine Fléjo and the Chronicles of Koryfee.


“The starting point of this book was the desire to talk about the female body, it was a subject that interested me for quite a few years and which was treated both in French literature and in the media in a way that I could not fathom. It was only in foreign literature that I found it treated sufficiently strongly.”


Ms Bayard, who will be appearing at the 6th EU-China International Literary Festival, said she often took issue with the way the female body and sexual assault were written about.


“For me, there is always a problem when we talk about the female body and more particularly about a sexual assault, there is always a disconnect between what the victims of these assaults say in their testimony and the treatment in the media. The debates remain very superficial,” she added in the interview.


“They don’t go into detail. They do not explain the physical springs. We always tend to evoke female psychology, but very little about the body in its details. But that seems problematic to me, especially with regard to sexual assault. It seemed important to me to come back to these debates.”


At the 6th EU-China International Literary Festival Inès Bayard will join in discussion with acclaimed Chinese writer Ren Xiaowen and moderator Dai Weina to discuss their writing lives and how they go deep, dark and direct in their mesmerising works.