Even today, most stories work like this: a male hero, often white, goes on an adventure, challenges himself and wins, thanks to violent and heroic acts. And that's it, the story is over and everyone is happy! But where are the women in these stories, wonders Alice Zeniter, 36, teacher, playwright and author of several bestsellers. The answer is as simple as it is infuriating: nowhere or somewhere on the margins, because since the dawn of time, women have not really had a place in the history of art. Whether it be ancient dramas, rock paintings or Hollywood movies, they are not fairly represented.
Even in her own books, which have won the most prestigious French literary prizes, including the Prix Goncourt des Lycéens for l'art de perdre or the Prix du Livre Inter for Sombre dimanche, the female characters are treated rather misogynistically as they have been in our literary heritage since Aristotle's Poetics, Zeniter observes.
"Half-scholar, half-one woman show, everyone needs to get their hands on this short and very lively little book, to deconstruct our reading and writing practices as well as our vision of female characters and the roles assigned to them in fiction since antiquity. She cites La princesse by Cleves and Plato, as well as Frodo from the Lord of the Rings and the Smurfs," explains Claire Stavaux, director of L'Arche for whom this little book was one of her favorites. "From the onset, this text fascinated me with its orality, and its way of combining humor and erudition. A cross between lecture, monologue and intimate account, it is very personal for the author, who, with some self-mockery, gives us a clear view into her imagination. This work is easily consumed in two hours. Short, funny and intelligent: this is its secret formula," summarizes Claire Stavaux, known for her feminist and engaged publications and who was sure it would be a bestseller.
With 25,000 copies sold, this brilliant feminist and political pamphlet is a great success in France with enthusiastic feedback from the press and readers: "It's a bit like Umberto Eco doing stand-up. Well done!,” says Europe 1; "It’s a combination of humor and intelligence that makes us think with each page and reminds us to take nothing for granted," writes L'Humanité, while a high school student says that she learned more about literature and herself in an hour and a half with this work than she did during all her schooling! The author also performed this text to sold-out audiences for a month at the Théâtre du Rond-Point in Paris in May 2022, with a standing ovation at the end of each performance.
At L'Arche editions this very unique text has found its place in the new collection "Des écrits pour la parole" which includes 16 titles and authors such as Kate Tempest, Anne Carson and Léonora Miano. A collection "that opens its doors to non-gendered literature which does not have boundaries that put texts into literary genres, but which seeks to decompartmentalize expression and attempts to free literature from a formal straitjacket," explains Laetitia Monfort, head of rights at L'Arche who hopes that this book will also be included in the catalogs of more foreign publishing houses. To date, rights have been sold in Germany where the book was published this year by W (Westend Verlag).
Katja Petrovic, Claire Stavaux, Laetitia Monfort