With the publication in the year 2000 of her four times award-winning novel "Dans ces bras-là", Camille Lauren, a French novelist from Dijon, will fascinate females due to her emphasis on men, whether it is a father, husband or a stranger. She writes this book "sur les hommes, sur l'amour des hommes: objets aimés, sujet aimant," (p16) as she believes "ils formeraient l'objet et le sujet du livre." (p16)
Her autofictional novel opens with her following a male, whom she believes "c'était lui." (p11) "Dans ces bras-là" consists of a series of short chapters, slowly revealing descriptions of her life which have been touched by men, some of which have been repeated, such as her father, her husband and especially the stranger.
One might question why Camille has decided to base her book on men. She is a woman who believes that "ce qui m'attire chez un homme, c'est que c'est un homme." (p137) and she tries to comprehend "s'allait en eux la laideur et la séduction, la goinfrerie et l'éloquence, le désir et la déontologie." (p96) The chapter "seule avec lui" represents the characteristics of men, and how they are "le courage, l'agressivite," (p44) which symbolises her obsession with them. The fact that she has done this gives the impression that she has analysed them thoroughly to present a precise description.
Over the course of her novel, Camille explains the importance of males and how she needs men in order to feel secure: "elle jette ses bras vers lui, autour de son cou," (p36) "passant de bras en bras." (p20) Therefore "Dans ces bras-là" is a good title for her book as it acts as a metaphor to explain her feelings, especially the word "bras", which can indicate her eagerness to be in the arms of the opposite sex in order to feel secure as intimacy is vital to her.
It is interesting to note that throughout her book she speaks to the psychoanalyst with the use of the first person "je ne sais pas," "j'écris d'habitude" (p35), which is interwoven with the third, "elle s'intéresse a lui." (p89) She writes about herself, yet for the rest she writes as the narrator telling the story about somebody else. With this style, the novel is represented as a mixture of confessions, having herself narrating the story as the dominant one throughout the book, especially when her encounters with the opposite sex are mentioned. Camille's unique style of writing allows us to learn her thoughts and reactions to her personal events. Through the third-person, we are able to witness the story, understand what the character is thinking whilst also being invited to feel the same way she is, making it easier and attractive to identify with her.
Her technique of writing presents the idea that she is speaking directly to us, with phrases such as "mais non, non", "j'avais mal lu","1er étage gauche." (p 13) It is as if she is providing us with the necessary information so that we are able to paint a picture of where she is, to be more involved in her life and feel as if we are following her.
This seductive novel can be described as being realistic, highlighting the extent to which some lives can be a series of messy love affairs. This captivating book enables Camille to reveal herself by expressing her feelings and emotions. She knows "il n'y a pas de mots pour dire le desir, pas de mots courants qui ne servent à le trafiquer, à le masquer à l'apaiser ou à le détruire" (p38) and therefore words are her downfall. She feels happier without the use of words as "l'amour, c'est quand on dit rien." The ending of her novel does not draw to a conclusion as she is still awaiting to see that special someone pass by, with her hoping that he will "serrez-moi, emportez-moi- qu'on est bien, dans ces bras-là!" (p130) Interestingly, the end of this phrase is also used in the song "les amours perdus" sung by a famous French singer, Juliette Greco.
Women's writing in France has expanded, especially since the feminist movement. Therefore, feminists can have the possibility to search for their theories in such novels. Sexuality, love and body have been appealing themes to other French contemporary novelists, such as Marie Darrieussecq's, who wrote her "Truismes", based on a young female who goes through bodily changes. Marie also describes men, but through the pig. However she explains their physical aspect, whilst Camille presents their intellectual side, such as "l'esprit de synthse," "la force" (p44) to answer her question "c'est que c'est qu'un homme?" (p44) Another novel which introduces the body as a sexual symbol is "La vie sexuelle de Catherine M." The author, Catherine Millet, memoirs her sexual life which we can also encounter in Laurens novel.
As mentioned, Camille's main subject is men, "un roman sur les hommes...on m'interroge: sujet l'homme (p182) Personally she has clearly achieved this. Women have not been tremendously mentioned, in fact she devaluates any relationship with females, especially her mother.
Her main achievement in this book has been accomplished as she has been able to provide a deep insight on men through powerful language. This permits her to reveal everything in her life and especially her love for men. The emphasis on men enables the reader to be struck and to regurgitate her mains ideas. Her text relates to the genre romance, which uses language to represent love as a main theme for women and society. Therefore, language is vital for her to create a very desiring book.
Personally, this impressive short novel based on love and desire is an understandable exploration of female aspiration, and probably results to why it is the best seller in France. Moreover, men have written novels regarding women over the last centuries, so this novel reflects the change in society. It presents us with an overly spoken poignant theme amongst women and it provides a message which can still be applicable today.
- Laurens, Camille, Dans ces bras-là (Paris: Gallimard, Folio, 2000).