Sunday, May 30, 2010

Catherine Millet at the Sydney Writers Festival

Linda Jarvin, Catherine Millet and a french interpreter at the Sydney Writers Festival.

At the Sydney writers festival this year, Catherine Millet discusses her recent book Jealousy and reveals that in order to free herself from a terrible period of her life that she calls The Crises, she wrote the original Secret Life of Catherine M in order to free herself from a terrible jail cell she'd created for herself.

At the festival, she likened what she went through to a social experiment encased in art, observing her life in the context of libertine while at the same time making something so universal extremely personal.

This is the talent of the artist. To take the universal and make it personal so that we are able to make it universal again is something Millet knows she is capable of. In Jealousy, you realise that is how she sees herself, as the artist playing out a role for herself, everyone and herself.

None of this is intentional, as she makes very clear, and yet there is a kind of fatalism about it, as if it is what we choose to do with all that makes us who we are that allows fate to exist in the first place.

Catherine describes her situation as her physical body hurtling through space searching for a hard surface to crash into. And yet there is no hard surface to crash into and there never will be. It is the anxiety that she believes artists feel as they allow themselves to "go down the rabbit hole."

There are so many things to talk about with this book. Shame, humiliation, hysteria, possession, masturbation, voyeurism, fear, self loathing and indulgence are some of the topics visited here in interesting ways. Mostly I was startled by Catherine's maturity and her sophistication. She is oh so very French.


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