Camille Laurens

Biography

Camille Laurens was born Laurence Ruel in Dijon on 6 November 1957. Having obtained her Agrégation de Lettres, she taught in Rouen and, in 1984, left for Morocco where she would live for the next twelve years. She continued teaching in Casablanca and Marrakech whilst running a ciné-club and appearing in several plays. Together with her then-husband Yves Mézières, she started writing a roman policier which was not published. Laurens continued the literary adventure on her own and, in 1991, published Index with POL. Her debut novel is part of a tetralogy in which the chapters are ordered alphabetically, in the guise of a dictionary. This novel was followed by Romance (1992), Les Travaux d’Hercule (1994) and L’Avenir (1998). Laurens planned on a kaleidoscopic project and paid close attention to the minimal unit of the novel, the letter, and to the importance of the dictionary: ‘Mon projet était que ce soit une espèce de fresque. J'étais très inspirée par Borges, l'importance du dictionnaire, de l'alpha et de l'omega, c'était ça qui me dirigeait.’

In 1994, Laurens returned to France to give birth to her son. In a tragic turn of events, the baby died two hours after the birth. This profound loss marked a turning point in her writing, for a mere year later she published her first non-fictional book, a brief memoir entitled Philippe (1995) which details the event of his death. Laurens notes the impossibility of continuing to write pure fiction: ‘Après ce récit où j'avais touché le réel, l'intime, il me devenait difficile de revenir à de la pure fiction. Je pense que la fonction de la littérature est de donner de soi.’ Laurens thus turned to autofiction, a label which she however dismisses, preferring her own term écriture de soi. Having relinquished the purely fictional dimension of writing, her next novels Dans ces bras-là (2000) and L’Amour, roman (2003) intricately intermingle fiction and reality.

Nonetheless, her mode of writing was not without its arduous detractors. Her writing was brought to scrutiny in a court of law in 2003 when her husband Yves Mézières accused her of ‘atteinte à la vie privée’ for having used his and their daughter’s name in L’Amour, roman. In 2007, it was Laurens’s turn to attack another author: following the publication of Marie Darrieussecq’s Tom est mort (2007), a novel the subject of which is the loss of a son as related by his mother, she felt the author was exploiting the death of a child as a ‘theme’. In a poignant essay, ‘Le syndrome du coucou’, Laurens accuses Darrieussecq of ‘usurpation d’identité’ and ‘plagiat psychique’. At the time both authors were represented by POL which, in the wake of the literary scandal, decided to drop Camille Laurens. In turn, she declared that under the circumstances she would not have wished to continue being represented by them. Laurens’s work found a new home in Gallimard, a publishing house she has been with since 2007. A selection of the books she had published at POL have been reissued by Gallimard.

Camille Laurens has been the recipient of a number of prestigious literary awards. Dans ces bras-là was awarded the Prix Femina and the Prix Renaudot des Lycéens in 2000 and, in 2008, she obtained the Prix Bourgogne de littérature for her anthology Tissé par mille. As of 2006, she is an ‘officier dans l'ordre des Arts et des Lettres’. Laurens also sits on the jury for the Prix Femina and is an avid contributor to the cultural press. In addition, she has collaborated on a variety of theatre, film and musical projects, writing the lyrics for an Indochinese song in 2002. Despite her dismissal of the label autofiction, in 2012 she organised,  with Tom Bishop, the first franco-american conference on the genre at New York University entitled  ‘Autofiction: Literature in France Today’ with speakers including Serge Doubrovsky, Catherine Cusset, Philippe Forest, Catherine Millet, Siri Hustvedt and Rick Moody. In 2011, Léo Schéer published in the collection ‘Écrivains d’aujourd’hui’ the first monograph devoted to the author, containing an extended interview, articles and textes inédits.

Compiled by Adina Stroia

Bibliography

 

Index (Paris: POL, 1991)

Romance (Paris: POL, 1992; Gallimard, 2012)

Les Travaux d’Hercule (Paris: POL, 1994; Gallimard, 2012)

Philippe (Paris: POL, 1995; Stock: 2011)

L’Avenir (Paris: POL, 1998; Gallimard, 2013)

Quelques-un (Paris: POL, 1999; Gallimard, 2012).

Dans ces bras-là (Paris: POL, 2000; Gallimard, 2013)

Le Grain des mots (Paris: POL, 2003; Gallimard, 2012)

L’Amour: roman (Paris: POL, 2003)

Cet absent-là (Paris: Éditions Léo Scheer, 2004)

Ni toi ni moi (Paris: POL, 2006)

Tissé par mille (Paris: Gallimard, 2008)

‘(Se) dire et (s’) interdire’ in Genèse et autofiction ed. by Jean-Louis Jeannelle and Catherine Viollet (Brussels: Academia Burylant, 2007)

‘Marie Darrieussecq ou Le syndrome du coucou’ (La Revue Littéraire, 32, Autumn 2007, pp. 1-14)

Jardins de cristal : Baccarat, Daum, Lalique, Saint-Louis (Paris, Gallimard: 2008)

Lettres à un adolescent (Paris: Bayard, 2009)

‘Qui dit ça?’ in Autofiction(s): colloque de Cerisy  ed. by Claude Burgelin, Isabelle Grell et Roger-Yves Roche (Lyon: Presses Universitaires Lyon, 2010, pp. 25-34)

Romance nerveuse (Paris: Gallimard, 2010)

Camille Laurens: Écrivains d’aujour’hui (Paris: Éditions Léo Scheer, 2011)

Les fiancées du diable: enquête sur les femmes terrifiantes (Paris: Éditions du Toucan, 2011)

Encore et jamais (Paris: Gallimard, 2013)

Amour toujours? (Paris: Gallimard, 2013) [contributor to collective work]


English Translations of Laurens’s Work

In Those Arms [Dans ces bras-là by Ian Monk] (London: Bloomsbury, 2003)

 

Criticism

Angelo, Adrienne: 'Camille Laurens's Phantom Readings: Literary Allusions and Intertextuality in L'Amour, roman and Ni toi ni moi' in Les Femmes et la lecture' ed. by Catherine R. Montfort (Women in French Studies (2012) [Special issue], pp. 150-66)

—: ‘Enigmas, Erasures and Enquêtes: Camille Laurens and the Palimpsest’ in Rewriting Wrongs: French Crime Fiction and the Palimpsest, ed. by Angela Kimyongür and Amy Wigelsworth (Newcastle: Cambridge Scholars Publishing, 2014)

Baudelle, Yves: ‘Camille Laurens ou le “jeu brillant”’ in Le Roman français de l’extrême contemporain: écritures, engagements, énonciations ed. by Barbara Havercroft, Pascal Michelucci and Pascal Riendeau (Quebec: Nota Bene, 2010, pp. 295-318)

Capitanio, Sarah: ‘Authorial inscription in the novels of Camille Laurens’ (Romance Studies 20,2, June 2002, pp. 5-16)

—: 'From Romance to L'Amour, roman: Camille Laurens's rewriting of the family novel' (The Modern Language Review, 100.1, January 2005, pp. 68-77)

Darrieussecq, Marie: ‘Fiction in the First Person, or Immoral Writing’ (L'Esprit Créateur, 50.3, Fall 2010, pp. 70-82)

Delorme, Marie-Laure: ‘L’amour: un roman’ (Journal du Dimanche, 2 March 2003)

Détrez, Christine: ‘Conjugalisme et familialisme de l’immoral chez les romancières contemporaines’ in Relations familiales dans les littératures française et francophone des XXe et XXIe siècles: II. La figure de la mère ed. by Murielle Lucie Clément and Sabine Van Wesemael (Paris: L’Harmattan, 2008, pp. 333-341)

English, Jeri: ‘Writing the Self, Writing the Other: New Reflections of Beauvoir in Camille Laurens's Dans ces bras-là’ in Experiment and Experience: Women's Writing in France 2000-2010, ed. by Gill Rye and Amaleena Damle (Oxford: Peter Lang [Studies in Contemporary Women’s Writing 1], 2013, pp. 29-42)

Fortin, Jutta: ‘“Au bal masqué de l’amour, cavalier, cavalière, on danse toujours avec sa mere”: Ni toi ni moi de Camille Laurens, Adolphe de Benjamin Constant’ (Modern and Contemporary France, 19.3, 2011,  pp. 253-64)

—: ‘Hantise textuelle: le conte “La reine des neiges” de Hans Christian Andersen et le mythe d’Aristophane dans Ni toi ni moi de Camille Laurens’ in L’Imaginaire spectral de la littérature narrative française contemporaine ed. by Jean-Bernard Vray and Jutta Fortin (St. Etienne: Presses Universitaires de Saint-Étienne [Coll. 'Lire au présent'], 2013)

―:‘Mourning and photography in contemporary French literature’ (The Modern Language Review, 104.3, 2009, pp. 696-711)

Game, Jêrome:  Camille Laurens: Dans ces bras-là: Lecture (available online at http://www.inventaire-invention.com/lectures/game_laurens.htm)

Guichard, Thierry: ‘Dans ces bras-là’ (La Matricule des Anges, 032, September –November 2000 [available online at http://www.lmda.net/din/tit_lmda.php?Id=8535)

Havercroft, Barbara: ‘Cette mort-là: l’écriture du deuil chez Camille Laurens’ in Le Roman français de l’extrême contemporain: écritures, engagements, énonciations ed. by Barbara Havercroft, Pascal Michelucci and Pascal Riendeau (Quebec: Nota Bene, 2010, pp. 319-42)

Holmes, Diana: 'The return to romance: love stories in recent French women's writing' (L'Esprit Createur: A new Generation: Sex, Gender and Creativity in Contemporary Women's Writing in French ed. by Gill Rye [Special issue], 45.1, Spring 2005)

―: ‘In defence of romance: Camille Laurens’ in Diana Holmes, Romance and Readership in Twentieth-Century France: Love Stories (Oxford: OUP, 2006)

Hugueny-Leger, Elise: 'Mises en mots et mises en scène chez Camille Laurens: lire la fiction, écrire sa vie, redéfinir l'autofiction' in L'Autobiographie entre autres: écrire la vie aujourd'hui, ed. by Fabien Arribert-Narce and Alain Ausoni (Oxford: Peter Lang [Modern French Identities 110], 2013)

―: ‘Filatures de soi: Detectives, Disappearances and Deceit in the Crime Autofictions of Calle, Laurens and Nothomb’ in Rewriting Wrongs: French Crime Fiction and the Palimpsest, ed. by Angela Kimyongür and Amy Wigelsworth (Newcastle: Cambridge Scholars Publishing, 2014)

Jordan, Shirley:  ‘Chronicles of intimacy: photography in autobiographical projects’ in Textual and Visual Selves: Photography, Film, and Comic Art in French Autobiography, ed. by Natalie Edwards, Amy L. Hubbell, and Ann Miller (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 2011)

Kilduff, Hannah: ‘Troubling Memories: Words and Images of Absence in Camille Laurens, Marie Darrieussecq and Nadine Trintignant’ (French Cultural Studies, 20, 2009, pp. 369-82)

Ledoux-Beaugrand, Evelyne and Mavrikakis, Catherine: ‘Les écrits de l’intime: l’écrivaine en justicière et criminelle’ (Women in French Studies, 17, 2009, pp. 116-29 [includes discussion of the Laurens-Darrieussecq plagiarism affair])

Najm, Daoud: ‘Cet enfant-là’ (Post-Scriptum.ORG, 14, summer 2011, available online http://www.post-scriptum.org/alpha/articles/2011_14_najm.pdf)

Poisson, Catherine: 'Frictions : mot et image chez Marie NDiaye et Camille Laurens' (Contemporary French and Francophone Studies, 11.4, October 2007, pp. 489-96)

Richard, Annie: ‘“Plagiat psychique”: la querelle Camille Laurens- Marie Darrieussecq’ in L'autofiction et les femmes: un chemin vers l'altruisme?, ed. by Annie Richard (Paris: L’Harmattan, 2013)

Robson, Kathryn: 'Psychic Plagiarism: The Death of a Child in Marie Darrieussecq's Tom est mort and Camille Laurens's Philippe (French Studies, 69.1, 2015, pp. 46-59)

Rodgers, Catherine: 'Spéculum de l'autre homme: réflexions sur Dans ces bras-là de Camille Laurens' (Australian Journal of French Studies, 42.1, January-March 2005, pp. 94-109)

Rye, Gill: 'Registering Trauma: The Body in Childbirth in Contemporary French Women's Writing' (Nottingham French Studies, 45.3, Autumn 2006)

—: 'Family Tragedies: Child Death in Recent French Literature' in Affaires de famille: The Family in Contemporary French Culture and Theory ed. by Marie-Claire Barnet and Edward Welch (Amsterdam/New York: Rodopi, 2007, pp.267-81)

Savary, Philippe: 'Camille Laurens, un secret sous la langue' (La Matricule des Anges, May-March 2003, [dossier on Camille Laurens], pp. 14-17)

Compiled by Adina Stroia

 

Interviews

Schwerdtner, Karin: 'Au (beau) risque du "retour": Entretien avec Camille Laurens' (Essays in French Literature and Culture 51, 2014)

‘Dialogues: 5 questions à Camille Laurens’ (Librairie Dialogues, 30 April 2013, available online at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LkajAX_Vl6k)

‘Rendez-vous Christine Angot, Camille Laurens, Tiphaine Samoyault, brunch des auteurs’ (Le théâtre Sorano confié à Christine Angot, 20 April 2013, available online at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xso0qNmanq8)

Jeancourt , Oriane: ‘Camille Laurens: La création à l'œuvre’ (Plateformes Radio France Culture, 12 May 2012, available online at http://www.franceculture.fr/camille-laurens)

Lebrun, Jean Pierre: ‘Interview avec Camille Laurens’ (2012, available online at http://www.freud-lacan.com/Champs_specialises/Theorie_psychanalytique/Entretien_de_Camille_Laurens_avec_Jean_Pierre_Lebrun)

Jeancourt, Oriane: ‘Camille Laurens : Entretien’ (Bibliothéque Publique de l’Information, 2012,  available online at http://www.dailymotion.com/video/xst6tq_camille-laurens-entretien-avec-oriane-jeancourt_creation)

Rérolle, Raphaëlle: ‘ Toute écriture de vérité déclenche les passions’ (entretien avec Camille Laurens et Annie Ernaux) (Le Monde: Le Monde des livres, 4 February 2011) online at http://www.lemonde.fr/livres/article/2011/02/03/camille-laurens-et-annie-ernaux-toute-ecriture-de-verite-declenche-les-passions_1474360_3260.html

Wolinski, Natacha: ‘Ce sexe qui obsède et que l’on ne montre jamais’ (Beaux-arts magazine 330, December 2011, pp. 45-46)

Ploom, Archibald: ’Entretien avec la romancière Camille Laurens’ (Culture Chronique 2010, available online at http://www.culture-chronique.com/chronique.htm?chroniqueid=20)

‘Du “masochisme” sentimental à “l'éthique de la littérature”’ (Nouvel Observateur, 19 January 2010, available online at http://bibliobs.nouvelobs.com/romans/20100119.BIB4749/du-masochisme-sentimental-a-l-039-ethique-de-la-litterature.html)

Ferrini, Jean-Pierre: ‘Treize questions à Camille Laurens’ (La Nouvelle Revue française 591, October 2009)

Baddoura, Ritta: ‘Camille Laurens, écrire à l’état limite’ (L’Orient littéraire, August 2008, available online at http://lorientlitteraire.com/article_details.php?cid=6&nid=3194)

‘Camille Laurens chez elle’ (AuteursTV,  10 April 2008, available online http://www.dailymotion.com/video/x50x2n_camille-laurens_creation)

‘Camille Laurens: Ni toi ni moi’ (1 livre, 1 jour, France 3, 2006, available online at http://www.ina.fr/video/3188290001/camille-laurens-ni-toi-ni-moi-video.html)

Defromont, Jean-Luc: Interview with Camille Laurens in Le jeu des arts ed. by Le Groupe de Recherche sur l'Extrème Contemporain [GREC]  (Bari, B.A: Graphis, 2005 [Proceedings of the conference 'L'écriture française contemporaine: entre roman et art’ held in Bari in October 2003])

Savary, Philippe: 'La peau et le masque' (La Matricule des Anges, May-March 2003, [dossier on Camille Laurens], pp. 18-23)

Guichard, Thierry: ‘Dans ces bras-là’ (La Matricule des Anges, 032, September-November 2000, available online at http://www.lmda.net/din/tit_lmda.php?Id=8535)

Nicolas, Alain: ‘Le sexe opposé' (L’Humanité, 7 September 2000, p. 20)

—: ‘Camille Laurens et ses “Travaux d’Hercules”’ (L’Humanité, 23 September 1994, pp. 20-1)

Devarrieux, Claire : ‘Les gens sont paranos’ (Libération, 10 November 1998, available online at
http://www.liberation.fr/livres/1998/11/19/les-gens-sont-paranos_251337)

Updated by Adina Stroia