Her Life

“At night I believe in ghosts, during the day I’m Cartesian.”

           Marie Darrieussecq, a young prolific experimental author, mother, graduate of an “Ecole Normale Supérieur” (a school that prepares teachers for higher education), and explorer, was born January 3, 1969. She grew up in a small village of 3000 inhabitants near Bayonne in the Basque Country. Since her mother was a middle school French teacher and her father was a technician, Marie Darrieussecq took advantage of their big familial library during her youth. At six, she started reading and writing with fervor. Her parents would have liked that their daughter have a stable career but Marie dreamt of becoming a writer. Thus, after her “baccalauréat” (our equivalent of a high school diploma) and her “hypokhâgne, khâgne” (first and second year preparatory classes in humanities for entrance to an Ecole Normale Supérieur) at Bordeaux, Marie went to the “Ecole Normale Supérieur”, Ulm street: years of dense writing of which she still has very fond memories: her aggregation (a very competitive examination for the recruitment of teachers, in most subjects the number of candidates far exceeds the number of places available) in 1992, for which she was received sixth while complaining (“as long as I’m going to bust my butt to pass an exam, I want to be first, like Sartre!”)

            At the same time she was preparing her Doctorate’s thesis, she wrote her first novel in six weeks. Pig Tales was a worldwide success. Her thesis, submitted in 1997, is titled “Critical Moments in the Contemporary Autobiography. Tragic Irony and Auto-fiction in the works of George Perec, Michel Leiris, Serge Doubrovsky and Hervé Guibert” under the direction of Francis Marmande. Marie never sought to publish it and she gives some insight as to why:
“‘Auto-fiction, an unserious genre’ is an extremely technical article about narration, published in the journal Poétique, by the Seuil (a publishing house), in September of 1996, exactly the same time that her novel Pig Tales came out. Unfortunately, this pure chronological coincidence (journals sometimes take up to two years to publish an article) incites many students who work on my texts to look for a link between auto-fiction and my novels. On the contrary, I chose purposely to work on a genre that was far from my own, so as not to confuse everything, and because I found it interesting to work on something completely different. I am an author of fiction and besides Le Bébé (the Baby), a simple story without any auto-fiction, the imaginary is my domain, even if it is necessarily nourished (like all writers) by what I have lived, exactly how dreams are nourished: from far away and metaphorically.”
           Actually, Pig Tales is her sixth novel. The first five were never published and Marie finds them to be “unpublishable” (not mature enough) but admits voluntarily that they nourished her novels to come. Marie started to write at the age of six, and she finished her first “novel” at twenty in 1990. It was called Sorgina, which means “The Witch” in Basque. Jérome Lindon at Minuit (“Midnight”, a publishing house) as well as the reading committee at Gallimard (a publishing house) noticed her and encouraged her to continue down the writer’s path. Marie kept the habit of sending her manuscripts by mail, and the attention of the editors really accompanied and encouraged her up through Pig Tales, which was accepted by four publishers (POL, Grasset, le Seuil and Jean-Marc Roberts blue collection (“la collection bleue”) which was a part of Fayard at the time.) And so she chose the “little” publishing house that is POL, small in size but demanding and prestigious, and who is in her opinion unique in her genre. Even today Marie congratulates herself for this choice.

            Outside of her literary life, Marie Darrieussecq has a penchant for music, love, traveling, science and family (her son was born in 2001 and her daughter in 2004). She calls herself “atheist, feminist, and European”. As for science, she’s been married twice: her first husband was a mathematician; her second is an astrophysical researcher. Marie says, “Science enriches my imagination, brings me images, metaphors and fictions to make sense of the world.” The ends of the earth fascinate her – Patagonia, Tasmania, Iceland. One finds a type of exile there, similar to the isolation that a writer feels. She has a few writer friends but, in general, she chooses to lead a life slightly off the “average” Parisian map.
The Future
“I’m thirty-eight, I have my life before me, and tons of books in mind.”

            After being a part-time lecturer for three years (1994-1997) at the University of Lille, she decided to abandon a career at the university, that is to say, she decided not to apply for a “real” position. Since then, she has completed several projects: novels, poetry, theater and “maybe, in a long time, a literary essay in my own style”. She foresees a prolonged stay in Australia or in the Aleutians. If Marie has yet to win any literary awards, that shouldn’t last.
“What good is a book that doesn’t try to show you the world as if unmasking it for the first time?”

            In new adventures Marie Darrieussecq has also become a psychoanalyst in 2006. In 2007, she wrote a play called “Le Musée de la Mer” (“Museum of the Sea”), which premiered in April…in Reykjavik, Iceland, translated by Sjon, the lyricist for Björk, with an impressive team, and directed by Arthur Nauzyciel, director of 39 years who is also working with MD on an adaptation of “Ordet” by Karl Munk (played at the Carmes theater in Avignon, summer of 2007, with Pascal Grégory).

            After the publication of her novel Tom est mort (Tom is Dead) in September 2007, Marie Darrieussecq published a translation of Tristes by Ovid in December 2008. For Marie Darrieussecq, it’s about “a socialite writer who finds himself in the hands of Barbarians, at the ends of the known world (today known as the Danube Delta) exactly 2000 years ago. A report that is both ferocious and servile to politics and also a big freedom for the head. Beautiful love letters to his wife, beautiful letters of friendship as well. And all that, up till now, has been translated in a very “Latinist” way, with sentences that just aren’t possible in French, when really it’s beautiful poetry, fluid and limpid.”