Alone on stage, the novelist and theatre-maker becomes a performer and humorously contrasts reality with the narrative we tell of it. What is constructing a history in the time of the fake news and conspiracy?
She has been publishing novels for ten years, including The Art of Losing in 2017 (price of World and Goncourt high school students, among others). We also know it normal. We know less about the other facet of Alice Zeniter: woman of the theater, author of two plays and founder of the company L’Entente cordiale. Today, she goes on stage for a conference: I am a girl without history is a literary, intellectual and funny stand-up.
Miss Figaro. – Where did the idea for this conference come from?
Alice Zeniter.– From the desire to create a form that brings together all my hats, to be able — in a given place and at a given time — to be both a writer and a woman of the theater and to reconnect with the university knowledge that I left aside when I finished my thesis (on female figures in contemporary British theatre). My purpose is to explain what it means to build a story, to tell it and to be carried away by it.
On video, Human thingsthe teaser
You add a string to your bow. You are a performer…
It allows me to talk about all these things in an articulate way. On stage, I’m a smarter, more precise version of myself. I have a text that is written and on which I spent a lot of time. It is not just theoretical knowledge. Saying it on stage gives it a sensitive dimension. I have a very emotional relationship with fiction, with characters in novels. Involving my body, its fragilities shows that we leave bookish knowledge.
This is your first time trying out…
I love that. I know that the terrible stress that I know before the performances is able to recede like the sea at low tide and leave me a huge space of pleasure.
Involving my body, its fragilities shows that we leave bookish knowledge
I am a girl with no history. Why this title?
Already, it is a quirk of the French language: this expression is a compliment. While being a girl without history seems to me the saddest thing in the world. I think it comes from the fact that the women have mostly experienced domestic experiences, that they have been kept inside, the opposite of the hero’s narrative scheme which multiplies the adventures.
Let’s go back to your conference in which you popularize. Do you consider yourself a passer?
I popularize semiology, narratology, because I am convinced that these disciplines allow us to better navigate this world of permanent stories, sometimes opposed, going as far as conspiracy, distrust of the press… The main idea of I am a girl without history is this: we believe we are in touch with reality whereas, more often than not, we are in touch with stories of reality.
One of them is called the Bechdel test?
Alison Bechdel, cartoonist, created it in 1985. It allows with three criteria to evaluate the representation of women in a work: there must be at least two named women. They must talk together. And something other than a man. If we take the popular works with which I grew up, the observation is dramatic. The Lion King does not pass the test, nor Star Wars and The Five Club.
ghost the past…
Detective Alice also. But not The three Musketeers, and so on… This is a very simple tool. Like the one in the mountain diagram, which requires the plot to rise to a climax, then the action to descend to resolution. By that I mean that we repeat stories constructed in the same way. There is a hierarchy of values, stories and lives that should be told and others that are excluded because they are considered unworthy of being told. In summary, we prefer hunters to gatherers.
I am a girl without historyby Alice Zeniter, from May 11 to 29, Salle Topor, at the Théâtre du Rond-Point, in Paris. theatredurondpoint.fr