“Beginnings”, by Catherine Millet, Flammarion, 316 p., € 20, digital € 15.
In 2014, after an article on the “World of books” on A dream childhood (Flamarione), where Catherine Millet retraces her youth, a reader had sent me an angry letter. How do you expect people to take you seriously, she protested, if you always use the expression “masterpiece”, how do you praise the latest Millet? To this reader I replied that he was right, this word should not be used lightly. It was so true, I argued, that since I started the newspaper fifteen years ago I had never used it.
It will be understood that the sequence ofA dream childhoodwhich has just been released with the title You begin, could have raised some expectations. If our reader has remained faithful to the newspaper (thank you), let us reassure him: we will not speak here of a masterpiece. On the other hand, it could not be otherwise. What enlarged A dream childhood, was the way in which the author reconstructed the inner world of the child: with tact and sensitivity, she showed how the child became attached to appearances before life put distance between his conscience and things. When it opens you begin, time has passed, reality is already an obstacle, society imposes its constraints. Some carelessness has been lost.
Aesthetic ecstasy, erotic abandonment
But, precisely, what makes this new book overwhelming is that it clings to the previous one, as an attempt to perpetuate the specific poetic bubble of childhood. She tells how Catherine Millet wanted to stay in touch, despite the passage of time, to this primordial tranquility. Enlarging childhood to the extent of its destiny, this is one of the definitions of holiness. To the head of the magazine Art printwhose notoriety goes beyond the borders since it published The sex life of Catherine M. (Seuil, 2001), this vocation was realized thanks to two experiences tending to merge: aesthetic ecstasy, erotic abandonment.
But what strikes you first, reading these You beginthis is the insistence with which Catherine Millet recalls the image of early childhood to retrace her beginnings in the world of art galleries and libertinism, in the 60s. As soon as she arrived at her Parisian home, I show him these pages that draw a self-portrait of the author as a child, even as a fetus. “Ooh La La, she exclaims, you will throw me out of my position as an art critic, a specialist in many things that people don’t understand! They’ll say, “Oh, that girl who writes so authoritatively about artwork, she’s actually a big, retarded child.” “
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