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Adèle by Leila Slimani

Adèle

Adèle by Leila Slimani
Paperback
Jan 15, 2019 | 240 Pages
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    Jan 15, 2019 | 240 Pages

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    Jan 15, 2019 | 240 Pages

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Praise

“No man would have dared write what she did. It’s an extraordinary first novel.” —Alain Mabanckou, author of Black Moses and judge for the La Mamounia Prize

“Slimani’s fascinating follow-up to The Perfect Nanny . . . is a skillful character study. Slimani’s ending is the perfect conclusion to this memorable snapshot of sex addiction.” —Publishers Weekly

“Eminently relatable . . . Artful, edgy . . . An unflinching exploration of female self-sacrifice and the elusive nature of satisfaction.” —Kirkus Reviews

“Shocking . . . A brave choice for the international panel of judges [of the La Mamounia Prize] . . . [It] somehow slipped passed Moroccan censors, but it’s a safe bet no Moroccan publisher would have dared print it.” —The Irish Times

“Written in prose of elegant but never bloodless neutrality . . . [Adèle] leads readers through the labyrinth of desire into an understanding of solitude, isolation and the search for authenticity as our common fate.” The Independent (London)

“Displays an undeniable literary power.” L’Express (France)

Acclaim for Leila Slimani:

“If you are a mother, whatever kind of mother you aspire to be, you’ll know what kind of mother you are after reading Slimani. If you are not a mother, the insights that she administers can be no less jolting. . . . Like Jenny Offill, Slimani can write ravishingly of female bodies.” —Lauren Collins, The New Yorker

“In Slimani’s hands, the unthinkable becomes art.” —Maureen Corrigan, NPR’s Fresh Air

“Slimani is an astute observer of power politics in the home.” —John Freeman, The Boston Globe

“Slimani writes devastatingly perceptive character studies.” —Marilyn Stasio, The New York Times Book Review

Author Q&A

Early in the novel, Adèle says that she wants to be “a doll in an ogre’s garden.” What does this idea mean to her?

Adèle wants to be an object. I think that this is the most subversive part of her personality. She doesn’t want to be a subject, she doesn’t want to decide, to have power. She just wants to be a little doll, a toy.

Is Adèle a sex addict?

I don’t really know. I am a writer, not a doctor, so I can’t really make a diagnosis. Richard is the one who labels Adèle a sick person. For him, this is the only way to accept their situation. He has to think that this problem of hers is a pathology, that Adèle is a victim, and that he is going to find a cure.

You’re well known for your feminism in France and now in this country. When you made the decision to write this character, were you at all concerned that your readers would judge her in ways you didn’t intend?

No, never. When I write I never think of the reader. I am completely focused on my characters. I want them to be real, to be human, and I hope that the reader will like them as much as I like them. I love literature because I think that it is maybe one of the only experiences where you can stop judging people. A place where you can try to understand them, even if they are very different from you, even if they are doing bad things.

Adèle’s mother accuses her of never being satisfied and overestimating the importance of men. What do you see as the root of the emptiness Adèle feels?

In the book, I try not to give an answer, and I really don’t want to search for a psychological explanation. My point was to avoid looking for the root of this emptiness. I don’t really know where it comes from, and actually, I don’t really think that it matters. It would have been too easy to say, for example, that she is a sex addict because she was traumatized when she was a child. No, I wanted to embrace my character completely, to be with her in the present. And I hope that the reader will face what she is facing with her, without looking for an explanation that, in my view, is never sufficient to understand someone.

Adèle appreciates her status as a wife and mother not only for the social status it affords her, but as useful cover for her secret lifestyle. Her extreme deception is certainly unusual, but do you think your readers might see themselves in the broader point she’s getting at: that women can hide their true selves within these roles, and also wield their symbolic and social power?

I hope so! Actually, when I began to write, I was very much inspired by classical characters: Anna Karenina, Emma Bovary, and Therese Desqueyroux. They are all married women, mothers, and they are all disappointed by their lives and their marriages. For a very long time, women didn’t have choices. If they wanted to belong to society and not be considered as outcasts or losers, they had to marry and to become mothers. But of course, they continued to have desires and secret dreams.

It is fascinating to watch Richard and Adèle’s relationship transform when she is finally exposed. Richard himself is also exposed, for his fixation with being a savior to her and for his cruel attempts to surveil and control her. But there are also moments of tenderness between them. Is there real love between them, or just a power struggle?

I think there is real love, but a very complex and violent love. Richard completely changes when he finds out about Adèle. And in the second part of the book, we wonder who is the craziest, Adèle or Richard? He is crazy in love with her, he is fascinated by this woman that he doesn’t completely understand. She is a mystery, and that’s probably why he is so attracted to her. And Adèle has a lot of gratitude for Richard, but I don’t think that she loves him. Adèle doesn’t know what love is. It is a feeling that she can’t really understand.

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