“L’Enfant transesti”, by Jean-Luc Seigle, Flammarion, 416 p., € 21, digital € 15.
Jean is 5 years old. This is the only certainty of this kid who lives in Vic-le-Comte (Puy-de-Dôme), in 1960, among women who intend to trace his future. Jean-Luc Seigle, in The Transvestite Child, shows how everything is a pretext to bring into play. The uses of language, those of the body, and already the perspective of reading. A grand-grandmother cloistered in her room, almost a hundred years old, welcomes him with kindness when the child needs a refuge. This Mariette embodies both an ancient world and a fierce freedom, she who, breaking with her husband, has rejected conventions. “By divorcing her husband, [elle] divorced from the French language ”, an enemy language for her. “Patois is the language that appeases French from which it feels excluded, a sort of remedy. “
Like a doll
Louise, Jean’s mother, awaits the perfect combination to leave celibacy, having several romances with suitors, none of whom meet all of her requirements. Flighty, flirtatious, she hesitates, stuns, and finally plays her son as a doll that she dresses, combs and shows off to the village square like a princess on parade. Can Jean think of himself as a boy when his mother’s love seems to depend on his submission to her delirium? Victim consenting to the sacrifice, sacrificed on the altar of a maternal madness that he cannot question without losing his place and his landmarks, Jean knows it: any revolt will tear the veil which obscures a reality carefully silenced by a common agreement by each member of this strange family.
“Everything in the beginning of my life was all mystery and bad omen. “ Rose too, the grandmother who manages this wobbly and unorthodox world with authority, has sights on the child. Inconsolate of the death, in the trenches of the Great War, of her older brother, Pierre, who had initiated her to political thought and to horizons other than those of the mountains of Auvergne, she remains a committed feminist, even if she has ceased to be the militant Communist who trained her comrades to shake up the old world. She knows that reading will allow Jean to find his place. And that the disguises inflicted on the boy by Louise, his daughter, will do nothing against this evidence. Jean is torn between these two dreams. Look at the old portrait of Pierre, the great-uncle who knew how to become an energetic fighter and an ideal of virility. He watches for signs of a late metamorphosis. “Could it be that we could change shape and body like tadpoles and caterpillars?” “
You have 40.24% of this article left to read. The rest is for subscribers only.