Violette d’Urso: “Writing a book allowed me to discover the pain of grief” – Elle

In this café in Montparnasse, Violette d’Urso rises to welcome you and, beyond the fair hair and eyes, it is both her mother, Ines de la Fressange, and her father, Luigi d’Urso, that we see. And for good reason, they looked alike. The long silhouette and structured features of their daughter also make her belong to the rare category of people whose chic is said to be absolute, definitive. Orally, it’s the same. The voice, a little hoarse, carries a mixture of melancholy and cheerfulness, and its story, told with as much poetry as force in “Even the noise of the night has changed” (ed. Flammarion), should speak to all those which had to be built in the absence and the unspoken.

SHE. When did you decide to write about your father?

VIOLET D’URSO. From the earliest times after his death. As if I suspected the ephemeral nature of memories. We think we will always remember precisely the people we loved, but that is not true. I’ve always needed to fix things, they end up being diluted, otherwise.

SHE. So you kept a diary at the age of 6?

SEEN It was the year I learned to read and write, so it was very little stuff, mostly words for my loved ones. But I kept everything, and I found letters that were sometimes a little mystical, like this “Dad is still there”, written to my mother! [Rire].

SHE. Like many young orphans, did you doubt the reality of his death?

SEEN Of course. I tell myself that this book is my way, at 23, of finally burying it, for real. That’s probably why it took me three years to write it. Finally… three years, and a lifetime! I was in license when I understood that, for ten years, I turned around. All the subjects that interested me brought me back to this story: in philosophy, I chose to study the phenomenology of memory, in history, I worked on the theme of personal archives, I had become monomaniac! After graduating, I started writing this book.

SHE. Why is your book a novel and not a story, when you do not hide that it is autobiographical?

SEEN My father has always been an imaginary character for me, I spent my life inventing him and I wanted to allow myself to reinvent what I had been told about him. For the joy of telling myself that I could write whatever I wanted, and for the freedom to exercise that power and that force. If I had decided to say that my father had flown on the back of a dragon, I could have done it.

SHE. The book talks a lot about the importance of the heroine’s family in her reconstruction, but also of her friends, most of whom have lost a parent…

SEEN Yes, this “community of orphans” is essential in Anna’s journey. Their life stories are different, but they find themselves on this common pain. Many children who lose a parent say to themselves “it’s my fault, I wasn’t good enough” and also “he or she will come back”. We all have a hope that it will reappear, for birthdays or special occasions. It’s not rational, but the “everything but absence” side is there all the time. Another phenomenon: we mix absence or separation with abandonment. In our affective lives, ruptures are experienced as bereavements. It’s very disturbing, it took me a long time to learn that you could part with a love, or a friend… and find him afterwards. Alive. The book is dedicated “to my sisters”: I was thinking of my three sisters, Clotilde, India and Nine, but also of my closest friends, also orphans.

“A lot of kids who lose a parent think, ‘It’s my fault, I wasn’t good enough.’

SHE. The physical suffering of the heroine is very present in the novel…

SEEN The book allowed me to discover that these pains were linked to bereavement. I spent my life having problems, not necessarily serious, but very annoying. I was constantly looking for medical, rational causes for what I had. While investigating my father I realized that it came from the emptiness of his absence.

SHE. In the novel, Anna grows up surrounded by love. It’s not enough ?

SEEN I think his anger, learning the truth, has something adolescent. But over the course of the book, we understand that the way she was surrounded after her father’s death carried her. It is this breath of life that allows him to have the strength to seek the truth. I mention “The Odyssey” at the end because it is also a learning novel. There comes a time when you have to leave home to build yourself.

SHE. Anna discovers in a brutal way, via a confidence of a friend of her father, that he was not the hero she believed. The scene is crazy!

SEEN For me, it happened almost like that. Overnight, I was shown another reality. At first, I just wanted to go to Italy and, without knowing it, this friend of my father taught me what I was looking for. Where it’s “fictionalized” is that it wasn’t as “great belleza” an evening as that. But it’s true that these old revelers had everything to displease me. Nothing seems worse to me than the guy on cocaine trying to teach you about life at 3 in the morning!

SHE. Did you resent people who knew, including your mother, for not telling you sooner?

SEEN Yes, a lot. I believe that in all families there are secrets, it is a universal problem. Whether we are the one who has it or the one who ignores it, it has terrible consequences. I understood that they wanted to spare me, to protect me, but I find that it is easier to rebuild oneself on the truth than on imaginary or abstract facts. Even if they are not told, secrets are lived. Knowing what we are suffering from.

“I would like people to read my book before they say anything bad about it. »

SHE. What effect did the discovery of his addictions have had?

SEEN Once the shock passed, I realized that what had killed my father was above all a symptom of self-destructive behavior, but it was so much more than that! Everyone who knew him well speaks of a funny, cultured, intelligent, kind and very original man. Which is consistent with my memories. It was from another time, which no longer exists, incredibly poetic… And very neurotic, that’s for sure, but who isn’t? [Rires]. Writing about him was also doing justice to this extraordinary character, who died at the age of 54…

SHE. When you decided to go to Italy in his footsteps, did you talk to your mother about it?

SEEN Of course. She herself was much more present in reality than in the book. She knows that I want to become a writer, and she has always considered my quest as a literary approach. She was right because if I hadn’t had this novel project to keep my own story at bay, I might not have dug so deep.

SHE. What is the most difficult in writing?

VU Writing is a joy for me, but it requires sometimes very harsh patience and solitude. I started this book at 20, an age when we go out a lot, and I quickly understood that without a monastic life, I wouldn’t be able to do it. So I went to live in Marseille, far from my Parisian friends. I was afraid of not working enough, I repeated to myself “there is no talent, talent is waking up at the same time every day, etc. “. And then I was also thinking about how the book might be received. I did five different versions and went through the traditional circuit, sending in my manuscript. Afterwards, I cut a lot, reworked the text – which was over 500 pages! – with my brilliant editors, Alix Penent and Sophie de Closets. If I’ve worked so hard, it’s also to ward off the specter of “nepo baby” [fille de, ndlr] which made us very anxious, my sister Nine and me. We studied, showed that we had our world, an intelligence of our own… and neither of us chose to work in fashion! We are however often brought back to my mother, and rightly so because she is an incredible character, but we are very different. I wish people would read my book before they say bad things about it. [Rires.]

SHE. What helped you the most to get better, writing or going to therapy?

SEEN It’s true that I do everything, I see shamans, I do EMDR, family constellations, I go to caves… [Rires.] I believe in magic in the world! But what helped me the most was writing, without a doubt. I gave birth to my mourning and my novel at the same time. I also have so many signs from my father that I wonder if he doesn’t see me! My book, for example, comes out on March 22 – a complete coincidence – and it’s the anniversary of his death. Recently, I felt very lonely, I walked into a café and, on a mirror, someone had drawn a heart in which was written: “Dad, Violette”. I also found her best childhood friend, by chance, in Rome, when I was supposed to return to France the day before.

SHE. She’s the one who gave you the title of the book?

SEEN No, it was someone close to my father who told me “Even the noise of the night has changed”. She spoke of the Neapolitan fishermen who work at night, and whose songs are now drowned out by the music of the big boats anchored in the bay. This sentence stuck in my head, it spoke to me of my childhood. In my text, there are a lot of insomnias, awakenings, nightmares. I had even had a premonitory dream before learning of my father’s death. The disturbing night, I knew her. As a teenager, when I came home from a party, I was so anxious that I could do my homework at 1 am. [Rires.] I hated those parties where people lost control. I can now tame this fear.

SHE. The relationship to objects is also important in this reconstruction…

SEEN As a child, I had a whole collection of little treasures that had belonged to my father. Today, I wear his clothes. He had his shirts made to measure and only four people in the world manage to close their collars and cuffs: my sisters and me. I took up Urso’s passion for images, iconography: the photo of the painting that illustrates the cover is my father’s universe! When I hold the book in my hands, I feel so much joy… I tell myself that he must protect me somewhere, that this book must please him…

“Even the noise of the night has changed”, by Violette d’Urso (ed. Flammarion)

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