Inspiring women: Laurence Cossé – keeping the world’s brutality at bay
To the question “Why do you write?” Jean Dutourd answered: “It’s in my nature to write just as it’s in a cat’s nature to meow.”
In this intimate portrait of a female author, Laurence Cossé¹ reveals her passion for literature and speaks openly of her work.
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Laurence Cossé: the other version
Laurence Cossé comes from a large family. She was a child who liked to read, dream and spend time alone. What she called “a sensitivity disorder” made her see the world, from a very young age, as brutal and tragic.
But for her there was another version of the world, one of imagination, where she could give free rein to expression without the risk of being attacked.
After completing her baccalaureate, her father suggested she take her time thinking about what she wanted to do. She remembers being shocked by the idea, she wanted to work!
She studied journalism at the Paris Institute of Political Studies, but found these studies less interesting than those at the club created by Jacques Delors, ‘Échanges et projets’, that her friends attended. After graduating, she was a journalist for ten years at the ‘Quotidien de Paris’.
Laurence Cossé’s first novel was released when she was 30 (‘Les Chambres du Sud’, 1981, Gallimard). She then gave up journalism for literature. Her theory, having had three children in four years, is:
It is possible to work and to write, and to work and to have children, but it is impossible to work, raise children and write!
Balancing writing and family life
Laurence Cossé always had a place to work; an attic room on the 6th floor where she could be alone: “a room bursting with archives and books, but it was organised.”
When her children were little, she always started her day with domestic duties: the well-being of the whole family was her priority, and the time devoted to writing depended on it. “Everything stopped when a child was sick”.
However, she recalls that the heavy load of family responsibility also kept her strongly grounded, firmly structuring her time and her psyche.
Being an author
A writer is alone: they are their own sponsor, boss, worker, and supervisor.
The income is irregular and unpredictable: we don’t know how long it will take to write a book, we are never sure whether we’ll complete it successfully, or if it will be well received.
There are moments of inspiration and of breakdowns and periods where we have nothing to write. Until one day, again, we have an idea, a bit like a lightning strike, powerful enough that the author knows they will be spending a lot of time working with this idea.
The equivalent to being a writer? “Passionate love” says Laurence Cossé, “There’s the same intensity, the same commitment, and it consumes all.” Umberto Eco said it well; writing is a pleasure… an erotic one!
Permission to write
Although writing has been a joy for Laurence Cossé since early childhood, she took several years to allow herself to write, thinking that she had more important things to accomplish: “there’s so much to do for justice and solidarity, for others.”
And then she gave in:
My true nature had caught up with me…
Is that not a beautiful way of keeping the world’s brutality at bay?
We interview Laurence Cossé
Do we change?
Style and thought evolve. My books have changed as much as I have.
Of your books, do you have a favourite?
I never open my books. I only think about the one I’m currently writing.
Do you get writer’s block?
Writing is my life. When I don’t write, I live normally, I keep active, but with something missing, a deep worry: will I have, one day, again, something to write about? When I have a book in progress, I feel better. The challenges are numerous, but the solution is a matter of work. Just find time to write every day.
What is the future for books?
The book’s body, its substance, is disappearing and I regret that the world tomorrow will be deprived of the physical presence of books.
Can you recommend a book?
‘Benvenuta: la confession anonyme’ by Suzanne Lilar, mother of Françoise Mallet Joris (Éditions Gallimard, 1983).
Do you like to read? What is your favourite book? Share your love of literature with us below!
Inspiring women: collaborative partnership with MidetPlus.fr
[This article was originally written in French by Author: Marie-Hélène Cossé]
Here at MyFrenchLife™ we have pleasure in announcing our collaborative partnership with French site MidetPlus.fr to produce this new series: ‘Inspiring women’.
This article first appeared on MidetPlus.fr and we have translated it into English for your added pleasure: publishing in both French and English. Mid&Plus takes a decidedly positive view of women in the world and produces wonderful portraits of inspiring women.
This collaboration enables you to read this series of inspiring life stories in French (links below) and in English here on MyFrenchLife™ – MaVieFrançaise® magazine and also to visit midetplus.fr for further inspiration.
We hope that you enjoy it.
Meet these inspiring women: Spirit . Strength . Stories
Marie-Hélène Cossé – founder of MidetPlus
Claire Basler – artist
Zahia Ziouani – conductor
Alix Baboin-Jaubert – pilgrim
Jenny Brown – animal protection
Tina Kieffer – journalist
Hannelore Cayre – lawyer, author, film-maker
All images © Mid&Plus
Translated by Simone Allen ¹Laurence Cossé, journalist and literary critic has published a dozen novels and a collection of stories, mostly by publishing house Éditions Gallimard. She took part in writing a collective book ‘La Révolution du temps choisi’, as well as the creation of an association fighting against unemployment ‘Solidarités Nouvelles face au Chômage’ with Jean-Baptiste de Foucauld in 1985. The association offered those searching employment a personalised support system thanks to a network of volunteers across France. In 2015, she received ‘le Grand prix de littérature de l’Académie française’ rewarding all of her work. Her latest novel is: ‘La Grande Arche’ (Éditions Gallimard, January 2016).