Marianne: Why does the DSK Affair still fascinate to such an extent?
Stéphane Zagdanski: Probably because on May 14, 2011, DSK became, in spite of himself, the symbol of the insanity of the contemporary world. A polymorphous madness, become “globalised,” as it is said, with its political derangements, its media deliriums or “economic horrors,” to quote Rimbaud, in which we all—without exception—flounder about at this very moment. The at once lunatic and exemplary character of the Sofitel incident was clear to me when I learned that the media covered with which it had been favored surpassed coverage of September 11, 2001.
I understood it was a “tremendous and villainous ensorcellment,” in the sense Artaud would diagnose it. The world today is on its road to ruin; the planet is undergoing its own perdition. DSK, with his bogus liberal science, the smooth-talking great financier devoid of feeling, with his ever-present spin doctors, with his frenzied, grotesque sexuality, with his at the same time good-natured and cynical thoughtlessness, literally “incarnated” this systematic suicidal way in which the world operates. That he ended up crashing and burning is thus not surprising.
Marx was still too optimistic when he foresaw capitalism’s self-destruction for which would be substituted a post-revolutionary humanity. Certainly if, today, neo-liberalism has ignited the fuse of its implosion, in practice it is, alas, bringing the entire planet down into the crater produced by that implosion.
The DSK Affair therefore possesses all the ingredients of the kind of apocalypse we are living, but in the form of a farce, of course.
Was it difficult to write about an on-going court case, with protagonists who appear in your novel using their own names and to whom you give thoughts and words which sometimes are very violent?
Truthfully, Seuil’s lawyers have been very busy. (Laughter) But, basically, I do not feel bothered by this kind of fear. When I write, I am in a trance; the people of whom I speak exist only on the page. It is an unconsciousness in me that verges on innocence. I thereby keep reality that much nearer. I prolifically researched each protagonist in this improbable affair. All the biographical details I relate about DSK, for example, are true: his passion for chess, the earthquake he experienced in Agadir [Morocco] when he was ten years old, which, in my view, explains that his whole life is haunted by earthquake. Whence the cataclysms which punctuate this career, right up to “l’affaire de New York,” which comes to a close with the earthquake which actually occurred on the East Coast of the United States, a rare occurrence, August 23, 2011, at the very second the Public Prosecutor, Cyrus Vance, was attempting to explain to the press why his case was falling apart. All this is known and verifiable. By contrast, freely entering into the thoughts of DSK, of Nafissatou Diallo, of [Benjamin] Brafman, of [Nicolas] Sarkozy and of others, I gave myself the ultimate prerogative of the novelist who “guess through walls,” as Proust said.
You did not want to dig deeply into the relationship between Dominque Strauss-Kahn and his wife Anne Sinclair, contrary to what others did, who behaved like the tabloids, sometimes even like pornographers…
Indeed, and for two reasons: First, I wanted to use only published sources. Anne Sinclair has never spoken about her relationship. Even Nafissatou Diallo was more talkative about the seven minutes she spent with DSK than Anne Sinclair was during their twenty years of living together. The second reason is that to be in love with this man was her right, a right to be respected and that no one may judge. Anne Sinclair comported herself very nobly throughout this affair. There is nothing in it to ridicule, nothing to sully or to tarnish.
Nonetheless, I did not spare this character her bad relationship to Picasso. I even made it the symbol of her destiny. When one day the genius of Guernica said to her mother, “I want to paint your daughter; I see eyes everywhere on her”, the teenager categorically refused. The die was cast: blind of soul, Anne Sinclair would be destined to have all eyes upon her. A television star, the most-famous-look-in-France incarnate, the target of every gaze, she herself would be condemned to not want to see. All the same, it must be remembered what this woman represented for the country until the 1990’s at least. Her blue eyes were a true “mythology,” in the sense Barthes means it.
In the book, you give two versions of the facts. In the one version, DSK is guilty of rape; in the other version, it was an assignation with a prostitute that went wrong. What is your private conviction? One has to ask when you are so closely interested in what happened…
I gave two versions, while very precisely describing the scene at the Sofitel, precisely so as to not have to choose. In a certain way, both are true, because a world in which such an affair can happen no longer participates in the classic domains of truth and lie. My plan was never to conduct the secret counter-investigation of the DSK Affair. Rather, I attempted to imagine how literature, that is to say, the thinking word, could break the universal ensorcellment from which such a nightmare was born.
Interview for Marianne by Aude Lancelin
English translation by Robert G. Margolis