French society is going through a stormy moment after the revelation of the secret carried by Camille Kouchner, author of the book ‘La Familia Grande’ (The Big Family).
In a recently published article, Kouchner revealed one of the great dramas of her life: her stepfather, the famous leftist political scientist Olivier Duhamel, abused her brother, and the entire close circle of the French intellectual elite – including her own mother – decided to cover up the story of incest and abuse with a “deafening silence.”
“Camille Kouchner, a slender, clear-eyed woman who for decades was consumed by guilt, has become the great disruptor of French society. Her struggle to free herself from a painful family secret has touched a nerve throughout France,” notes The New York Times.
Kouchner decided to write ‘La Familia Grande’ out of guilt, remorse and heaviness. “Guilt is like a snake,” she reflects in her text that, in the blink of an eye, is making its way around the planet and for several days has been trending.
It was difficult to tell the story of his brother’s abuse and incest for Kouchner. “Olivier Duhamel, her stepfather and the man she accuses of sexually abusing her twin brother when they were teenagers, was at the pinnacle of Parisian intellectual and cultural life before he resigned from all his posts on the eve of the publication of Kouchner’s book,” the Times reads.
Duhamel is a member of the French Socialist Party, serves as a political scientist and constitutional expert and is a respected personality among the French intellectual elite, especially those most sympathetic to leftist ideas.
Camille Kouchner (45) and her twin brother are the sons of Bernard Kouchner, former French Foreign Minister and co-founder of the charity organization Médecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) and academic Evelyne Pisier.
The twins’ mother, Pisier, who passed away in 2017, married Duhamel after separating from Bernard Kouchner.
Pisier perfectly represents why it was so complex for Camille to pursue publication: “Évelyne Pisier, a prominent writer who was a former lover of Fidel Castro and who died in 2017, had turned vehemently against Kouchner over the accusation. ‘La Familia Grande’ of the book’s title was, by extension, a certain left-wing French cultural elite who had chosen to protect one of their own,” the Times reviews.
“Because my mother is dead,” was one of the answers spat out by Kouchner when asked the reason for writing ‘La Familia Grande.’
In one of the most harrowing excerpts, the author quotes her late mother: “If you had spoken, I could have left. Your silence is your responsibility. If you had spoken, none of this would have happened. There was no violence. Your brother was never forced. My husband did nothing. It is your brother who cheated on me.”
The death of one of the accomplices to the alleged act, the feeling of guilt and the need to expose her stepfather was like an ideal formula for bringing ‘La Familia Grande’ to light.
The birth of her son, the Times reports, also played a role in Kouchner’s decision, as she realized “she could not keep quiet about Duhamel for fear he would strike again.”
Abuse and incest
Of course, we must not leave aside the heart of the matter, ‘La Familia Grande,’ which decided to cover up and turn a blind eye to the incest and abuse that Kouchner denounces. All of them, prominent French leftist artists and writers, lovers of the Cuban Revolution -some literally- took it upon themselves to keep a secret that for decades weighed on several consciences.
“Very quickly, the microcosm of people in power, Saint-Germain-des-Prés, was aware. Many knew about it and most of them acted as if nothing had happened,” writes Kouchner.
“This case is reminiscent of that of French writer Gabriel Matzneff, investigated for pedophilia after one of his victims, Vanessa Springora, described the relationship she had with him when she was just a teenager and the control he exercised over her in the book ‘Le Consentement.’ In that book, published a year ago, Springora exposed what the Parisian literary world always knew and saw, without ever condemning it: the writer’s assumed and vindicated pedophilia,” says AFP.
In Duhamel’s case, the twin’s sister also assumes guilt: “My guilt is one of consent. I am guilty of not having stopped my stepfather, of not having understood that incest is forbidden.” It is also noted that the author’s maternal family suffered from depression and suicides were constant, so there was fear that her mother might commit suicide. She eventually died of cancer.
Duhamel, on the other hand, hired a powerful lawyer for his defense and advised on Twitter that he resigned from his jobs because he did not want to besmirch the name of the institutions where he served.
“It has become clear that Duhamel benefited from the silence of many in his circle of friends in Paris, a recurring pattern in cases involving powerful men. Jean Veil, a prominent Paris lawyer, and Frédéric Mion, director of Sciences Po – where the intellectual served as agency head – have acknowledged that they knew about the sexual abuse allegations, but took no action against Duhamel,” the Times explained.
The story gained significant traction. Kouchner’s brother, called “Victor” in the story, first filed a lawsuit against Duhamel.
“By taking that “small chance” she has caused what the French call an affaire, a sort of political-cultural explosion. The hashtag #MeTooInceste has taken off as tens of thousands of French victims break the taboo. The book, published this month, has sold more than 200,000 copies. Several of Duhamel’s friends, including Élisabeth Guigou, a former justice minister, have resigned from important posts,” the pages of The New York Times continue to read.
Even French President Emmanuel Macron took to Twitter to applaud “the courage of a sister who could no longer remain silent” and condemned “a silence built by criminal and successive acts of cowardice.” Despite this, it remains to be seen how the whole story of incest, abuse, and the “deafening silence” of La Familla Grande will end.