Suffering from chronic, cyclical or spontaneous pain, those who lie down have a common posture. Their loneliness too, despite the addition of their voices. Themselves struggling with frequent pain, Martine Delvaux and Jennifer Bélanger pay tribute to these women, in the elongateda book about suffering and resilience.
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When they claim to have written this lengthy essay, in the midst of the pandemic, the two authors are not using a figure of speech. It is literally in their respective beds, like Frida Kahlo, lying down, but disciplined, that they wrote the sum of fragments that make up this short work.
“We have the same work pace, which is frenetic, it’s paradoxical, says Martine Delvaux, novelist and essayist. We work extremely fast because we are always afraid of running out of time. Every day, we sent each other snippets. We wrote this book much faster than we could imagine. Because we have too much production compared to the pain we suffer. »
In his case, it is back pain caused by disc degeneration due to a fall and diagnosed in 2012. “It’s only from the cervical to the lumbar, it’s as if my spine was 20 years older than me,” he illustrates. . Sitting in his publisher’s offices for the interview, when he had been in bed for just two weeks, was “painful” and he felt the need to get up at some point.
Jennifer Bélanger has no diagnosis. And that adds to her suffering.
I was on medical leave for a while, then I gave up. It’s chronic fatigue, so to speak, and headaches. I think they may be migraines related to the eyes. But I don’t have a diagnosis.
Together, the authors know a lot about pain. Jennifer Bélanger has made the body of the sick woman the subject of her doctoral thesis supervised by Martine Delvaux, professor of literature at UQAM. This female pain was also present in her first novel, Menthol, published in 2020 and a finalist for the Governor General’s Literary Awards. As for Martine Delvaux, she submitted a grant application for a major research project on chronic pain in women in relation to the literature.
Then last year, together, they participated in the OFFTA festival to present pain as approached by the American writer Anne Boyer, who was diagnosed with a very aggressive form of breast cancer at the age of 41, and the African-American feminist. activist and essayist Audre Lorde, who died of cancer.
name the unnameable
In their essay, Martine Delvaux and Jennifer Bélanger surrounded themselves with these two women, as well as several others, writers, artists, filmmakers, to combine their personal stories with those of those who also lived the horizontal life. In their texts they drew their way of naming pain. “What interests us, I think, from the beginning, is that pain is unspeakable, it is indivisible, explains Martine Delvaux. That is why torture exists, that is, an executioner can torture because he will not feel the pain. This indivisible was at the center, consciously or not, of the writing exercise. »
Thus, the book is an amalgamation of fragments of texts that are sometimes intimate, sometimes etymological, historical or inspired by significant works. The authors also explore the figure of the reclining woman in art, often seen by the man. However, this woman is not only pain, like the woman lying down in general who, Jennifer Bélanger points out, “represents many emotions: ecstasy, pain, desire, the desire to seduce.” There is also this desire among the authors “to show the bed as a place where we live, adds Martine Delvaux. And maybe remove the cliché that if you’re lying down, you’re not doing anything. we are lying down Because there is a feeling of guilt and fear of suspicion among those lying down: are they believed?
Women certainly don’t have a monopoly on pain, but often in history they have been called lazy, hysterical, or crazy.
“By going there with larger strokes, we wanted to highlight something that is documented: women’s pain, it’s under-treated,” Martine Delvaux underlines. “And it becomes more complex with questions of race, class, sexual orientation, continues Jennifer Bélanger. These are still blind spots in medicine. »
Voices tend to rise and Martine Delvaux cites as an example Lotus-Menus, Véronique Cloutier’s documentary series on menopause and hormone therapy. “If it is not treated, if we do not take care of these women who are at the top of their productivity, we basically exclude them from society, she denounces. What are we operating? »
For her chronic pain, the teacher says she has the support of her employer, who has promised to adapt her task to her abilities. “The fact is that I suspect that my career, in any case academic, will be shortened, probably because of that. »
Also for Jennifer Bélanger, the horizon is “blurred”: “I am not yet established in a professional environment, but it makes me wonder what I have in front of me, what are my possibilities? »
” […] Who decreed that the future belongs only to those who stay up after getting up early?
Jennifer Belanger and Martine Delvaux
In bookstores on October 12
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