Charlotte Pudlowski, author of “Or maybe a night”: “This book is a declaration of love to my mother”

Charlotte Pudlowski, author of “Or maybe a night”: “This book is a declaration of love to my mother”, The Independent Commission on Incest and Sexual Violence Against Children (Ciivise) organized its first conference, on November, and published the results of a call for testimonies launched last September among victims of incest . In just two months, 2021 people answered the questionnaire of the institution created by Emmanuel Macron on 20 January 2021. First result: 70% of victims consider that society does not protect children enough. And for good reason, the subject is still taboo. Stifled in silence.

This silence is precisely the one that journalist Charlotte Pudlowski has been trying to break since she discovered that he reigned within her own family. She published in September Or maybe one night (1), a book adapted from her eponymous podcast , released a year earlier, which earned it the Philippe Chaffanjon prize for French reporting, then the CB News prize for best podcast 2021. The co-founder of the Louie Media studio went to meet victims of incest, starting with her mother. It is moreover to her, as well as to her sister, that she dedicated her work. Meeting with a clear and strong voice.

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In video, the campaign against violence against children Madame Figaro.- Why did you choose to adapt the podcast into a book?

Charlotte Pudlowski. – At first, when I considered telling my mother’s story, I wanted to do it through a book. And then I co-founded Louie Media Studio, so I did it as a podcast. It also made sense to make this story of silence and the unspoken heard with voices… and silences. But to tell this in a book was to use the media of secrecy with what is most taboo and unspeakable. The transgression of silence is greater there because it is a tangible object in which the story exists, materializes. We can share it, see the words, take pictures of them. I had to free myself from the prohibitions surrounding the subject of incest, and the podcast made it possible to go step by step towards the exit of silence. The book is the culmination of it.

“Intellectual capsizing” If the frame of the book is the same as that of the podcast, it is not an exact replica of the audio. In the meantime the situation has changed …
The challenge was to integrate into the book what had happened in a year, since the release of the podcast, in particular the release of the book by Camille Kouchner, La Familia Grande , but also the legal transformations and the national movement of reflection and debate on the incest that has emerged in our society. The person I was when creating the podcast was also different from the person I was when writing Or Maybe One Night . The release of the podcast caused a huge intellectual but also psychological upheaval in me. I was no longer the same “I”. So I tried to sew all this to the weft of the podcast.

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Did this other format allow you to reach an audience other than that of the podcast?
Podcast is an industry younger, and a whole segment of the population continues to go more easily to books than to podcasts. But reading and listening are also two very different “consumption patterns”. For some people, it is easier to read than to listen because the book can be more reassuring. You can skip a difficult passage for example. For some, hearing voices is too painful.

Listen to the editorial podcast Multiplying the media to talk about incest, was that also a way of leading this “war against silence” , as it is written on the banner of the book?
The idea is to publicize incest and its issues as widely as possible. First, because this subject is extremely important politically, but it is also very important for the victims. It is a key to understanding our society and this is what I aspire to through my profession as a journalist.

L reception of the book different from that of the podcast?

What I struck, it is the difference with which people have confided to me what they lived. They did it with great delicacy when I met them in bookstores, when the way of engaging on the Internet was much more brutal. Of course, everyone is doing what they can and I am not voicing any criticism. But it is true that meetings in bookstores are very beautiful moments. Many people wrote to me to tell me that thanks to Or maybe one night, they were able to talk about what had happened to them around them . Knowing that I was able to help them is my greatest source of joy and I hope this work will continue to help many others.

Incest is still a very taboo subject, it is what you point the finger at through your surveys. Do you feel that the subject has become easier to broach?
It cannot be -being just an impression, but again I feel a reluctance to talk about it. When Camille Kouchner’s book came out (January 7 2021, Editor’s note) , there has been a revival of interest in the podcast Or maybe a night . We felt that we were passing a stage in terms of accepting this subject. The mainstream media who didn’t want to talk about it before started to do so. Then the summer passed, the Sauvé report (on child crime in the ‘Church, Editor’s note) came out and I was amazed to see that we were moved as if we were discovering the extent of this violence for the first time. However, it was already on the front page of the newspaper Le Monde six months earlier. How could people find out these numbers now? The perpetual oblivion that I speak of in Or maybe a night is also what the book embodies. The fact of always having to start over, always saying things again and not letting the silence return.

In Or maybe one night you explain all the forms of silence that surround the subject of incest in our society. Is breaking the silence, making the victims’ voices heard, the first step in combating this scourge?
It is fundamental to do hear the victims. It is a duty to ensure that this word circulates and is heard. But we must be careful that this word does not turn into noise, because that is enough for people to say “it’s good, we heard them, now we move on”. For things to change, it is not enough to repress better or to ensure that perpetrators are convicted. We must change the relations of domination in our society to prevent children from being raped.

“The words of some mobilize those of others” The experts you interview, such as the Defender of the Rights of Women and Children, Eva Thomas, or the psychiatrist Muriel Salmona, say they are “discouraged” to fight and denounce the fact that nothing is moving. What drives you?
What happened this year has given hope to Eva Thomas. She is back in action and has regained a form of optimism. Me, I am not in a logic of activism. I try to understand the society in which we live and to tell its mechanisms as best I can. But what gives me hope is the richness of the reflection carried out on feminism and the mechanisms of domination. It is fascinating and it makes it possible to find an intellectual impetus despite the difficulty of the subject. I am also very sensitive to the passing of the baton between those who talk about incest. Between Camille Kouchner and me, for example. The words of some mobilize those of others. I was also very marked by The Consent of Vanessa Springora . At the end of the day, we are a collective and that generates collective action.

Your mother is a central part of your story, how did she experienced the release of the book and what was the impact on your family circle?
Thanks to the podcast already, the subject is no longer taboo in my family, and it is even less so since the publication of the book. As for my mother, she thinks that I made something beautiful from her story. It is for her an immense consolation which is renewed each time. This book is also a declaration of love to my mother. She is soon 23 years, and before the release of the book, she had already done a tremendous job on herself. But this book tells her how much people love her, how important she is and so does her story. This is enough to justify the three years I spent working on the subject.

(1) Or maybe one night – Incest: the war of silence , Editions Grasset, 272 pages, 20 euros.