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Alice Fernie. “I don’t write to judge my characters, but to understand them”

Alice Fernie’s new novel about the drama of the accused teacher tells a dizzying account of the creation of the culprit. And it questions our society.

At L’Embellie Associates, Claire is a valued teacher who is particularly attentive to the welfare of vulnerable students. Newbie Gabrielle thus thrives in contact with her. However, the teenager’s mother is disturbed by this intimacy, and the director of the institution decides to satisfy her rather than protect her teacher; then a tireless machine is set in motion… two innocent where the innocence of a child and an innocent woman echo each other, Alice Fernie revisits the psychological thriller in a very personal way to question the damaging power of suspicion and the workings of educational and judicial institutions. Interview with the author Love conversationwhose precision and delicacy of analysis have never ceased to fascinate us.

In the video, Super-8 years By Annie Erno and David Erno, excerpt

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“I didn’t invent the heroine, I tried to understand her”

Madame Figaro . – Why did you choose a heroine against the current, a woman who wants to be ordinary and even old-fashioned in some ways?
Alice Fernie.– Claire is not really a powerful woman in the social sense of the term. He has no power within the association that employs him, and he is a precarious worker whose social rights are not even respected. Her strength is marital stability, motherly love, faith, heart in reality. And he will be attacked in the only place where he is confident in his power, in his ability to be kind to others. He is a hidden hero, one of those characters from whom we did not expect extraordinary courage or a heroic gesture, and who will prove themselves capable of it… I should add that. Two innocents based on a true story. It was not about imagining the novel to tell a moment or to create a female model, but to pose the problem of doubt and undeserved suffering, a problem that struck me like a trap, a border, to the extent that we live in a country. an era of good intentions concerned with respect for others and victims.

This book is based entirely on compassion work and experience

Alice Fernie

Here, one accused is actually a victim, just…
Yes, and this is something that interested me. How can such a story be? What does it say about the dangers hidden in the legal focus on the most vulnerable: women, children, people with disabilities? I didn’t invent a heroine, I tried to understand her, put myself in her place, imagine what she went through. This book is based entirely on the experience of work and compassion; the suspect – the mother, and the wrong suspect – the teacher.

Two innocents After all, he also thinks about the role of the school institution.
Of course, the school, as a place of living and training, is one of the themes of the novel. In reading the work of educational psychologists, I discovered how the quality and warmth of the relationship between teacher and student are extraordinary drivers of learning. However, love is taboo at school in France. a teacher is not there to love his students, but to teach them. Because she suffered from this school, my heroine wants to be encouraging and warm, she expresses a tenderness that is reinforced by the fact that her students are in great trouble and in great need of signs of love. He is convinced of the advantages of his approach, he sees the results every day. Its director, on the contrary, embodies the official line, he is not bound by the consequences of his decisions, only by the rules. Therefore, Claire is initially a kind of powerless rebel because, despite her modesty, she holds her line…

“I came as close as I could to revealing things to make the reader witness”

This book is in keeping with the tradition you hold dear: the psychological novel…
I am interested in what people experience inside, emotions, thoughts and inner transformations. The sources of this mother-teacher-principal trinity that captivated me are essentially psychological. I was interested in two things: how and why does a person raise doubts? What does a person feel who is suspected and unjustly accused? We are taught from childhood that blaming a friend is serious, we should never forget that. Blame dirty, wounds, weakening. At trial, the guilty defendant is paradoxically less helpless than the innocent defendant, as the latter struggles to imagine what he is accused of or to believe that his defense is adequate. Claire tells herself that we will see her integrity, it is enough for her to be herself, that the truth will prevail. However, the truth does not win alone, it is counter-intuitive and almost disturbing. How to prove that one is this or that, that the gesture had such and such an intention? This way, Two innocents extends the reflection begun in my book The others What to answer to others who qualify us, who comment on us?

I write not to judge my characters, but to understand them.

Alice Fernie

Did you also want to capture a pattern specific to thrillers: the spiral of miscarriage of justice?
In general, I do not consider myself a queen of suspense, on the contrary. A friend teased me about the first sentence Love conversation – “Some of the future lovers were walking down the street.” – I immediately said the main thing. He wasn’t wrong. I don’t like recipes, this forced framework – initial situation, triggering events, then resolution – annoys me. This time I wanted to stay true to the events, almost absent, forbidding any comment or distraction. I tightened things up as much as possible to make the reader witness. He sees how the class works, the spirit in which Claire works, how others interpret her; then the involvement of the case, its stakes, its mechanics… It is a form of investigation that could have been carried out by an investigating magistrate. For the first time, I wrote in the present tense, which gives the text a form of precision and immediacy that I liked to work with. My writing is simplified, and perhaps this is what gives the reader the impression of a kind of narrative slide…

Was this book also about questioning justice and the judicial system for you?
I think of novels in terms of narrative and theme, with background meaning and themes that make us think about what is anecdotal in the first place. Thus I was led to study the legal procedure, instruction, etc. For two years I have read about all the great cases, from Outreau to the Red Sweater, passing by Gabriel Roussier, as well as the cases of criminal lawyers such as Jean-Yves Moyart or Hervé Témim, who speaks; the moving path of the accused’s solitude. They have studied very carefully how the most disastrous gestures occur, and as a result they have a real sense of mitigating circumstances. The habit of rubbing their shoulders in immense pain gives them such a gentleness towards a person that a novelist should also have. I write not to judge my characters, but to understand them. This is what I like about the novel. that we take the time to perceive, decipher and listen to the experiences, intentions, feelings that we leave each day to convey the inability to stay in them. The famous “thick life” that Proust speaks of when he describes the art of the novel is also the life of others…

two innocentBy Alice Ferney, Éditions Actes Sud, 320 p., €22.

Source: Le Figaro

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