Philippe Besson: finding oneself in front of an empty nest

Philippe Besson: finding oneself in front of an empty nest

What happens in a mother’s heart when the last of her children leaves home? Gifted novelist, excellent in the art of exploring and evoking a wide range of emotions, Philippe Besson returns to fiction by describing the journey of a mother in his new book. A moving novel, seeking beauty in small everyday gestures, The last child shows all the upheavals that accompany a predictable but often heavily emotional passage in life.

Anne-Marie, an “ordinary” woman, married and mother of three children, had feared for several months the day of the departure of her youngest son, Theo. The deadline has arrived and the young man must leave the family cocoon to settle in a studio and continue his studies.

On moving day, she will have to face the facts: nothing will be the same in her house and she will have to get used to Theo’s absence, of all her children in fact, and to the presence of her husband. Patrick, a nice man, but who does not talk much and does not express his emotions.

Anne-Marie revisits moments of her mother’s life with Théo – a life she dedicated to her children, being the pillar of the family. A life in which she is often forgotten. How to find your bearings? How to continue your life, find goals, adapt, maintain confidence?

Return to the novel

Philippe Besson scrutinizes in the smallest details the thoughts and moods of a simple, fragile, authentic woman, and joins something universal in this story which explores attachment, but also the fear of emptiness and lack. emotional.

Reached for an interview while he is also confined to his house in Paris – with a curfew to be respected as well – Philippe Besson explains that he wanted to return to the novel after having written a self-fiction trilogy.

“I wanted to try to play a character that you cannot suspect that I am. I wanted to find someone who was far from me, so I took a character of a woman, and a character of a mother, me who is a man and who is not a parent. “

The fifties

The challenge was to go towards what had pushed him towards writing, at the very beginning. “I wanted to become someone other than myself, live a different life from my own, experience feelings that I wasn’t supposed to have, and try to make them fair, believable, plausible, moving. “

For some time, he had been thinking about the question of mothers whose last child is going away, because many people around him are facing this passage in life. ” I am 53 years old. People around me often have children who are 20 years old and leave. So, I saw that there were people who had lived badly with the departure of their last child, or of a child – what is called empty nest syndrome. “

Very strong feelings

He said to himself that there might be something to explore around this theme. “I found it allowed me to explore the full range of feelings. There was both the feeling of loss, of abandonment, of emptiness too, and emptiness. Emptiness has a real consistency: the empty, silent house, the room where there are no more children. It’s a terrible feeling and at the same time, very physical, very concrete, very material. “

He does not forget the feeling of loneliness, intense, experienced at that time, nor the feeling of worthlessness. “You say to yourself, I was a parent, I had a role, a function, and all of a sudden, what I’m used for, because my child will get by without me. ”

  • Since His brother, published in 2001 and adapted for the cinema by Patrice Chéreau, Philippe has written several bestsellers and has established himself as one of the essential authors of his generation.
  • He wrote Stop with your lies, currently being adapted for cinema, A certain Paul Darrigrand and Dining in Montreal.
  • He also wrote the screenplay for die from love, performed by Muriel Robin, from The bad encounter, with Jeanne Moreau and Our reunion, with Fanny Ardent.


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