From Chateaubriand to Léopold Sédar Senghor, a plethora of politicians are also literati. But what women ? They are obviously rarer, as politics has long been the prerogative of these gentlemen, just like literary life.
However, great writers involved in politics come to mind, starting with Olympe de Gouges, playwright and essayist, who played such an important role during the Revolution; we also think of Germaine de Staël, a figure on the European scene, writer and woman of ideas, leader of romanticism with Delfina Where Corinne or Italyand liberalism with Thoughts on the French Revolution.
Political life opens up, the doors multiply
In the following century, the tradition was perpetuated with George Sand, converted around 1835 to socialist ideas, who was deeply involved in the Revolution of 1848 – he even participated in the Bulletin of the Republic, the official newspaper of the Provisional Government! At the turn of the century, Louise Michel became known for her feminist and anarchist commitment and for her works, plays, novels, short stories.
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But it is in the twentiethAnd century, with the opening of political life to women – Léon Blum appointed three women to his government in 1936, the French acquired the right to vote in 1944, Simone Veil and Françoise Giroud were ministers under Giscard, the bridges between political activity and women literature.
Françoise Giroud illustrates this dual role, she who was André Gide’s assistant in the 1930s, and who throughout her life has mixed political activism – as a journalist or minister – and writing – author or juror of the Prix Femina. Her colleague Huguette Bouchardeau, member of Parliament and later Minister of the Environment under François Mitterrand, is known for her fine career as an editor, writer and biographer; as for Gisèle Halimi, in addition to her feminist commitment as a lawyer, she was Deputy of Isère in 1981, and at the same time she led a career as a writer rich in fifteen books (Orange milk, Fritna).
The majority of left-wing writers
This double commitment is still widespread today. Laure Adler did not hold an elective mandate, but she assisted François Mitterrand and held several prestigious positions in cultural institutions, publishing numerous books, the latest of which titled The night traveler (Grass, 2019). We also think of the emblematic case of Aurélie Filippetti, then deputy minister of Culture under François Hollande from 2012 to 2014, author of critically acclaimed novels (The last days of the working class, A man in your pocket, The ideals).
Christiane Taubira, former Keeper of Seals, author of numerous political essays, known for her lyric verb and her love for poets, also crossed the Rubicon in 2019 with a collection of short stories, night of thorns (Plon, 2019). Diana Filippova and Pauline Delpech have occupied less exposed positions (the former is an activist of Raphaël Glucksmann’s Place Publique movement and a member of the Parisian cabinet of Anne Hidalgo, the second EELV activist and city councilor in the 17thAnd arrondissement of Paris), but they are also known as novelists. We note through these examples that if the type of political writer is marked on the right, most of the political writers are on the left. A topic to dig for specialists?
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Hillary Clinton’s political thriller
Be that as it may, the figure of the politician who has become a woman of letters – or the other way around – is not exclusive to France. Carmen Naranjo, whose novels marked Costa Rica’s literary history, served as Minister of Culture in 1974. In Bulgaria, Blaga Dimitrova published several novels and poetry collections while serving in the National Assembly and became the first elected vice president of the country. Monique Ilboudo, who has published four novels since 1992, held various ministerial positions in Burkina Faso in the 2000s. In Italy we think of the flamboyant revolutionary activist Luciana Castellina, journalist, writer and MEP until 1999.
In the United States, Georgian Congresswoman Stacey Abrams is pursuing a career as a writer under the name of Selena Montgomery … and the continent’s most famous – retired – politician, Hillary Clinton, has just teamed up with her friend, the Canadian writer. Louise Penny, write state of terror, a political thriller translated these days. The story of an American Secretary of State – hey, hey! – Faced with a plot against his country, with nuclear danger and Russian involvement. Any resemblance to actual facts, past or present, would be purely coincidental …
This article was originally published in Read the literary magazine in May 2022. Find the complete issue on the Read the literary magazine .