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Book of the Week: The Little Girl on the Ice Floe by Adélaïde Bon

Life itself is in these pages: in this candid, poetic style there is storytelling of real quality” – Leila Slimani author of Lullaby

A work of public service that should be read to politicians, judges, and lawyers so they can understand.” ―François Busnel, La Grande librairie

Adélaïde Bon grew up in a wealthy neighborhood in Paris, a privileged child with a loving family. Until one Sunday afternoon, when she got back home from a funfair, alone, and a stranger followed her in the stairwell of her building and raped her. Upon finding their nine year old daughter mute, her parents realised what had happened, and went to the police station. It would take two decades for the police to catch the man who raped her, as well as dozens of others victims. During those two decades, Bon had to struggle with bulimia, dissociation, PTSD, and an array of unhealthy coping mechanisms.

The Little Girl on the Ice Floe takes the reader through the assault, the subsequent trauma and numerous attempts at recovering, but also the challenge of facing one's rapist during the trial. Interestingly, it also offers a detailed accounts of the working of the judicial system, revealing the flaws in pedocriminal legislation, and the under representation of such a widespread phenomenon. Bon's account is thoroughly documented from her personal experience with psychology, and she examines the processes of dissociation, and all the guilt, shame, and intrusive thoughts hindering the victims in their recovery. Finally, it also tackles the everyday violence of language, attitudes, and behaviours towards women, addressing the prevalence of rape culture on its consequence on men's representation of women, and on women's reactions to sexual assault. Bon thus advocates for a deep revaluation of our values as a society and for a change in mentalities.

Bon quickly became obsessed with words, and their power to express her experience so far, and to unveil the trauma lying dormant all this time. As she notes, “There are no words, when you’re nine, to talk about something like this.” Upon first using the word "rape" to described what happened to her, she muses: “What if the key she has been searching for all these years, all these years of seeking in vain, what if the key was that word?". Eventually, language appears to be a form of therapy and to grant her the strength to carry on and process her experience: "I am what is left of a woman after she has been raped. And writing reassembles me, reconnects me, restores me.”

"At a time when the words of victims of sexual violence are breaking free, this testimony entrances with its political scope and cerebral quality." - Pauline Leduc, Livres Hebdo

The Little Girl on the Ice Floe is published by Quercus Books and it was translated by Ruth Diver.

Adelaide Bon is a French writer, actress and voice artist born in 1981. A graduate of the Ecole Superieure d'Art Dramatique in Paris, she has an acting career in theatre and television, and works on issues of gender equality with the European Association Against Violence Against Women and Memoire Traumatique. She lives in Paris. The Little Girl on the Ice Floe is her first book, translated by Ruth Diver and published by MacLehose Press in the UK.

Ruth Diver was head of Comparative Literature at the University of Auckland until 2014. She is the author of Écrivains Russes, Enfants Français (Honoré Champion, 2013) and has published research on translingual literature. A bilingual translator French/English, she also translates from German and Russian. She won two 2018 French Voices Awards for her translations of Marx and the Doll by Maryam Madjidi, and Titus Did Not Love Berenice by Nathalie Azoulai. She also won Asymptote’s 2016 Close Approximations fiction prize for her translation of extracts of Maraudes, by Sophie Pujas. Ruth collaborated with Ros Schwarz in the translation of The Reader on the 6.27 by Jean-Paul Didierlaurent (Waterstones Book of the Month, May 2016) for which she translated the Alexandrine verse. She recently translated Adélaïde Bon’s The Little Girl on the Ice Floe.

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