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Daughters of de Beauvoir: Feminism at Beyond Words Festival

Because literature is such a powerful way to shape and shift mentalities, our French Literature Festival Beyond Words, which will take place between May 15th and May 20th, will have a feminist orientation aiming to offer a platform for expression to French writers who have written about feminism or consider themselves to be activists.

Several of our guest authors are known for their feminist commitment. In the context of the seventieth anniversary of the publication of Simone de Beauvoir’s The Second Sex, and in the midst of the #metoo movement, our festival wants to highlight the feminist fights that have taken place – a and are still very much taking place – in the Western world.


We believe that literature is not a simple political object: it is a voice which, through the prism of individuality, refracts society, the Other, those whose voice is not heard. Studies and research might provide objective facts and figures, and yet they fail to render the reality of experience, whereas fiction grapples with lived experiences and emotions.

Our programmation “Daughters of de Beauvoir” will be composed of two events.

Daughters of de Beauvoir #1 (http://beyondwordslitfest.co.uk/daughters-of-de-beauvoir-1-the-feminist-era/) will be focused on very contemporary themes. Adélaïde Bon, accompanied by her translator Ruth Diver, will be discussing her autobiographical novel The Little Girl on the Ice Floe, tackling themes of sexual violence, child trauma, and personal reconstruction after a rape. French-Iranian screenwriter Négar Djavadi will be talking about Disoriental, a tale of several generations of Iranian and French women highlighting the evolution of the female condition and granting the debate an intersectional dimension through her own experience as an exile. They will be joined by London Review of Books columnist and Silver Press founder Joanna Biggs to engage in a discussion about the present stakes of feminism and the #metoo movement.

Daughters of de Beauvoir #2 (http://beyondwordslitfest.co.uk/daughters-of-de-beauvoir-2-simone-de-beauvoirs-legacy/) will be grounded on Academy Award Nominee Imogen Sutton’s documentary Daughters of de Beauvoir and question the philosophical and literary legacy of de Beauvoir, in the presence of novelist Margaret Drabble (whose novels have explored themes such as abortion or maternity) and biographer Sarah LeFanu (well-known for her work on misogyny in science fiction). Film critic Kate Muir, who has been a spokesperson for Time's Up UK and Birds' Eye View, will chair the discussion.

Outside of this panel, many of our guests have shown an interest in gender equality. Olivia Rosenthal has denounced domestic violence and feminicide in her novel Toutes les femmes sont des aliens. Novelist and translator Pierre Ducrozet has long advocated for an intersectional approach to feminism, claiming the close links between feminism and other political struggles, notably ecology. I quote “The two revolutions of the century are coming together: it is mostly women who take over this fight for the planet. That is of course no coincidence: it is the world of oil and paternalism, the world of patriarchy and capital walking hand in hand, who threw us out there.”

Finally, Times Literary Supplement cartoonist Ella Baron has drawn a number of covers on feminism, mental health and sexual assault. During her first exhibition at Christie’s, she claimed that “I don’t want to be a female cartoonist, I just want to be a cartoonist – you know, as men are.

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