The definitive book on the Dominique Strauss-Kahn sex scandal has already appeared in France. Better yet, it is a novel.
Using free tone and bad taste that might make certain readers scream, the author revisits the whole scandal, starting with the rape scene inside room 2806 and ending with DSK’s performance on TF1 news journal, mentioning in between the details of his quarrels with Anne Sinclair, whom he transforms into a dreadful harpy.
It will nevertheless be an error to consider this unprintable Encule/Ass Hole a pamphlet. It is a novel, a real novel, in which Nabe takes a lot of pleasure – and we the readers too – making fun of these poor characters, tragic and grotesque at the same time, these ordinary beings victims of their most bestial urges. Like this moment in the book where DSK, alone in his cell, addresses in a desperate monologue his penis, like a modern Hamlet or a Marquis de Sade reshaped by Topor.
Page after page, slipping into the breaches of his intimacy, fantasizing his neurosis, dissecting his baseness, Nabe brings to DSK a coat of humanity that the journalists – writing about him for four months – could not transcribe. Better than that, he creates out of him a real character, closer and almost more real than the original. And that is his strength and freedom of a novelist.
Pierre Ancery: Why did you chose to write a novel about the Dominique Straus Kahn scandal?
Marc Edouard Nabe: I did not want just to give my opinion, write a comment. I could have written a pamphlet or a tract, but the novel gave me the possibility of slipping into DSK’s head, which is much more fun. It is a quite complex work, but the most exciting part was to do it live, while the scandal was still going on. Some writers chose to write novels about news stories, like Morgan Sportes with his book on Ilan Halimi. He publishes five years later and changes the names: how exciting! Me I chose to keep the real names. And I was with Straus Kahn all the time, I lived with him for four months. I consider that I was closer to him than any of his defenders. I was in mental connection with him.
Pierre Ancery: how much of you the author is there in this character? At certain moments it feels like you are the one talking through him?
Marc Edouard Nabe: Yes but that is normal. Look at all the writers who went under the skin of somebody else, their characters are also them, which is quite banal, Flaubert used to say: “Mrs Strauss Kahn is me!”. The difference here is to dissolve into a man who is known worldwide. Emptied by the media, DSK became hollow, nobody really knew how he was living his story from inside, I filled him with literature and with a truth, I think, that is more fair than the one the journalists and his close allies had invented either to attack or defend him. It is almost a gift I am making him going so deeply into his soul, a soul he might not even have at that level. A lot among the people who know him told me he was not as “good” as that in reality. What I learnt about him is what everybody knows, but I of course added a lot of elements that allowed me to reach the substance of the character. You have to mention that I don’t know him at all, nevertheless it is exactly him. It is magic. I believe in magic. Besides, since my novel was published DSK has let his beard grow, at the exact moment The Ass Hole was fresh out of the print. Even if he doesn’t know it, this book will change him.
Pierre Ancery: Is your literary DSK really that close to the real DSK? You have made a sexual predator out of him, but also a racist and anti-semite. This comes out of nowhere, isn’t it?
Marc-Edouard Nabe: In Michel Taubmann’s biography, DSK becomes more aware of his jewishness when he meets Anne Sinclair, she is the one who pushes him to defend Israel obstinately. He was never really interested before, he only became like that when he turned 40. His two previous wives and his five children are not jewish. Then I of course extrapolated. For example I have imagined that DSK spoke very bad English, which is not true in reality.
What I was interested in was to build a character with depth. Some say that I put in him my favorite themes, it can be discussed, but the important is to see if it is credible or no, and everybody thought it was highly credible on a psychological level. The fact that he might be sick of his wife’s obsession with the Holocaust is perfectly plausible. It is a common spring mechanism inside any couple: to hate what the other adores. My DSK is not the first romanesque Jew who cannot stand his community anymore.
Pierre Ancery: Would you have been able to publish this book within the classical editorial circuit?
Marc Edouard Nabe: No this book is a kind of editorial and literary challenge. I wrote and published a book which is theoretically impossible to write and publish. The Ass hole, the title already, which publisher would have accepted it? None. You have to know that “the ass hole” is meant in the sense of the guy who always gets away with things he does. He got away with the Sofitel, he got away with the Banon case, he will get away with the Carlton scandal, he always does. He is a cheerful cynic who takes on. I wanted to create a type, like the Misanthrope. Yes not less than that! My originality is that everybody knows the character of the Ass Hole while the characters that inspired Moliere to write l’Avare or Tartuffe might have really existed but we don’t know them.
Pierre Ancery: You frequently mention monkeys in this book, why?
Marc Edouard Nabe: It is very simple. In her first interview with Ardisson, Tristane Banon, says that DSK made her think of a chimpanzee in rut. I kept her metaphor and I elaborated on it. I thought: why wouldn’t he think of himself that way? He would take on himself as a monkey and metamorphoses himself in a kafkaian way into a chimpanzee or gorilla depending on the moment of the day; plus he has the same passion that inhabits proboscis monkeys, a kind of monkey I like a lot, because they are very funny, grotesque and moving at the same time, encumbered by their trunk, with all the sexual symbolism that goes with it.
Pierre Ancery: you depict Anne Sinclair as a hysteric who is obsessed with zionism, who spends her evenings crying while watching documentaries about Auschwitz. Don’t you think you’re pushing it a bit?
Marc Edouard Nabe: It is much closer to the reality than what you seem to think. Of course I exaggerate her pathological zionism and her passion for all the details of World War II, but this is due to my humor and my own bad taste. The hell with those who do not appreciate.
Pierre Ancery: There is a moment when DSK has a diarrhea in his cell and he wipes himself with Elie Wiesel’s Night. When you write this, you know perfectly that you will trigger reactions…
Marc Edouard Nabe: I don’t write to trigger reactions. I don’t care, it has no importance at all. I have already sufficiently said all what I thought on these questions so it would be absurd to try me for using DSK and putting my thoughts in his mouth. If it is written “Novel” on the book cover, it means it is a novel. To get to the point where I am today, we don’t hope not to be tried just with writing “novel” on the cover. This book was written in total freedom without any restraint or self-censorship. It is an example of what should always be done but that publishers, critics, readers, in brief the bourgeoisie, prevents. The hell with all those who accept this social jumble which is against art. This is first of all a very funny book. You know, we are not that many in literature who are able to make people laugh. I am not interested in making people smile or chuckle, I want the burst of laughter, I want the orgasm. Of course, if you read this book as if it was a police report, it’s not funny. And I think that even DSK himself can laugh while reading it. It is impossible to resist it even if it’s about you.
Pierre Ancery: This very dark humor is close to the one that characterized Hara Kiri where you started as a young writer. For example, the moment in your book where the private detective hired to investigate in Africa ends up eaten by cannibals…
Marc Edouard Nabe: Of course yes. It was also a way to say many things about Africa and racism. There was a great amount of contempt for Africa during this scandal coming from people like Jean Francois Kahn or Robert Badinter who never bothered pronouncing the name of Nafissatou Diallo. Cohn-Bendit still cannot say it correctly. We heard a lot of incredible things: Ivan Levai explaining that you can’t rape someone if you don’t have a gun or a knife… I answer to all this in the novel when I explain a raped woman’s point of view.
In the end, my book is a very feminist one, when I explain that a guy can rape a woman without having any weapons and how the body, at a certain moment, loosens up to accept the horror. This excerpt would do good to all those feminists like Clementine Autain if they were not so sadly sectarian. Because even though I am not an activist pro Nafissatou Diallo or Tristane Banon, in my heart I am on their side. Not because I am looking for paradox, but because I am for the truth. And of course I am absolutely certain that neither of them had lied.
Pierre Ancery : Aren’t you afraid of being tried for this novel? The occasions won’t lack for that…
Marc Edouard Nabe: But that all I am asking for! Anne Sinclair, inheritor of her grand-father Rosenberg, the art trader who made all his wealth with Picasso, Braque and Matisse, who is “archi millionaire”, sewing a writer who self-edits a 2000 copies book? If we get to this point, we will reach degrees of mise en abyme of my own literature that would be phenomenal. With Picasso himself serving to bankrupt me, me who is not even bankruptable since I own nothing! I will go to Rikers Island and my wife will bring me Bagatelles pour un massacre (Trifles for a massacre) to wipe myself with…
Pierre Ancery: We can easily guess that you don’t hold DSK in your heart but still in the end his weaknesses make him likable.
Marc Edouard Nabe: He represents everything I hate: wealth, abuse of power, cynicism, manipulation, corruption, vulgarity. What is most odious about him is his political stance, his deceit of the left. When you think that all those who are spitting on him today would have voted for him without a blink in a second round against Sarkozy, even though they knew perfectly well who he was, not only as a horndog but as a finance torpedo gunner, an IMF janitor, a Greece or Ireland slaughterer.
But besides all this, what is likable about the character, is the fact that he is a guy who, at the end of the day, does not really care about anything, about politics, about IMF. All he is interested in is to watch an ass who passes by. He knows he is 62, that time is counted, he won’t be able to fuck until 90. Here there is a humanity that I could reach, I think. There is all the fuss about the mystery of woman’s orgasm, but what happens in the head of a man when desire goes up in him is something never talked about. I think that a lot of women can learn a lot reading this book about what happens in a man. This suffering no woman can experiment. And we can wonder about that. Because if you strip everything of him, what is left is a man who wanted to fuck at a certain moment and who sacrificed everything for this desire. This is the beauty of it, and this is what makes my character, and the one who inspired him, universal.
By Pierre Ancery
10 Feb 2012