Journalist Camille Emmanuelle, wife of cartoonist Luz, survivor of the “Charlie Hebdo” massacre, looks back on the place of relatives of the victims of the attack in an intimate investigation.
For her, the time has come. That of speaking up, of reclaiming a story long confiscated. Journalist and writer Camille Emmanuelle is, although she does not like to be presented only in this way, the wife of cartoonist Luz. On January 7, 2015, the couple, who have been dating for a year, are in the lightness of emerging love when terrorists enter the editorial staff of “Charlie Hebdo”. Luz escapes the bullets… You have to survive nonetheless. For them, it means a total change of life: the urgency is to tame the trauma, but also to hide, because the threat is always there. Luz has the design as a lifeline. Camille Emmanuelle, she prefers to be silent. Too afraid to speak for others, to be reproached for the indecency that there would be in speaking out about a tragedy that touched her… indirectly. She’s the one who uses this word whispered to her by a psychologist. This is how she titled her book. A literary UFO, half diary, half gonzo investigation. A hybrid, raw, kaleidoscopic text. Camille Emmanuelle courageously gets naked while wondering about the place of all the relatives of the victims while the trial of the attacks of November 13, 2015 will open in a few days. How many are there to mourn the missing, to support survivors, to support traumas? How many collateral victims, how many ricochets? After having been silent for a long time, Camille Emmanuelle goes to “I”.
CAMILLE EMMANUELLE. It’s a mix between personal story and journalistic investigation. Part of the field of investigation is me and my brain blown, and the other is all that touches on this question: what does being a ricochet mean? Psychologically, legally, philosophically, on a daily basis, what happens when you are close to someone who is the victim of an attack?
C.E. At the beginning of the book, I speak of ricochet victim, then ricochet. I prefer the second term, which includes those who share this experience, but who do not see themselves as victims. For me, a ricochet is the relative of a victim of a traumatic event who, because of this link, will undergo decisive consequences on his psyche, his body, his emotions, his life. I heard it the first time from the mouth of a shrink who, in the emergency room of the Hôtel-Dieu, on January 7, was conducting interviews with the survivors and witnesses of the “Charlie” attack. I accompanied my husband there. She turned to me at the end and used that expression, “ripple victim”. At the time, I found that overkill, bordering on irrelevant.
SHE. YOU DO NOT AGREE TO BE RECOGNIZED AS A VICTIM?
C.E. No one saw me as a victim except my big sister. At the beginning, it was out of the question for me to speak on these subjects. I didn’t feel legitimate. I was not a victim, my husband did not feel a victim. It took him a long time to tell himself that he was a survivor of the attack and that he had suffered from what had happened. As for me, I was like, “He’s alive, he’s not physically injured, what am I complaining about?” It was only later that I understood that I was a victim by ricochet. When the lawyer who represented me with the guarantee and compensation fund told me that I was an indirect victim. There was, at that time, a form of institutional recognition that made me tell myself that I was not crazy. I went through episodes of depression, I had addictive behaviors. I did not understand why I developed this type of behavior, when my husband, a direct victim, seemed to be doing better. It was the world upside down. As I interviewed people for the book, I understood that there are things going on with indirect victims that don’t happen with direct victims. That doesn’t mean it’s worse. But it’s different.
SHE. WHAT IS BINDING YOU ABOUT THE WORD “VICTIM”?
C.E. It’s less the word than the way to use it. Saying “I am a victim” is not the same as saying “I was a victim” which means that it is part of my journey, but it does not define my identity. I have a concern with a certain contemporary victim discourse through which we define ourselves by something that has happened to us. Whatever dramatic events we have gone through in life, we are a palette of identities.
SHE. TO BE A RICOCHET, IS TO SUPPORT THE OTHER UNTIL YOU FORGET?
C.E. Unlike others, I had to deal with someone who was hurt mentally, but not physically. I did not do any psychology training. I had to learn on the job what post-traumatic stress was. I didn’t know much about “Charlie”, it wasn’t my world. It was complicated to tell me that it was not my story, but his. We had to learn to disassociate.
SHE. HOW TO EMANCIPATE FROM THE PAIN OF THE OTHER?
C.E. Through psych work. By having a child, which allowed me to “zoom out” my gaze on the other. The fact that he is getting better, quite simply. I have seen my husband transform this proof into drawings, I have seen him flourish in parenthood. I saw him happy, which made me worry less.
SHE. AND REALIZE THAT IT WAS YOU WHO WAS ALLIED BAD?
C.E. Once my husband and child were safe, I said to myself: “Ah, they’re fine! But me, it’s not at all actually. It was as if I had taken them to the emergency room to be taken care of and realized that I also had a scar on my thigh. It’s nothing, a scar, but it still needs to be treated. It took me a long time to realize that my drinking was problematic. Because it was really a drug that made me feel good.
C.E. Sort of. I took pride in not taking medication. But when you knock yourself out in the evening with a bottle of red wine, it’s not great… With the drugs, you are followed by a shrink who controls your consumption. The wine merchant does not tell you to take it easy …
C.E. The writing of this book. One of the negative effects of alcohol is memory failures. However, I wanted to be lucid and sincere to write. I was also tired of getting people drunk in the evening, monopolizing the floor. When I understood that addictive behaviors could be part of post-traumatic symptoms, I wanted to correct that.
SHE. WHOM YOU WRITTEN THIS BOOK?
C.E. For all the ricochets. When there was the attack on a gay club in Florida in 2016, I twisted, I almost went there to meet relatives of the victims, and hug them.
SHE. ON SEPTEMBER 8, THE TRIAL OF THE ATTACKS OF NOVEMBER 13 OPENS IN PARIS. CAN JUSTICE REPAIR THE RICOCHETS?
C.E. I don’t want to speak for the victims. It depends on the individuals. Some need this recognition, others will see only painful things to rehash. For others still, it goes through art, to go to the end of the world… There is not a single path to resilience.