Laurence Plazenet was born in Paris in 1968. At five-years-old, she was already a passionate reader, quickly developing her desire to write. A former student at the prestigious Ecole Normale Supérieure, she is a Classic Literature ‘agrégée’ and holds a Literature PhD. She started her career as a Sorbonne professor after having studied at Princeton until 1994. However, for a long time she was convinced that she didn’t have anything to say that was worth being printed. She then worked for ten years on academic papers, feeling she was, at least, useful to literature. She broke the silence in 2005 with L’amour seul, published by Albin Michel, then with La Blessure et la soif in 2009 and Disproportion de l’homme, both published by Gallimard.
A lecturer of French Literature at Paris-Sorbonne until 2017, a member of the French National Centre for Scientific Research and the Institut Universitaire de France, and a vice-chair of the Societé des Amis de Port-Royal, Plazenet is also currently writing her fourth novel.
Mlle Louise Catherine d’Albrecht is only fifteen years old when she meets love. She lost her mother when she was very young, and her father brought her up sternly, with no physical display of affection, while anonymously spoiling her with presents.
Much older than she is, Monsieur de Ramon, her tutor, arouses her first physical flutters and becomes her secret lover. At first, Louise is tormented by her feelings, shifting between giving in to them and exercising restraint, but she ends up giving herself, body and soul, to the man who seduced her. Monsieur de Ramon, a true Pygmalion, teaches her the pleasures of flesh and spirit. However, because of him, she suffers the torture of jealousy and the torments of absence. When her father forces her to leave the city to return back to the country, Louise is looked after by her young aunt, the austere Mlle d’Ambricourt.
Later, back in Paris, she waits for her lover, but after he doesn’t appear she sinks into anxiety and piety. She develops an interest in people with disadvantages and learns some rudiments of medicine to cure the physically needy. Through this, she comes back to the physical body.
She settles into a quiet life by her father’s side, but is left an orphan after he falls off his horse and dies. She then dedicates her life to her studies and the writing of her first book. Thanks to this book and her words, Monsieur de Ramon comes back to her. They give their love to each other, an absolute love, until Monsieur de Ramon, feeling old and not worthy of his lover’s brightness, decides to leave her while she is pregnant. Later, tragedy strikes when she loses her six-year-old daughter, and she sinks into a lonely life, full of memories of her lover and haunting desires. She has a one-way correspondence with her lover, finishing her life in asceticism, sharpened by the ghost of desire and hastening her end by curing victims of an epidemic.
After his wife died, Monsieur d’Albrecht had refused to relinquish the body she had abandoned. He had remained kneeling, his wife’s hands in his own. He ignored both the priests’ prayers and the rebukes of his servants. He watched Madame d’Albrecht’s closed eyelids. In spirit, he kissed them; in the twilight of their room, he caressed her bosom. It was the substitution of one obscurity for another. Two large candles burning on either side of the bed faintly illumined this final tryst.
Monsieur d’Albrecht’s son came to speak with him. The young man felt in no position to utter the reprimands he was to convey. He stood gracelessly, his eyes riveted on his mother’s corpse. The widower ignored him. The boy waited a moment, then withdrew.
The night passed.
In the morning, Monsieur d’Albrecht’s daughter was brought to see him. She was hardly walking. Her cheeks were pink. She did not entertain him. First he rose angrily. Then he froze and remained immobile before the child. He was struck by the resemblance she bore to Madame d’Albrecht. She parted her lips in the same way. Her lashes blinked at the same speed. The intense black of the eyes they sheltered was identical. The little girl had burst into tears. In one breath, his mouth dry, he had commanded that she be removed from his sight.
Monsieur d’Albrecht was a man full of hubris, well-educated, taciturn. He fled his daughter. He insisted that she reside in quarters far from those he inhabited himself and that she appear nowhere. He went weeks, sometimes even months, without seeing her. One summer day ten years later, while walking guests back to the first courtyard of his residence, he heard, on his left and coming from a hanging veranda, a voice whose contours echoed those that still rang in his ears night after night. A fog descended. A shiver ran through him. He shuddered. He ordered the culprit brought before him. He towered above her. He could see the hollow at the top of her coiffure. He was unable to find words. The others stared at him. He pulled himself together. His fury was incalculable. He would have liked to strike she whose lips had spilt this sound and revived, nearly to the point of ecstasy, the torment he believed hidden from the world.
In secret, he pampered her.