Emmanuelle Bayamack-Tam, political and transgressive in The Thirteenth Hour

As usual, the unclassifiable author of “Arcadie” returns to the literary season with an extraordinary novel. In “The Thirteenth Hour” we find the character of Farah, an intersex teenager who this time grew up in a cult where poetry is recited.

Since her first novel “Rai de coeur” (1996), Emmanuelle Bayamack-Tam has appeared as a unique author in the French literary landscape. A subtle mix of erudition, border crossing and questions of identity, his new text in this return to school imposes itself through its sentence, its rhythm and its characters, beings in search of freedom, extremely endearing. And if it’s more overtly political than the previous ones, this book also seems more melancholic…

Three voices follow one another in “The Thirteenth Hour”. Farah, an intersexed teenager, decides to solve a mystery: she wants to know why her mother, Hind, left her after she was born. Farah was raised by her father Lenny – the second narrator of this book. Lenny, a big-hearted altruist, is the guru of a community he created, a kind of poetry-reciting sect. Misfits of all kinds gather around him. Hind then speaks in the book to narrate her life as a trans woman between tragedy and extravagance.

For one acceptable mother there are ten who are mad about bondage

Excerpt from The Thirteenth Hour by Emmanuelle Bayamack-Tam

Bayamack-Tam’s most political novel

The author, who also signs under the pseudonym Rebecca Lighieri, is one of the nuggets in the eclectic and demanding catalog of POL editions. The consistency of her work is striking. In the fifteen novels and plays she has written, Bayamack-Tam explores a range of themes that she encounters and considers in a new light each time. His interest in gender uncertainty, non-binarity, the often unsolved riddle of origin and interbreeding, his characters, who refuse to be classified and build a life on the fringes, are just as many reminders of independence, of the freedom to free oneself from any normativity .

However, this new novel, partly written during the months of confinement, seems more melancholy and somber than the previous ones. In very beautiful pages, Hind and Lenny reflect on death, aging, counting life’s failures and lost loved ones. The Thirteenth Hour is also arguably Bayamack-Tam’s most political novel, featuring protagonists abandoned by rampant liberalism and whose wrongdoing they denounce. And rather get together to read poetry, out of the violence of the world.

Obsessions, we don’t have that many in life. I want to explore mine, dissidence, wanting to live differently, intersex, trans identity, dysfunctional families, we can actually find that from book to book.

Emmanuelle Bayamack-Tam

A story full of quotes

But aside from the themes addressed, Bayamack-Tam’s work is distinguished by its form. Like the previous ones, this text is interwoven with literary quotations and classic verses hidden in the novelist’s sentences. Above all, the characters themselves share their credentials and defend their literary choices: poetry for Lenny, the novel for Farah, and a popular song for Hind.

Three universes in parallel, three workings of language, three imaginations collide here, and at the end of the book, the non-exhaustive list of the various authors cited, from Madame de Lafayette to Serge Lama via Lovecraft, allows us to appreciate the extent of the Bayamack-Tam palette.

Sylvie Tanette/aq

Emmanuelle Bayamack-Tam. “The Thirteenth Hour”, ed. POLE

Do you enjoy reading? Subscribe to QWERTZ and receive this book news newsletter created by RTS Culture every Friday.

#Emmanuelle #BayamackTam #political #transgressive #Thirteenth #Hour

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published.