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The Familia Grande by Camille Kouchner

2021, Editions du Seuil

Camille Kouchner speaks out about a family secret hidden for 20 years. Olivier Duhamel, her once trusted and beloved stepfather and a powerful member of the French cultural and intellectual elite, sexually abused her twin brother when he was an adolescent.

Beyond the tragic injustice of this crime, I was shocked, angered and frankly disgusted by the behaviour of the author's parents and their friends; respected writers, artists, and high-level politicians. They seem to lack any realisation of their responsibility toward their children, who are left to fend for themselves while the parents focus on their own desires and fears, and careers. This book, like Consent, by Vanessa Springora, came out around the same time as the #Metoo movement was gaining ground. In both, the parents' hedonistic, anything-goes life style results in dire consequences for the children. Their idea that freedom means sex wherever, whenever and with whomever, while partially explicable as a backlash against an overly strict and sexist culture, has serious limitations. In the case of Kouchner's story, the adults seem to lack a simple but important element: an inner moral compass. More information here.

Author Camille Kouchner is the daughter of Bernard Kouchner, co-founder of Médecins Sans Frontières and Médecins du Monde, and former high-ranking French Minister. Her mother, the late Evelyn Pisier, a well-known academic and writer, left Kouchner early on, and eventually remarried Olivier Duhamel who was like a father to Camille and her brother.

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