« In the shadow of your anger, father, I was born, I lived and fled. Today I am back. I arrive and I am naked. Alone and empty-handed. »
Following a call from her brother, the narrator reluctantly returns to the village of the Alps where she grew up. « I arrive and already the memory of your voice is pounding in my head. You will never be loved by anyone. One day, father, you told me that. You’ll fail in your life. You told me that, too. With all my strength, I wanted to prove your curse wrong. »
Her brother tells her that their father has « the disease of forgetting », memory lapses and confusions that announce the worst. Memories come back to him. Her father was a passionate mountain guide, tyrannical, silent, sometimes violent, with unpredictable moods and particularly hard on his daughter. He was also a respected man in his village. She describes with poetry and accuracy the pain of existence of children who have grown up and built themselves in the shadow of a ferocious father.
Her brother is a kinesiotherapist, he consoles and cares, but he « hides solid splinters under the skin, you mustn’t touch them too much, they surface in transparency », like the « splinter in the flesh »[iv] that Lacan spoke of. She, who is « full of chains and nails inside », became a deep-sea documentary film-maker. After striving in vain to be loved by her father, she fled the mountains : « It was either that or die suffocated, buried alive under your outbursts, surrounded by mountains ».
One evening, the father, who becomes aware of the disintegration of his memory, finally speaks to his children. He tells them what had happened in his youth, over there, in Algeria. He reveals the horror of the war which bruised him, the barbarity he had witnessed and which he had not been able to prevent. « I didn’t denounce anything », he says, « I only came back and kept quiet. It is a regret, a shame that has never left me. » And he is still, she writes, immersed in this night, to which is added this other night into which he is in the process of entering.
In this book, the narrator calls her father : « Will I have passed through your whole life like a shadow ? » The final words that this vulnerable old man, on the verge of oblivion and death, grants to his children, nevertheless prove to be a gift that humanizes the father and brings his daughter a certain appeasement, allowing her to reconnect with her history.
In this raw text, Gaëlle Josse explores the ravages of the unspoken, the denial of the unconscious and the ambivalence of filial feelings with a delicate, sensitive and poetic writing. She bears witness to the way in which each of the children has carried the painful burden of the unassimilable trauma inherited from their father. She tries to name, to identify what is the real against which her family is bumping.
One can choose to confide one’s pain of living to a psychoanalyst and thus counter the malediction – what is badly said – by a bien-dire, from which a subjective responsibility emerges. This form of commitment allows the subject to suffer less and to access an unconscious knowledge, a singular truth. Transference is love that is addressed to knowledge, as Lacan says.
Psychoanalysis does not aim for escape, oblivion and burying the intimate. The presence of the psychoanalyst, the way in which he or she listens, receives the speech and interprets it, gives the analysand’s story another dimension. A door can thus be opened, which allows the subject to find within oneself a solution to the unbearable real that one has encountered and to obtain that surplus of life that we call desire.
 Josse G., La nuit des pères, Paris, Noir sur Blanc, coll. Notabilia, 2022, p. 11.
 Ibid., p. 12.
 Ibid., p. 19.
 Lacan J., « Jeunesse de Gide », Écrits, Paris, Seuil, 1966, p. 757. Cité par Jacques-Alain Miller lors de sa présentation de Lacan Redivivus à la librairie Mollat de Bordeaux, le 5 février 2022. Conversation reprise dans La Cause du désir, n°111, juin 2022, p. 61-84.
 Josse G., La nuit des pères, op. cit, p. 18.
 Ibid., p. 93.
 Ibid., p. 139.
 Ibid., p. 35.
 Cf. Lacan J., « Introduction à l’édition allemande des Écrits », Autres écrits, Paris, Seuil, 2001, p. 557-558.
Translation : Polina Agapaki
Proof : Sébastien Dauguet
Picture : © Élodie Cognioul