Published in 2021 by Grasset, Et ces êtres sans pénis! is the fifteenth book in a long series since 2002, in which the writer, Chahdortt Djavann, tackles themes that are deeply rooted: Iran, women, the veil and political Islam; and for good reason: a year after its publication, Iran is experiencing an unprecedented uprising since the death of Mahsa Amini on 16 September 2022. Woman, Life, Freedom is chanted around the world in support of Iranian women.
The Voice of the Father
Political awareness infiltrates C. Djavann, despite herself, from the age of nine. She was summoned to her father’s bedside to read him the political newspapers every day. She was the eyes and voice of a man who was bruised by the Islamic regime. She continues, through her writings, to be the one who bears witness to an Iranian past anchored in the present – intimate and political – which does not pass. She speaks from where it stares at her: the place of trauma. At the age of thirteen, when the Islamic regime was established, she was imprisoned after demonstrating in front of her school against this regime which imposed the veil on her. Two of her classmates were executed. She went into exile at the age of twenty-six. After a suicide attempt, she underwent six years of analysis on her arrival in Paris. She taught herself French – the language of exile –: “I adopted this language in the flesh [charnellement], and French adopted me.” Through this experience of analysis, she goes from attempting suicide to writing as an attempt at life.
Et ces êtres sans pénis! is twofold, autobiographical and political. In the first chapter, entitled “Birth fault”, she bears witness to the coordinates of her coming into the world where death and life are intrinsically linked. Her mother becomes pregnant after losing a boy who was barely a year old. She sees this pregnancy as a sign that the lost child will return to her in the same way. The injustice is rooted in the way she is received at birth: “The shock was so brutal that she nearly died when she heard the midwife say: it’s a girl!” 
The second part is political. She recounts the fate of four women based on real events in Iran that YouTube offers her, thanks to the algorithm. She lends them her pen, to make them feel how what is commonplace in democratic countries is punished in Islamic land: having fun around a fountain when you are a teenager, refusing an arranged marriage, living your homosexuality, taking off your veil in public or standing up to a powerful husband.
Hatred of Women
In her book, she bears witness to the treatment of women in a state governed by Sharia law. They are women, and what they are accused of is not being men. Religion, whatever it is, always starts by saying how a woman should dress and behave. By veiling women’s bodies, religion creates a feminine essence – an essence which does not exist. Imposing the Islamic uniform is a way of erasing feminine otherness and making it uniform. Through this dictatorship of the body, the State seeks to tame the feminine jouissance that escapes it. Controlling women’s bodies is a way of ruling over an entire people. This without taking into account the courage of women whose desire goes towards exception. It is on this praise of feminine superiority, dear to Lacan, that C. Djavann takes us on board in the last part of the book, which is like a tale. She returns to her country clandestinely to meet her nieces. One of them has formed a resistance movement which she joins. Through her resolute desire, she changes the destiny of an entire people. History wants the new to come about through one woman.
References from the autor.
 Djavann C., Et ces êtres sans pénis !, Paris, Grasset, 2021.
 Djavann C., « Et ces êtres sans pénis ! », Interview Mollat Bookshop, January 2022, available online: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Wk7G8wL4Qbc.
 Djavann C., Et ces êtres sans pénis !, op. cit., p. 35.
 The author writes “puni en terre (taire) islamique”, playing on the homophony between “land” and “shutting up” [TN]
Translation: Florencia F.C. Shanahan
Proofreading: Marina Caiaffa Bardi
Picture : © Valérie Locatelli