Lili Owen Rowlands

Lili Owen Rowlands  is a research fellow at Royal Holloway, University of London.

I was the Human Torch: Guillaume Dustan

Lili Owen Rowlands, 15 December 2022

In​ 1984 Guillaume Dustan drafted a personal ad: ‘In brief: young man, eighteen, hypokhâgne, Lycée Henri-IV, short brown hair, 1.7 metres, part preppy, part 1950s greaser, not very sporty – sensual – funny, neither a party animal nor a bookworm. Now let’s see if the feeling is mutual …’ Written when he still went by the name William...

Moi Aussi

Lili Owen Rowlands, 22 April 2021

When​ Vanessa Springora first met the French writer Gabriel Matzneff at a dinner party in 1986, she liked the sound of his name. She was only there because her mother, who worked in publishing, couldn’t afford a babysitter. Springora, who was thirteen, spent much of the evening reading Eugénie Grandet and feeling Matzneff’s gaze on her cheek like a warm hand, though his smile reminded her of a ‘large golden wildcat’.

Into a Blazing Oven: Virginie Despentes

Lili Owen Rowlands, 17 December 2020

Vernon Subutex​ is nearly fifty, ‘thin as a rake’ and good-looking if you can get past his furred, yellow teeth. His hair is long and completely white, but mostly still there. It’s Paris, 2014. When we meet him in the first volume of Virginie Despentes’s trilogy, Vernon is about to be kicked out of his apartment after losing his job running a record shop called...

The Scene on the Bridge: Françoise Gilot

Lili Owen Rowlands, 19 March 2020

FrançoiseGilot wasn’t impressed when she first saw Guernica, aged 15, at the 1937 World’s Fair in Paris. She appreciated the painting as a political act, but ‘was not so crazy, aesthetically or technically, about Picasso’. Six years later, she spotted him across the tables of Le Catalan, a restaurant on the Left Bank, and was equally underwhelmed. Surrounded...

Something that Wasn’t There: Daddy Lacan

Lili Owen Rowlands, 20 June 2019

In Sibylle’s recollection, their father – she refers to him simply as ‘Lacan’ – would appear in his overcoat, a ‘silhouette in the doorway’, at the family apartment on rue Jadin, where he would come to lunch once a week with Sibylle and Thibaut – ‘the little ones’ – along with their big sister, Caroline, and their mother, Marie-Louise, known as ‘Malou’. He took the children on holiday to Brittany, Saint-Tropez, Italy and to his country house at Guitrancourt; he bought them ‘superb’ birthday presents, even if he probably didn’t choose them himself. ‘We knew we had a father but apparently a father was something that wasn’t there,’ she writes.

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