Journalist Camille Emmanuelle just published Ricochets (Ed. Grasset), a story in which she investigates the role of “victim by ricochets” that she assumed in the aftermath of the attack against the editorial staff of Charlie hebdo, where her husband, the designer Luz, worked. An attack means shattered lives, those of the victims of course, but also all those that revolve around them: women, children, friends, etc. Camille Emmanuelle tells this with accuracy and sincerity in this book which puts her finger on a subject little explored until now.
After The taste of the kiss (Ed. Thierry Magnier), a novel for adolescents published in 2019, Camille Emmanuelle is currently working on a series project as a screenwriter. In contrast to Ricochets, which looks back on the months and years that followed the attack of January 7, 2015 against the editorial staff of Charlie hebdo, fiction is for her a new horizon of writing that she intends to explore further.
The first time you hear about a “victim by ricochets”, it is a psychologist whom you consult with your husband after the attack on the journalists of. Charlie hebdo, January 7, 2015 which employs it for your attention. What is the definition of this expression which articulates the whole of your work?
A “ricochet victim” is the direct relative of a victim, one of the people who is in contact with a direct victim. Within the framework of the attacks, “victim by ricochets” mixes people who have lost a loved one and people close to survivors. In my personal case, I have not gone through mourning, but my husband is a psychic victim. But a “ricochet victim” can also be the father, the spouse, the spouse, the best friend, the aunt, in short, the person who is closest to the victim.
Somewhere, we are all victims of the terrorist attacks. But the closer you are to a victim, the greater the impact and creates a stir in the psyche. And then, we all react differently. My husband, a direct victim, had nightmares, not me, my husband had paranoia, not me. On the other hand, I remain obsessed with the noise and the ambulances, because it is the noise of the ambulances and the emergency services that I heard first when I arrived at the scene of the attack on the journalists of Charlie hebdo, January 7, 2015.
Sometimes, the ricochet victim is so affected that she forgets her own needs… In your story, you mention the case of Maisie, Simon’s partner, very seriously injured in the attack on January 7…
Simon’s recovery was very long and painful. Maisie, his mate, was so focused on accompanying him as best as possible that she forgot the own signals sent by her body when it was going very badly. The priority of “victims by ricochets” is the other and the risk is to forget oneself. It can then become complicated. It is complicated to help and accompany someone when you are not taking care of yourself. What is also complicated is that in relation to others, one becomes a messenger of the health of the other, never of yours. It is the direct victim that people ask about and not the “ricochet victim”, whom everyone forgets. But it is not a question of adding victims to the victims with this idea of a “victim by ricochets”. In fact, “victim by ricochets” is not an identity, it is a journey.
What is striking in your account is to measure to what extent the attack of January 7 completely upsets your whole existence, from the victim, your husband, to you, “victim by ricochets”, until you no longer have apartment, no more place to fall back and anchor.
Yes, there is dissonance between the fact that the State and the media mobilized for press freedom after the attack on Charlie hebdo and the fact that, at the same time, my husband and I are forced to move urgently and find a place to land. The protection police explained to us that after this kind of event some victims go to the hotel. But you have to have the means! This difference between a collective empathy on the one hand and a daily life that is very difficult materially creates a great feeling of loneliness.
You quickly learn to get by. But, by dissecting this period, while writing the book, I understood that I was feeling a lot of anger then, because I was ultra-vulnerable. Little by little, we recreate a normal life, despite the security conditions. But, in the heart of the cyclone, the situation was unbearable. All the more so as quite quickly, a relativistic discourse concerning Charlie hebdo settled down, which was very hard to accept as we measured the impact of the attack on our lives a little better every day.
This anger that you evoke, how to face it?
I am not against anger. But, when it takes too much space psychically, it becomes dangerous.
You say in your book, surprising yourself moreover, that you saw neither psychologist nor psychiatrist for several months after the attack.
Yes, especially since therapy was very important to me. But taken by our material imperatives [trouver un appartement, se mettre en sécurité, etc], we did not favor psychological follow-up. However, I think this is an important subject, about which people should be alerted. We do not pay enough attention to post-terrorist psychological follow-up. We need trained and specialized people. When you are in Paris, you can easily find professionals, but elsewhere this is not always the case. It is essential that professionals be trained. Another problem is that the therapy is expensive. I read that a survivor of 13/11 had the right to one year of psychiatric follow-up. This is not enough because an attack can take years.
We do not pay enough attention to post-terrorist psychological follow-up. We need trained and specialized people. “
When did you start writing Ricochets ?
I took notes the day after January 7, 2015, but I didn’t really start writing until two and a half years ago. It corresponded to the moment when I could only write about this attack. Write about how he shattered our lives and the journey that followed for my husband and I, for us as a couple and even as a family. I felt like I was being dishonest and ringing the bell when I wrote about other topics. I could no longer deal with sexuality, which has been my specialty for several years. It didn’t seem like my subject anymore. There was a moment when this book imposed itself on me, knowing that I had at my disposal this tool which is writing. It’s a real chance to be able to meet people that I would not have been able to meet in everyday life: victims, shrinks, lawyers specializing in terrorism issues. There is something strong and heartwarming about meeting and interacting with people who speak the same language as you. But I also felt fear while writing this book, I was afraid to immerse myself in this story.
You are finishing your book on the attack on Samuel Paty, what loophole did this event open in you?
I had finished my manuscript in the summer of 2020 and I expected to finish it on a fairly positive note and then there was this attack in the fall. I felt like I was losing my footing. It was very violent. A psychologist explained to me why: after 2015, I had succeeded, little by little, in plugging the ground under my feet and on the occasion of this tragic event, a fault reopened under my feet. There was something monstrous about the attack on Samuel Paty, and it happened when I was thinking of putting an end to my work. But this is the definition of an attack, a break-in in the real world.