07-tributes


portrait of
a woman
attributed to
Jeanne Chrétien
by Fernand
Baldet (1920)




In april 1921,  newspapers such as 'Le Populaire' published  Simone Bodève's death notice. If we read newspapers from around that period, we find many death notices of people who were driven to suicide because of poverty. Le Populaire tells us that she was a humble person driven by great sincerity and love for her fellow workers. Subsequent obituaries by people who had met her during her literary career, tell us how devastated they were to get the news. St George de Bouhélier explains that she must have felt overwhelmed. Journalist Claire Géniaux also paid tribute to  Simone Bodève by praising her writing, her integrity and highlighting her ill-health and poverty. I could not find many details about Jeanne Chretien as a private person, which leads me to conclude that she wanted to achieve something on her own terms.  Maybe this is why she needed her literary alter-ego to achieve what she did.

It is hard to imagine a time when there was no free public healthcare and a woman suffering from chronic fatigue and depression must have found life difficult.  Even more so, if she was a person on a small income. Did this independent woman feel she had a become burden to her family?  I too can only speculate and try to find answers  in her works. We know that all life ends with death, and it is unavoidable that a historian needs to mention someone's death. However, it is equally important not to let a death define a person's whole life.

When I first read about 
Simone Bodève on wikipedia, the scant information concentrated on her tragic death. I have been aware of the fatal consequences of neurasthenia/depression for a long time, and perhaps one day this illness will be defeated.  A person should not be defined by the illness they had, the way they died  nor even by their class or gender. When I read works by Ernest Hemingway, Heinrich von Kleist, Charlotte Perkins-Gilman, or Stefan Zweig, I am aware that their background matters, but I admired their stories and the way they told them and I feel that future readers should know them too. An unforgettable story transcend its author. I can can only praise Simone Bodève for  she gave a voice to the vulnerable and seemed to have been a well-loved writer involved in the issues of her time, supporting her friends - whether they were a literary people like De Bouhelier or ordinary workers like the women from 'Celles qui travaillent' . In view of these tributes, I feel that literature has been enriched by her presence.
 

 

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