Robinson by Laurent Demoulin1 presents us with a version of paternity that is poetically written – paternity is above all a function of the word.

The author, from a family with a passion for language and writing, became a teacher of literature himself.  However, he finds himself to be the father of a child without resort to language.   The boy is currently 12 years old.

He testifies throughout the account, an account cut into short chapters, to his efforts to be the father of this child, to find his son beyond the wall of silence, pierced by cries.

He recalls his parents, gone too soon and, a just few weeks apart, their presence, their words. The scansions of the writing are like beats, echoes of the beats in which the child is lost.  Without the mediation of language, bodies collide, hinder each other and are injured.

As he is getting his son dressed at the swimming pool – after he had not been able to prevent him from drinking the pool water instead of splashing in it – he remembers how his own father would talk to him in moments like this about Plato and Aristotle, and also … about the reactions of the people in the neighboring stall.  Robinson has never articulated more than a couple syllables and if he is left alone for too long, his body expels and spills out what he has not learned to give to the ‘demand’ of the Other.

The father’s body plays its part as well, with this curious belt that he has invented to protect his back from the violent pushing and pulling caused by the unexpected starts of the kid.  And his back again, with the painful onset of a lumbago when it is necessary to fit his child into the seat of the shopping cart at the supermarket, where he persists to bring him despite the risk of explosive meltdowns.  Maybe in the hope of making him participate in the ‘normal life’ of kids his age?

Is it for the same reason too that he brings his son whenever possible to forewarned and understanding friends? The tolerance, irritation, and at times escape of the rest of the family – his children of a prior union, his wife and her children – are evoked with sincerity and tact.

  1. Demoulin calls this chronicle of his life as the father of an autistic child a lifeline to prevent drowning.  Suffering and poetry are sisters: Writing here seems to have been made the material to border the abyss of a situation where the impossibility to be a father is brought to its height.  It bears witness for the reader of his construction with this son who is outside the norms, of his paternity outside of the norms, singular.


Translated by An Bulkens 

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