Natalie Azoulay | A novel about friendship… and science for women

This is a story of friendship. Existential choice too, since perfect girl, Natalie Azoulai, talks about the opposite paths of two young women who have taken different paths to what is called success. We spoke to a French writer about this novel that defies the taboos of our times.

Posted at 11:00.

Laila Maalouf

Laila Maalouf

From the first page perfect girl learn about Adele’s suicide; she is 46 years old. The fateful call is received by the narrator Rachel. She is a lifelong friend who for 30 years maintained a cyclical friendship with this brilliant mathematician whom she knew as a teenager.

Rachel then takes it upon herself to trace the thread of this special union, filled with tense moments punctuated by estrangements, “a real brain and intellectual adventure,” emphasizes Nathalie Azoulay, who from France admits to us at the end of the line that she wants to return to this sweet theme of youthful friendship between two girls.

But apart from this friendship, which is fueled by complicity, rivalry and friction, the writer (who received the 2015 Medici Prize for Titus did not love Berenice) explores the place of women in society.

Difficult choice of orientation

That “ideal girl” of whom the name speaks is, of course, Adele: “A girl who was raised in the worship of performance and success, and who responded very well to all this with excellence,” Nathalie Azoulai clarifies. And, above all, she is a woman who has achieved success in a field that is still reserved for men, while her best friend has chosen a “literary” path. The perfect pretext to address this feminine absence in scientific fields is for a mother who a few years ago had to guide her two daughters in their choice of pursuits and who asked herself a thousand questions during this “ordeal.”

The choice of orientation is a decisive choice that is very binding on existence. And when you’re a girl and aspire to economic independence, freedom, and some form of control over the world, you can no longer be nice young girls backed by men who will own the world.

Natalie Azoulay

The path of science, in her opinion, would guarantee this prominent place in the world that women should occupy. Particularly in France, she emphasizes, “there would be a real problem between girls and science in school.”

Moreover, at this point the writer intervenes in order to ask us herself the question: does her book present an overly French point of view?

Too French?

Because what she also condemns in perfect girl it is this “parlor spirit” that has made France “a land of literary intellectuals who have historically placed conversation above all else” since the 17th well as century, in his opinion. “We are still victims of this; that is, today we expect brilliant people to know French literature, but we don’t care if they know scientific culture. »

It’s probably different with you, because you don’t stick to that tradition of arrogance, with a very strong class spirit. It is enough to read all our literature to understand this. And I believe that today when we channel young girls, we still want them to be women who shine in the living room no matter what, even if it’s not said that way, maybe – I’m a little caricature.

Natalie Azoulay

Our time, she adds, has also shown us how our future is inseparable from scientific fields. “We have lived through the COVID-19 crisis and seen how ignorant we were about what science is when we were not scientists and how we can be abused by bad scientists, fake scientists. »

The paradox is that her character Adele managed to achieve an enviable position in society; but that won’t be enough.

In short, the real question that the writer implicitly raises in his novel is all too universal: is it possible to be a woman, mother, wife at the same time and succeed without getting lost in it, in a field where men have long been the only ones who claimed all the merit?

perfect girl

perfect girl


320 pages

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