Poor Dominique Strauss-Kahn. Fending off an army of district attorneys, examining courts and lawyers is bad enough.
Being considered fair game by playwrights and novelists may be even worse.
DSK, as he is generally called, ignored the two plays that pretended to re-enact his fateful encounter at New York’s Sofitel hotel with a maid on Paris stages. Both productions disappeared after short runs.
“Belle et Bete” (Beauty and Beast) is harder to shrug off. It’s a kiss-and-tell story, an odd mix of fact and fiction by Marcela Iacub, a 48-year-old journalist and jurist who had a seven-month affair with the disgraced International Monetary Fund boss in 2012.
It’s not his celebrity, she says, that impressed her: “You were old, you were fat, you were short, and you were ugly,” she writes in the opening line of the book. What fascinated her was his sexual imagination, his inner “pig,” which she praises as the redeeming part of an otherwise unattractive character.
The word pig appears on virtually every page of the book. She also refers to him variously as the “King of Pigs,” and the “Picasso of Pigs.”
In 12 short chapters, Iacub gives her embroidered version of their affair from beginning to end.
The two first met when Strauss-Kahn got in touch after she had defended him against the accusation of rape in another book titled “Une Societe de Violeurs?” (A Society of Rapists?) He invited her to lunch and they immediately went to bed.
Their sex, she says, was not of the genital kind. He got off licking the mascara from her eyelashes, pushing a thumb into her mouth or, in a threesome with a male doctor friend of his, on covering her hands with marmalade and watching the doctor lick them clean.
She claims to have ended the affair, after he had bitten off her left ear.
In an interview with the Nouvel Observateur Magazine, published on Feb. 21, Iacub said that the sex scenes in the book are fantasies (there was no mention of the damaged ear). “Psychologically, emotionally, intellectually, however, they are true,” she says. “The truth is not the reality.”
Strauss-Kahn was not amused. He sued for invasion of privacy and won a partial victory. Her publisher has to pay 50,000 euros in damages; the Nouvel Observateur, which published excerpts, 25,000 euros.
Though the court refused to ban the book, it compelled the publisher to place an insert on page one stating that the book violates Strauss-Kahn’s right to privacy.
In Paris, the book was greeted with unanimous disgust. Even Jean Daniel, founder of the Nouvel Observateur, distanced himself from his own paper and dismissed the book as an act of revenge by a jealous woman.
Iacub makes no secret of her hatred for Anne Sinclair, Strauss-Kahn’s rich wife, whom she accuses of having treated him as her “poodle.” Sinclair, she says, dropped her husband because she feared for her standing in society, not because of his extramarital affairs.
Yasmina Reza, the author of “Art” and other witty plays, demonstrates that one can draw on a previous liaison with more elegance.
In “Heureux les Heureux” (Happy the Happy), Reza’s new novel, Chantal is the mistress of Jacques, the short, neckless Vice-Minister of Tourism and Trade. To her surprise, Therese, Jacques’s wife, wants to meet her in a cafe.
Instead of making a scene, Therese coolly informs her rival that she is not Jacques’s only love interest: His oh-so-exciting e-mails are sent, without changing a comma, to three different ladies.
In an article published on Jan. 3 by the Nouvel Observateur, Reza simply said “It’s the truth” in reference to revelations in a book by Raphaelle Bacque and Ariane Chemin that she had an affair with Strauss-Kahn and had dedicated her book, “The Dawn, the Evening or the Night,” to him. (The dedication was to “G,” his middle initial.) Yet she insists that any resemblance of her characters to persons living or dead is purely coincidental.
“Belle et Bete” is published by Stock (121 pages, 13.50 euros). “Heureux les Heureux” is published by Flammarion (189 pages, 18 euros).
(Jorg von Uthmann is a critic for Muse, the arts and leisure section of Bloomberg News. The opinions expressed are his own.)
To contact the writer of this review: Jorg von Uthmann in Paris at firstname.lastname@example.org.
To contact the editor responsible for this story: Manuela Hoelterhoff at email@example.com.