“Tell me a secret. “In April 2020, to overcome the boredom of a long train journey, Morgane Ortin addresses this question to her tens of thousands of subscribers on social networks. “Crunchy”, specifies the founder of the Instagram account “Amours Solitaires”, a project for archiving love messages, adapted as a book. His request is taken seriously. Within minutes, the author receives hundreds of responses. Some are light, like this subscriber telling him: “Last night I smoked my first joint and I got chased by the cops. But most of them evoke traumatic events: incest, sexual assault, violence at work … Morgane Ortin goes to meet the keepers of secrets to shed light on the mechanisms that shape our silences. This material gives shape to his new work, “Le secret”, published by Albin Michel in November. This hybrid story, a real journey at the crossroads of sociology and autofiction, is carried by a fine and colorful writing. Over the course of the discussions with these strangers, the urgency to go and question her family came to the young in her thirties. This is undoubtedly the most moving aspect of his essay. Encounter.
To read >> Psychogenealogy: family secrets help us to know ourselves better
SHE. What is a secret?
Morgane Ortin. It’s this little creature that we have in our stomachs. She only asks to scream. But we keep asking him to shut up. All the time. Until the day we manage to entrust it to someone. The world then becomes a little more livable. Our stories of love and friendship could almost all be analyzed through the lens of secrecy. Tell me how many secrets separate us and I’ll tell you what our bond is.
SHE. In your book, you link the question of secrecy to that of domination.
Morgane Ortin. Yes. The secret is intimate, but it is also political. Most of the time, they exist because they are the product of domination. Who has the privilege of speaking? Who is deprived of it? “Silencing” a person is a form of oppression. Often, those who carry a secret are ashamed of it. Delivering them often means realizing that we are not the only ones to experience them.
SHE. Can you share an example with us?
Morgane Ortin. In the book, I wrote the story of this 18 year old girl who has ovarian cancer and hides it from her family. During our conversation, we talked at length about what it feels like to carry such a secret at her age, the stress it causes, and all the logistics it takes to get to medical appointments on her own. I’m trying to understand why she is hiding this cancer from her family. By modesty? So as not to worry them? After a while, she explains to me that, when she was younger, a friend of her parents had sexually abused her. However, this cancer affects his ovaries, the same physical area targeted by this violence. For her, talking about this cancer would be like awakening this first secret. She is also convinced that the two are linked.
This young girl’s secret is what I call a “floor secret”. That is to say that there is first the first secret, the one that was sent to me on Instagram. Then there was often the other secret, the real secret, sometimes delivered crudely, after an hour or more of conversation. The first one to be delivered was just a symptom. The secret is an explosive chain reaction. As long as it is not updated, it continues to have impacts in life, creating more and more silences.
SHE. In your essay, you relate it to the question of listening.
Morgane Ortin. Yes, throughout the book, I have often encountered people who have tried to speak but who have not been offered a benevolent or supportive listening space. The secret was formed at that time. This raises the question of our responsibility to know how to listen to those around us. The #MeToo movement has shown that free speech is not at the same level as free listening.
SHE. How did you select the secrets?
Morgane Ortin. I functioned on intuition, depending on what touched me the most. Then, while building the book, I contacted people because they could shed new light. The basic idea was to take the train to meet the keepers of the secrets, to spend the day with them. But the coronavirus arrived, so I conducted the interviews by phone. In the end, maybe it was even better to just have the voice. Perhaps there would have been more modesty between us, if there had also been the image. I left people completely free to tell me their secret. I then asked them questions about the very mechanics of their secrets. Why was he hiding it? And to whom? Who did he share it with? The more personal the book became, the more I had confirmation that the intuitive approach was the best.
SHE. If I understand correctly, at the start of the writing process, you hadn’t anticipated telling yourself so much?
Morgane Ortin. Absolutely. The “me” is instilled as we go, layer after layer. My editor, Olivier Moreira, kept telling me: “I would like you to ask yourself the question: why the secret interests you so much? I didn’t understand what he meant. I told him that it was because our silences say a lot about us, that our silences are political. The answer appeared to me gradually. In my interviews, I often spoke with people whose secrets have been passed down from generation to generation. I couldn’t help but think of my grandmother who had never told me her story. But also to my mother, with whom I had a lot of trouble talking, especially about her illness. I am not someone who has a lot of secrets. On the other hand, I am someone from whom we have hidden a lot of things. I wondered more and more how my life was impacted by what had been hidden from me. And how was it that there was so much that I didn’t know about my own family? I had a very light childhood and adolescence when there was so much going on around me. For the adult that I am, it created a lot of guilt.
SHE. Why is it so hard to ask questions of the people who are closest to us?
Morgane Ortin. Because we love them and are afraid of hurting them! I was terrified of hurting my mother. I almost gave up on everything several times. What if there were some things you shouldn’t wake up? This question haunted me until recently. Everything was defused because, although it was hard, even though I didn’t sleep all night after talking to my grandmother, we spoke kindly. It gave me so many answers about who I am, where I want to go, and even, beyond, my relationship to love. Many things have become clearer. In a family, so much is passed down to offspring non-verbally that it can seem scary. Taking back possession of your own family history allows you to free yourself from it. What is important is never to force a speech. Silences belong to us and not everyone is ready to share them.
SHE. Yes, you illustrate it through the example of your father. You write him a letter to open the dialogue.
Morgane Ortin. Yes, I recommend writing the questions when you are faced with a sometimes refractory person. The recipient does not have an order to react immediately. I also advise reassuring the other, reminding him that we are trying to understand and not to accuse. By the way, when my father read this book, we talked a lot. I feel like this book is just beginning. That it was just a first step. It’s a lifetime’s work.