This is how I imagine her. If you swap the umbrellas for placards, and the long dresses for trousers*, or mid length skirts, if you turn these placid faces into angry ones. If the girl, instead of looking awakened and curious, looks terrified. If some of those men in top hats are gendarmes in helmets with guns. If you change the year from 1883 to 1968, if you keep the street in Paris the same, and you keep the rain. Then this might be how it was, for Foucault’s daughter, that day in 1968, when she went out with her mother to the marche, and she ended up in the middle of the most memorable day from her childhood.
And then if you take the child in the painting as she is there, and plant her in another, less violent, scary scene, then that is how Foucault’s Daughter tends to look. A cherubic child’s face, rosy cheeks, blonde hair. But her eyes, her eyes go black like coal and she looks at you so directly that you feel like she is looking right into your soul. She is a child out of time, out of place. And she wants to know what the hell is going on in this world.
Foucault’s daughter is called Collette.
Collette means: victory of the people.
The novelist, Colette said : ‘a happy childhood is poor preparation for human contacts’.
This child is going to be very well prepared.
Colette’s mother adores Colette the novelist. She writes herself when she has the time, in between looking after her daughter, and working as a secretary at the university. When she was married she would type up Michel’s scrawling manuscripts. So you can’t say she wasn’t prepared for what was to come, either. Knowledge is Power. It is also sometimes a bit of a dampner of the romantic spirit.
But literature and writing are a way of re-affirming that spirit. Colette is her mother’s daughter as well.
*’The male students wore jackets and ties or neat jumpers and short hair and well-pressed trousers. The women had long hair and sensible skirts and hair-bands. There were few jeans or sandals or beards.’