I very much like recognising myself in my daughters and, at the same time, feeling that they do their utmost to be different from me. Even when this attitude makes me angry, it seems positive. Not a day goes by when they don’t tell me, more or less subtly, that I belong to the past. Not a day goes by when they don’t point out that what I say is banal and out of touch with the present, which is their area of expertise. Not a day goes by when they don’t find a way to pit their intelligence against mine, and the aim is always the same: to let me know that I should keep quiet. Not to mention that whenever I have trouble with the computer or some other electronic device, they intervene to remind me that I am of the era of the fountain pen and the pay phone.
I look at them and, sometimes with satisfaction, sometimes with alarm, see myself in their bodies, in their tone of voice. Bits of me appear for a few seconds, and I barely have time to recognise them, as when, in a page you’ve just written, you see flashes of the literary tradition behind you. They naturally don’t notice, and that’s good. I hope they have as much time as possible to declare themselves miraculously new and set about teaching me a thing or two. I, too, felt different from my mother and pushed out her generation to make room for mine. The cruelty of the latest arrivals, when they feel they’re the first to come into the world, is necessary.
I greatly fear the generations who don’t proudly leave their parents behind. But I’m also frightened by those who, at 20, leave their parents behind to embrace the mores of grandparents and great-grandparents. I don’t understand the young people who would replace the world of today with a golden age when everyone knew their place, that is, in an order based on sexist and racist hierarchies. Sometimes, especially when they declare themselves fascists, they don’t even seem like young people, and I tend to treat them even more harshly than the old people who inspired them. Dreaming of a return to the past is a denial of youth, and it grieves me to discover that young women, too, dream those dreams.
I love young people who fight to give their time a new form and demand a better life for the entire human race. I hope my daughters stay that way for a long time. Then – it’s in the natural order of things – as they get older they’ll find me within themselves, discovering physical details, flashes of personality, thoughts, and will learn to welcome me, make room for me. As happened with my mother and me, they’ll discover that, even admitting they’re partly me, they’ll continue to be themselves. In fact they’ll be themselves more fully, with greater autonomy.
• Translated by Ann Goldstein
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