As a comedy writer, I was always told that laughter is the hardest thing to share. What makes me laugh does not necessarily make you laugh. Especially since I am an easy laugher. And a very loud one.
I do not laugh only at sophisticated jokes, I even laugh at gross ones; but at the same time I can feel really perfectly annoyed by someone who laughs at something that I find gross. The Germans have an expression for that - Fremdschämen - when you feel ashamed for someone who you think should feel ashamed.
When I started writing thrillers, I was told that, contrary to laughter, fear was the most shared feeling. Actually in TV films the basic fears are easy to share on the surface when the woman is alone in underground parking garage, but this is only in movies.
When fear becomes real, as it did on January 2015 and lately on November 13th, you realise that fear is more intimate and personal than laughter.
As the psychoanalyst, Jean-Pierre Winter wrote after the attempts, the terrorist attack reveals our most buried fears.
I must admit that I did not go the January marchs after Charlie Hebdo and the HyperCasher supermarket; I so much wanted to go like other people, to share this communion, but I could not. I felt paralysed by the idea of the crowd. When horror happened again on November 13th, it was such a relief that the governement forbade demonstrations. I was petrified. I felt ashamed, I felt weak.
But I was surprised by myself for I had a business meeting in Saint Denis, where the special police force task had just arrested terrorists, on the same day. My meeting was cancelled at the last minute, but I was not scared at all to go. May be my weakness was not the only explanation?
As a writer, I thought that the first march and and the other one would be such a wonderful target for a terrrorist. All my imagination was used to foresee what could be another target. That is the rational voice inside of myself. But personnally this crowd and the crowd of the Bataclan took my back to ancient fears; the Heysel stadium drama, when Liverpool supporters tried to reach supporters from Juventus and caused the stand to fall killing people, when people stamped on each other to save their lives. It was the day when my father was found dead in his flat a month after his death. ( He was not at the Heysel at all ). I could not see him in this state of decomposition (a long story which is at the origin of my writing thrillers), and instead of the shock and horror of his death, which I could not embrace, I connected this fate to the Heysel and how mad, crowds can become. I almost never went to a standing concert in my life – I used to love it; they scared to death me from that moment. As a journalist, I never admitted it but I was always petrified in demonstrations when working in Columbia or in the Eastern countries. Being part of a group is even a difficult thing for me.
And then looking back in the past, I even found another frightening memory about crowds or even groups of people, which I will only confess but to close friends.
It is not that I am not courageous; on many occasions I rebelled and defended good causes. I am not afraid to voice opinions, to fight against the strong. I even did so very foolishly many times. But with crowds and groups, I get the iron taste of blood in my mouth.
I can hide myself behind rationality: crowds and groups are really dangerous. I really do believe in that, but I am certainly missing something if I forget about what triggered it.
We are living with those ghosts from a past that we do not necessarily want to confront. And they are here, under your skin, invading your thoughts. That is why terrorism is so powerful, it speaks to you personally. It actually feels like an intrusion, a rape of your most intimate thoughts.