The author Delphine de Vigan listens to the inmates of the Rennes prison

“Are you more of a cat or a dog?” Keyboard or pen? “ About twenty concentrated readers face Delphine de Vigan, who smiles: “Dog, rather”, and “Pen for taking notes, keyboard for writing.” “ A playful discussion that would almost make you forget that you are not at a literary meeting in a bookstore, but in the library of Rennes women’s detention center, a gray afternoon.

Writing, a therapy?

“Is writing therapy for you?” “ Sitting on a table edge, legs crossed in the air, the author who delivers part of her life in her novels, evokes the diary she has kept for a long time. “I made my family promise never to publish it, if something happened to me. Writing for oneself can be a tool for self-knowledge and construction ” , she encourages them.


Meeting between the novelist Delphine de Vigan and about twenty inmates of the Rennes women’s penitentiary center. © Ouest-France

To write to get out of oneself, but also to read. This is the objective of the “personalized reading program” that the author had just inaugurated, and to which sixty out of 200 inmates have chosen to join. “The Read to Get Out association will offer new books to inmates who can choose them from a catalog, and then keep them” , summarizes the director of the detention center, Véronique Sousset. The only consideration is a reading sheet, which they will have to carry out with a volunteer from the association.

“Bringing the book into the cells, that changes everything”

“Bringing the book into the cells changes everything, abounds Alexandre Duval-Stalla, lawyer and president of the association. The prison library is not always open and inmates do not dare to go there, because they are not readers or think it is for intellectuals. However, we know that the number of vocabulary words that we have determines social inequalities, and can be one of the causes that lead to prison. Reading is also opening up to otherness, putting yourself in the other’s shoes, and telling yourself that almost anything is possible at the exit. “

An agreement has just been signed between the association, which already works in around thirty prisons – that of Rennes women is the first in the West -, the detention center and the prison service for integration and probation. Because reading is not just a hobby: “It is taken into account in the study of remission of sentences, in the same way as the theater or the choir”, insists Véronique Sousset.

photo"> photo an agreement was signed between the prison service (murielle texier, assistant to the director of spip35);  the director of the prison veronique sousset and the president of the association read to get out, alexandre duval-stella (with, in the center, the author delphine de vigan), in the central courtyard of the prison.  © west-france

An agreement was signed between the prison service (Murielle Texier, assistant to the director of SPIP35); the director of the penitentiary center Véronique Sousset and the president of the association Read to get out, Alexandre Duval-Stella (with, in the center, the author Delphine de Vigan), in the central courtyard of the prison. © Ouest-France

In anticipation of this meeting with Delphine de Vigan, about twenty inmates devoured Nothing stands in the way of the night, one of his previous novels about his psychologically struggling mother. ” I read the book, apart from some chapters that reminded me too much of my story , explains Djelika. She explained to us how she had avoided drowning, and that speaks to me because if I arrived here, it is because I drowned. I want to get out of this vicious circle. “

Thanks to this meeting, Céline was able to “Better understand the path of the author who, in the book, speaks of a period in her life. And get out of the context of detention. ” This meeting even inspired Anaïs, who “Read little” , from “Read other of his novels”.

Topics “which may resonate with women in detention”

“Of course there are several entry points in this book, which can resonate with women in detention. , Delphine de Vigan notes. Some told me that it mattered to them that someone came from outside to tell them something other than what they are going through. It is always moving to realize that exchanges are possible on subjects that speak to everyone: family, transmission, the unspoken… ”

photo"> photo signing session at the end of the meeting between the author delphine de vigan and about twenty inmates of the penitentiary center for reindeer women.  © west-france

Signing session at the end of the meeting between the author Delphine de Vigan and about twenty inmates from the Rennes penitentiary center for women. © Ouest-France

As for taking the pen, to “Trying to put words to their own experience, some told me that they were already doing it and I find that very interesting”. Like Djelika, who perhaps speaks of others to better speak of her: “In prison there are many women who have suffered violence, incest, who have family difficulties. I already write a lot, then I tear up the sheet. It helps me but it’s not enough. In her book, Delphine de Vigan does work on her that is needed even more in detention. “ It is not enough, but it is already a big step.


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