Sanaë Lemoine on the Reveal That Changed Her Life… and Inspired Her Novel
In Conversation with Jordan Kisner on the Thresholds Podcast
This is Thresholds, a series of conversations with writers about experiences that completely turned them upside down, disoriented them in their lives, changed them, and changed how and why they wanted to write. Hosted by Jordan Kisner, author of the new essay collection, Thin Places, and brought to you by Lit Hub Radio.
In this episode, Sanaë Lemoine tells Jordan about the moment she learned her father had a second family and the ways that reveal changed her life, her family, her relationship to secrets—and helped inspire The Margot Affair.
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From the episode:
Sanaë Lemoine: As someone who was always pretty quiet growing up—I was always sort of the kid observing things. I preferred to stay home or to read, and so I felt like I had a lot of time to observe my family. And I remember that moment when my dad told me that there was another woman and these half siblings. I was just so, so surprised. I really thought it was something I would have known if it was happening. One thought I had immediately was, how is it possible that I have a young brother that was born the previous year, but I didn’t know about that? Where was my father at that moment? Was I with him? Could I have observed it on his face, or is there a detail that would have shown me that this other incredibly important event was happening in his life? And that seemed to me so strange that there would be a disconnect in that sense.
And so I can see how I was most likely infusing my novel or my writing with that tension of being in the same room with someone that you’ve known your entire life, someone who’s so familiar to you, and all the little details—their smells and how they dress and how they speak and how they think—and yet there’s such a big thing that you might miss and not be seeing. I think it’s even more obvious or heightened in Margot because she is so young, and so she’s at that age where she feels a lot of confidence and agency. She’s discovering her agency, and she thinks that maybe she does understand the adult world or understand how her parents are. And yet, of course, so much of that is not accessible to her. Just as I remember being 21 and thinking, okay, now I’m really in the adult world, I have a handle on everything. And yet it was all so fragile and shaky.
This episode is brought to you by the House of CHANEL, creator of the iconic J12 sports watch. Always in motion, the J12 travels through time without ever losing its identity.
Original music by Lora-Faye Åshuvud and art by Kirstin Huber.
Sanaë Lemoine was born in Paris to a Japanese mother and French father, and raised in France and Australia. She earned her undergraduate degree from the University of Pennsylvania and her MFA at Columbia University. She now lives in New York.