Lola Lafon on “Gender in Translation”


© Roch Armando

Lola Lafon
, with a French, Russian and Polish background, was raised in the equally diverse cities of Bucharest, Sofia and Paris. Her first love was dance, but then she turned to writing. Her first three novels were published by Flammarion. These titles were nominated for several French literary awards, and tackle several ideological themes such as capitalism, antifascism, utopia or feminism. Lafon is politically engaged in several collectives, addressing feminist questions and concerns; while she runs writing workshops aimed towards underserved or disadvantaged youth populations.


Lola Lafon will take part in Gender in Translation, After Hours, on November 4th, 2016 at the San Francisco Art Insitute.

-> What triggered your interest in Gender Studies?

As a lot of women, I started by not acknowledging the limitations imposed on my choices because of my gender.  I then became a very angry young woman and that was a good start to learn that my story wasn’t unique but political. Being able to understand the source of your sufferings and angers is a starting point.

-> According to you, has the reflection on Gender Studies evolved over the past years, if we consider the publication of “Gender Trouble” by Judith Butler (1990) a reference point?

As far as I’m concerned , my reference goes back as far as 19th century with the fantastic Voltairine de Cleyre, an anarchist feminist who wrote about gender, marriage as a foul contract and so on.

-> Could you define the specificity of your approach to Gender Studies?

I’m a fiction writer and thus my approach is based on the « making of » fiction characters. how wide is the space claimed by the character. What words does she use. How does she move. I’m in favor of angry girls, loud woman and weird ones too. I like to work on a “non gendered” literature,  the fiction I like balks at being restricted to a particular genre. In The Little Communist several forms jostle each other: narrative fiction; a questioning of archives; real political statements, fake correspondences and subjective memories from the communist Romania where I grew up.

-> Does your research in the field of Gender Studies bear a civic and/or political engagement? Is this an important aspect for you?

I have been for several years and still am close to feminist groups in France.

-> As a scholar/artist/thinker/curator/…, what does the title “Gender in Translation” evoke for you?

I love the idea of a necessary translation of who we think we are.  It’s such an open sentence, who might the translation be for, the others, ourselves, “gender in translation” as “in the process of being understood”. How do we translate to others (or ourselves) what we feel we are, what we think we belong to, what we’d like to be, what we dread to become (!), I love the idea of gender as a language, with its different definitions and synonyms.


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