2014/2020_In Search Of The Father / Chapter IV_The Last Lévêque
4.a _The Loss of The Name
All my sisters married and though I have a brother, my father had no son. It took me several years after his death to realize the legacy he’d left me. Features, belongings, memories have been passed onto me but the most significant part of this heritage was so obvious that I had looked past it. I was the last Lévêque, final link of a family chain from which I didn’t even know the length of. Then at least, the last of our Lévêque. Not only was that name very common in France, I actually managed to find, without difficulty, over fifty-nine Camille Lévêques online. I have always hated my name, always hated the fact that was instantly giving away the fact that I was French but more than anything I hated the fact that it was such a common name. Without me noticing it, the loss of my father transformed what I thought was a detail in my personal history into one of the founding pillars of my identity. Behind that name lied ruins of my family’s past. Memories we had, objects we were growing up with, conversations we built.
My name was, then more than ever, telling the story of who I was, and where I came from. Story in which my mother was nonexistent, nameless figure silently standing in the background of my past. And I would too one day be shifted to the shade of a stranger’s name.
It is beyond my comprehension the way that it can still be so commonly accepted that only from a man to another you meander. Very few are the women holding onto their maiden name, as the journey leading to the construction of their new family has two steps: marriage and motherhood. Women could hold onto their name when marrying but would have to surrender when having children if they want to share the same name as their kin. To avoid being a stranger in her own family, a woman has to eradicate the visible remains of her past family. The family she comes from, the one that once defined and shaped her. Taking her husband’s name she then becomes a stranger to her past family, sharing a name with neither her siblings, nor her parents, she is now defined to society with a whole new role and a new identification. She is assimilated to a completely different family, their background and their history. The nameless, faceless, story-less laying hen, disposable link in the family chain. I could not introduce myself as someone who isn’t related to my family. This last name stands for the last word of a conversation I was never invited to be a part of.
4.b _The Camille Lévêques
Interestingly, this part has been the one I most struggled with. A few years ago, as part of my research I rather easily found 59 Camille Lévêque online. This information has been stored in a corner of my head and I only quite recently decided to reach out to all of them, via social medias and email. I asked whether they’d be interested in answering my questions and sending me a picture of themselves. Merely 6 replied. Out of the 6, 3 sent me their answers. None sent me a picture. Most of them were discomfited by my process. 2 thought it was an hoax, 1 just replied ‘I am not interested’. It brought many more questions.
Why such an epic fail? Is it fundamentally creepy to reach out to people sharing our exact same name? Is us getting in touch suddenly builds the settings of alternate realities? Why so few answers when we share such a specific and important thing? Are people just more wary on social medias these days, especially towards someone who could be attempting identity theft? Isn’t it ironic when the main reason I reached out was to actually discuss whether our name was the cornerstone of our identity?