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the man you love to hate

published: 2012-09-24

During a radio-interview this morning about The Consul General’s Wife, I was asked whether my main character (Melchior) was based on a real person. My answer to this is that Melchior is archetypal. He is your typical white, male, baby-boomer who was worked for a prestigious institution all his life and has always been adored for his status. He is self-delusional and goes through life with a sense of entitlement.
Does this remind you of someone? Of course it does: Dominique-Strauss Kahn. I had written The Consul General’s Wife long before DSK was accused for raping an African chambermaid. Apparently, I nailed that archetype as it turns out I had written a scene which is almost an exact copy of what DSK ended up doing. Except in the case of my character it concerned his own maid from Ghana.
Why do these men do such things? Having studied this narcissistic character, I have come to believe they truly think they are doing their victims a favor. Generally speaking, a woman’s body will react – physically – to sex whether she’s willed the situation or it’s been forced on her. But more importantly, the entire adult lives of DSK-type-men have been geared towards nurturing the expectation that their needs should be fulfilled. Yes sir, no sir, whatever you want sir. They feel they have a right to fly business class, to skip queues, to park a car wherever they want and… to have sex with women.
Women, oh my dear fellow-females! Why on earth would you fall for a man like DSK? Especially if you’re twenty years his junior? While developing my characters, I had to find an answer to this. Why would the talented, young photographer (Leandra) end up marrying my Consul General. It isn’t solely the attraction of power or glamour. It’s that these narcissists are usually irresistibly charming persona. Often, they are flamboyant, extravert and they are definitely not the boring goody-old-two shoes. Quite the opposite, usually they’re bad. On top of it, they live in worlds many dream of being a part of. No doubt, so did that chambermaid.
Another challenge I faced while writing was this: how was I going to create a character who was self-obsessed, while at the same time make him a likeable person? I found the answer in one essential ingredient: naivity. My main character has an open, and almost childlike outlook on life. He doesn’t see any harm in what he does, neither does he see it coming to him. To some extents, it even makes him endearing. Two other tools helped soften himL humor, and punishment. O boy, does Melchior pay a high price for his ignorance.
This is exactly where the comparison between my main character and DSK ends. DSK is not endearing. There’s is no humor to his story or to him. And DSK gets away with everything. Despite all that, he is obviously still the stuff of stories as the amount of DSK inspired books prove. Depardieu plans to act DSK in a movie and says: “I’m going to play Dominique Strauss-Kahn because I don’t like him.”
Well, if The Consul Generals Wife becomes a film, my ideal Melchior would be Stephen Fry. And what I hope Fry would say is: “because he’s the man you love to hate. Or hate to love.”

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