Barbara Abel, investigating the limits of ordinary madness
The screenplay of Olivier Masset-Depasse's "Duelles" (Mothers' Instinct), which won nine awards at the Magritte du Cinéma ceremony and will soon be adapted into a Hollywood film starring Jessica Chastain and Anne Hathaway, comes from a novel by Barbara Abel, "Derrière la haine" (2012). Another of her novels, "Un bel âge pour mourir", published in 2003, was adapted for France 2 with Marie-France Pisier and Emilie Dequenne in the leading roles. Her works have already been translated into several languages.
Barbara Abel was born in Brussels in 1969, and has been dubbed the "Queen of Belgian crime fiction" by the media. As a teenager, she took drama classes at the Académie d'Etterbeek and after a degree in Romance philology at the Université Libre de Bruxelles, she enrolled at the École d'interprétation du Passage in Paris, then worked as an actress for a while. It is thanks to the theatre that she turned to writing, at the age of 23, with "L'Esquimau qui jardinait", a play successfully staged in Brussels and at the Festival du Théâtre in Spa. After a first, unpublished, novel, she wrote various short texts that were published in literary reviews, then two short film screenplays; she again tried her hand at novels and began to develop a detective story. "L'instinct maternel" won the Cognac Festival prize in 2002 and was published by Editions du Masque; it was soon followed by other detective novels, "Un bel âge pour mourir", "Duelle" and finally "La mort en écho".
However, it is not in the detective genre, in the strict sense of the term, that she excels, but rather in suspense novels, which combine psychological analysis and growing terror. Starting with characters who appear to be completely normal, she manages to build up adrenaline levels by revealing the buried secrets or breaking down the barriers of ordinary madness that will germinate and grow until they become irrevocable and a Machiavellianism taken to its extreme. Derrière la haine in 2012 and Après la fin in 2013, are remarkable examples of this.
Her latest novel, Et les vivants autour (2020), is a real feat, since the author manages to weave the plot of a deleterious tale around a comatose woman, who is the central character.
Writing is not her only talent, as Barbara Abel has been involved in the programme 50° Nord, broadcast on Arte Belgique and RTBF.
Photo: © Mélania Avanzato