In “The Prince of Babylon”, Marianne Vic, Yves Saint-Laurent’s niece, tells the story of the man behind the myth

23:00 October 4, 2022

Happiness has made advances in the dark: the arrival as an assistant to Dior; the beginnings of her love affair with Pierre Bergé; the creation of the fashion house in 1961; the discovery of the sweetness of life in Marrakech. The applause at the end of the haute couture collections. It doesn’t matter if we confuse admiration with affection, everything that gives the illusion of being loved is good to be cultivated. Because the desire for destruction and self-destruction was stronger than anything in the life of the fashion designer. Marianne Vic dedicates a story to Yves Saint Laurent. She looks for the child behind the adult, the man behind the legend. Yves Saint Laurent (born in Oran in 1936, died in Paris in 2008) represents a part of our collective French history. The designer’s niece and goddaughter knows the corrosive effects of lies on those who leave and those who stay. The author and the subject have a common family history full of silences and secrets. the prince of babylon piece together the truth about Yves Saint Laurent. Literature reveals the legend. It is his role.

A tragic family story

From the poor south of 19th century Spain to the Paris of the rich and famous to French Algeria. The Yves Saint Laurent man was great, not because of what he did, but because of what he undid and challenged. Within Nothing human is shameful (Fayard, 2008), Marianne Vic recounted her own escape from a destructive family. Yves Saint Laurent tried it and, in the end, failed. The means used: sex, money, drugs. But the boy from Oran remained the fruit of a violent and misogynistic French Algeria. The colonial system is structurally based on the mechanisms of shame inflicted by the powerful. Contempt for women, the poor, the Arabs, the Jews. Predation of the weakest by the strongest. At the Jesuit boarding school, where he is an intern, Yves Saint Laurent will be harassed. At 15, he was captured by boys. The torturers shave him completely and urinate on him. Marianne Vic notes: after the grandmother and the mother, the son.

Yves Saint Laurent is the son of Lucienne Saint-Laurent (victim of incest), grandson of Marianne Wilbaux (victim of rape), great-grandson of Marie Müller (exiled orphan, mother of Marianne and Renée). Lucienne Wilbaux and Charles Mathieu-Saint-Laurent gave birth to three children: Yves (1936), Michèle (1942), Brigitte (1945). Siblings will never get along. Marianne Vic is the only daughter of Brigitte Saint-Laurent. A whole family history marked by incest, rape, misery. Suicide attempts. Doubts about paternity. Yves Saint Laurent knows too much about his mother: orgies, abortions, infidelities. Pierre Bergé has always hated Yves Saint Laurent’s family. His opinions are opposite to his beliefs. The young communist militant constantly supported the independence of the Algerian people. The couturier will seek throughout his life respectability through fortune. But the wall is there. We never delete anything. Marianne Vic observes: “ Success erased the origins, but the origins reached him without his knowledge.»

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Yves Saint Laurent’s path is strewn with corpses in indifference (Talitha Getty) and tragic relapses. The episode with the dandy Jacques de Bascher (love, cruelty, breakup) marks the beginning of a descent into hell for Yves Saint Laurent. His friends are not so numerous: Louise de La Falaise, Betty Catroux, Clara Saint, Anne-Marie Muñoz. Between Pierre Bergé and Yves Saint Laurent, there is a true love story based on sex and then on interest. The last parade they starred together in January 2002. When the great couturier died, it was evident: the young middle-class homosexual pied-noir had become one of the stars of fashion. Several things have been forgotten, among them the determining role of Michel de Brunhoff, then at the head offashion, in the creator’s career, for the benefit of the legendary couple. Eternity for Yves Saint Laurent and Pierre Bergé.

Yves Saint Laurent and Pierre Bergé, from love to creation

Marianne Vic also talks about her intimate relationship with Yves Saint Laurent. Le Prince de Babylone was born from a small Parisian scene. Marianne Vic was introduced as “niece of Yves Saint Laurent“. She found herself more angry than flattered. Then she wondered what she disliked about it. The author writes to understand, resolve, explain. Marianne Vic has understood: she feels like a niece, not of a celebrity, but of a man. It is less glorious. Her narrative is neither fashionable nor legendary. She is not interested in one and the other. It is about the human: defects, madness, misfortunes, abysses, sadness, drugs. The author thinks that the myth impoverishes and that the human enriches.

The genius of Yves Saint Laurent is not in his impeccably cut suits but in the immensity of his overcoming abysses. To some extent, Yves Saint Laurent managed to make something of his desperation. Marianne Vic talks about a Pierre Bergé wanting to be known in a small circle (he got it) and a Yves Saint Laurent wanting to be known all over the world (he got it). The Yves Saint Laurent brand would not have existed without the marketing genius of Pierre Bergé. They created each other. But Yves Saint Laurent has overcome and not overcome his madness. Until the end, she came back.

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Forty years of fashion. Biographies and portraits abound. Marianne Vic says that fiction is stronger than reality at Yves Saint Laurent. Dreams overwhelm facts. We don’t want to hear the truth; we don’t want to change our point of view. We still have much to discover on the reverse side of the legend. But our thirst for stories and lullabies is still not satisfied. Marianne Vic has not said everything, nor does she pretend to say everything about Yves Saint Laurent. As soon as haute couture ended in 2002, Yves Saint Laurent sank into depression. He won’t come back. Nine months after the funeral, the auction, organized by Pierre Bergé, scatters his objects like so many pieces of his flesh.

Marianne Vic wrote a story about childhood from which men who leave never fully recover. Yves Saint Laurent’s portrait is hard. The author portrays a disdainful, misogynistic, paranoid, childish man. Despotic and unbalanced. He was inhabited throughout his life by a death wish. Marianne Vic rehabilitates one of the characters in the Yves Saint Laurent story: the noisy Charles Mathieu-Saint-Laurent. During a superb scene, we realize how much the son and father have gone through. In a dry clan, Charles Mathieu-Saint-Laurent is a magnet. He helps and gives. He disregards blood ties and the vagaries of fame. The man stands aside. In the couturier’s family, they are abandoned and inconsolable. The too great pain sank them into the marble of the death of feelings. Lucienne Saint-Laurent was 22 when her child was born and 94 when she died. In front of the cadet’s coffin, an iron mask.

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