Surprisingly, after more than 30 years of public life, Hillary Clinton remains an enigma to the United States. The figure of who has been the most prominent woman in American politics for decades remains hidden, maintains the most widespread theory among her followers, after the protective reflections she has developed to survive the sexist resistance that she has encountered in every turn of her life. and that it frustrated two presidential races. Her image as a feminist woman and with a very solid professional career that despised the first lady's domestic sphere collides with her apparently docile determination to continue with her husband after a long list of infidelities, a decision that is still not articulated.
The questions accumulate. How could the most prepared candidate in modern history lose the presidency against someone like Donald Trump? Did she lose because she was a woman or because she was Clinton? Would the image of the Clintons be different if they were viewed as individuals? In short: What would the story look like, yours and that of the entire country, if a single momentous event in the life of Hillary Clinton is altered?
“My marriage to Bill Clinton was the most significant decision of my life. I said no the first two times she asked me to. On the third, I said yes. And I would do it again, "writes Hillary Clinton in one of her memoirs. But what would have happened if that third time had also rejected him? That is the exercise Curtis Sittenfeld (Cincinnati, Ohio, 1975) indulges in in Rodham, her new novel, titled with the protagonist's maiden name.
Numerous authors have launched themselves to try to clear the enigma of the woman to whom even today in the Donald Trump rallies the cry of "Lock her up!" Is dedicated. The works on his life give a dense Zoom background. There are journalistic investigations, psychoanalytic approaches, children's books and even a popular four-hour documentary series released this year. The interested party herself has written three voluminous memoirs. Even if that were not enough, it should be remembered that thousands of his emails were made public shortly before the presidential elections that he lost in 2016. It would seem, then, that the market is quite saturated. But until now it had not occurred to anyone to approach the issue from the genre of ucronía.
Curtis Sittenfeld's approach comes to attribute to Bill everything bad about Hillary
Sittenfeld has already delved into 2008 in the very free portrait of a first lady with the successful American wife, whose protagonist, Alice Blackwell, is a barely veiled alter ego of Laura Bush. The republican clan matriarch offered a blank canvas for fiction. The woman from the famous Democratic marriage, on the other hand, was much more hackneyed territory.
The author dedicates the first pages of Rodham to the beginning of the romance between the two law students, she a bright, combative and ambitious young woman, he an attractive braggart who showed off a certain southern charm from Arkansas, the state she decided to go following the professional steps of her boyfriend. There the problems begin. "I'm moving to fucking Fayeteville for you, and you can't even keep your fly up," he says, in a scene of anger.
Methodical and pragmatic, at the beginning of the book Hillary explains that she makes decisions based on "the rule of two": "If she was undecided about a path to follow but could think of two reasons to take it, she did it", she explains. But "compulsive infidelities" were just one of the five reasons she finds to break up with Bill. And yet, "the margin between staying and leaving was so fine," he laments, "that one thing or the other could really have happened."
One day, when he had already rejected him, a woman tells Hillary that Bill had forced him to have sex a few years earlier. Bill denies it, but says to Hillary: “You shouldn't marry me. You should leave. I will drag you down. "
In real life, in a famous speech at the 2016 Democratic Convention, Bill Clinton himself admitted that he warned his wife that his career could end up engulfing hers. "I really want you to marry me, but you shouldn't," she recalled saying.
This careful confusion between real and invented facts turns the novel into a risky exercise in deformation with which the author achieves an excitingly redemptive historical rereading. Sittenfeld's approach comes to attribute to Bill everything bad about Hillary.
A Rodham happens a bit like the last season of Game of Thrones, in which he accused the writers write, consciously or unconsciously, to the dictates of the wishes of the fans of the series. With Bill cut off, Hillary becomes something like the woman many of her voters dreamed of when they voted for her. And the history of the United States changes in a crucial way. Without Bill Clinton as a rival, Bush Sr. achieves a second term. It is followed by a single mandate from California Democrat Jerry Brown and two from Republican John McCain, before Obama's two. Thus, the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001 and the Iraq war never take place, sparing the path of Senator Hillary Rodham, still unmarried, who launches into the presidential race. And what about Bill? His political career fails without Hillary, of course. After dropping out of the 1992 primaries, he becomes a millionaire tech guru in Silicon Valley.
Rodham. Curtis Sittenfeld. Penguin Random House, 2020. 432 pages. 19.70 euros.