“The Optimists” by Rebecca Makkai: the marks of the aids

«Les Optimistes» de Rebecca Makkai: les marques du sida

Alternating between mourning and hope, the grief and the kindness, the sadness and the longing to believe in better days, The Optimistic, the last novel translated in French from the american writer Rebecca Makkai, tells the story of an era marked by the aids epidemic. Between Chicago in the mid-1980s and Paris in 2015, it shows how life can fall apart… and how some are resilient.

Rebecca Makkai invites its readers to see up close how the 1980s were marked by the disease, but also by feelings of rage and panic, through characters who are trained in the heart of the crisis.

Yale Tishman, a young gallery owner, is about to see his career finally take off when the aids virus hit in Chicago. Around him, his friends begin to die. In a short time, it remains only Fiona, the little sister of his best friend, Nico, in his entourage.

In 2015, Fiona flies to Paris, where she hopes to find her daughter, who became a member of a cult. Hosted by an old acquaintance, she makes the point in his life.

“From the beginning, I wanted to write the story of a woman who remembered her life in Paris when she was a teenager and young adult. As she was already elderly, in the 1980s, I thought that this would be the opportunity to talk about the aids epidemic,” says Rebecca Makkai, in an interview from his residence in Chicago.

The impact of the disease

Over the course of his research, she became interested more and more to the aids epidemic and all its ravages. She has refocused her writing accordingly. “I was already well aware of all the stigmatismes-related social aids, in the beginning, the way the government has handled this crisis, from the health point of view. But there are several things that I’ve learned along the way.”

Among other things, she was struck by the impact of aids on all spheres of life of people infected, from insurance policies to the attitude of their doctor, passing by the suicidal tendencies.

Rebecca Makkai shows, in this novel upsetting of humanity, at which point deaths related to aids were stigmatized. “I try to present my story by presenting different points of view. In some cases, families were offered a lot of support. For others, where homosexuality was not accepted, it was different.”

She notes that, in many regions of the globe, even in the United States, things have improved since the 1980s, but note that there are still problems.

“In the United States alone, more than one million people are living with hiv. There are many who do not know they are infected, and others do not have access to health care. This is a crisis that endures.”

  • Rebecca Makkai lives in Chicago with his family.
  • His book has been the recipient of the Andrew Carnegie Medal, finalist for the National Book Award and was included in the top 10 of the best books of the year by the New York Times.
  • The rights of adaptation for a tv series have been acquired by the american actress Amy Poehler, who is also the producer.


Rebecca Makkai, Ed. Stopovers
556 pages”>

The Optimistic
Rebecca Makkai, Ed. Stopovers
556 pages

Yale and Charlie had gone to an information meeting last year. A speaker came in from San Francisco had said to them : “I know of types who have lost person. Groups that have not been affected. But I also know people who have lost twenty friends. Whole buildings destroyed.” And Yale, stupidly, in a movement of despair, had thought that, perhaps, he would come in the first category.”

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