Emilienne Malfatto : How do we understand the truth?

Emilienne Malfatto is a photographer, journalist and writer. She studied in France and Colombia and worked for AFP in France and the Middle East. She has been freelancing since 2015 and works in Iraq and Latin America, among other places.

By Yutao ZHANG and Théodore AZOUZE

  • 1 “To grasp the truth is an ongoing process.” 
  • 2 « Being honest is better than to agree with the thruth » 
  • 3 It’s a journalist’s mission to « dig in and identify the influences his or her reporting can bring ». 

Journalist and writer, Emilienne Malfatto won this year’s Goncourt Prize for First Novel with Que sur toi se lamente le Tigre (Let the Tiger mourn over you), and the Albert Londres Book Prize 2021 for her non-fiction work, Les serpents viendront pour toi (The snakes will come at you). 

Malfatto’s two books deal with the misery of women in war zones. « In the course of this investigation, I met several different sources, among them, six people whom I asked the same question six times, who gave me six different answers. So where was the truth?” Malfatto learned a lot from these experiences, saying that, « you have to accept the fact that there is not one universal truth. The process of inquiry sometimes implies that one needs to listen to conflicting testimonies. »

This ongoing quest for truth can be filled with pitfalls. « Even if everyone believes in an allegation, it’s not necessarily the truth, » she warns, because « being honest is more important than being unctuous, » she said.

In a Q&A, she said that « honesty and acting in good faith are equally important », so for journalists who are aware of the influence of their reporting, it’s important to « dig in and identify those influences. »


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