A Father's Cruel Mission To Create 'The Only Girl In The World' | WYPR

A Father's Cruel Mission To Create 'The Only Girl In The World'

Dec 9, 2017
Originally published on December 16, 2017 3:43 am

Maude Julien's childhood was so horrible, it's difficult to read about. Her father wanted to turn her into some kind of superhuman, able to withstand any torment without flinching. So he treated her in a subhuman way: He forced her to stay in a dark cellar at night, to meditate on death. He made her hold on to an electric fence, to strengthen her will. She had to wait on him hand and foot. And he kept her from most contact with the outside world for years.

Julien somehow survived, and escaped to become a world-renowned psychotherapist — and to write her new memoir, The Only Girl in the World. She says her story really begins with her mother. "My father took my mother away from her family when she was 6 years old," she says. Her father made a deal with her mother's impoverished parents: I'll give your daughter a good education, but you will never see her again. "He sent my mother to the university ... so that when he would later have a daughter, the little girl would not have to go to school. And my father's mission was to create a superhuman uncorrupted by this world."


Interview Highlights

On her father's ideas about weakness and strength

My father believed the world was divided between those who were mentally and physically strong, and those who were weak and lazy. For this I had to undergo physical and psychological training.

From the age of 6 I had to spend one night a month in the basement, meditating on death. I sat on a stool, alone, in the dark, surrounded by rats, and I had a cardigan with small bells on it. I wasn't allowed to let the bells tinkle, as it meant that I was moving. It was one of his exercises.

On her father's violence

There was a lot of violence in what my father made me do. We could describe it as sadistic. For him, violence was meant to make me stronger, and to remind me that life was horrible.

My father had a megalomaniac personality, and from a psychopathological point of view, we consider that he was paranoiac.

On still having nightmares about her father

Oh, for a very very very long time, because you know, this kind of controlling, psychological indoctrination is very very difficult to overcome. So I had to learn a lot to get out of my mental prison. I needed to understand what happened to me, and eventually, I became a psychotherapist, and I have now been working for 23 years in order to help victims get out of the basement.

Copyright 2018 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

Maude Julien's childhood was so horrible it's difficult to read about in her new memoir. Her father wanted to turn his daughter into some kind of superhuman, so he treated her in a subhuman way. He forced his daughter to stay in a dark cellar at night to meditate on death. He made her hold onto an electric fence to strengthen her will. And he kept her from most contact with the outside world for years. She somehow survived to become a world-renowned psychotherapist and to write this memoir, "The Only Girl In The World."

Maude Julien joins us from Paris. Thank you so much for being with us.

MAUDE JULIEN: Thank you so much for having me. I feel very honored to be with you today.

SIMON: Well, we're honored to be with you. The story, in a sense, begins with - even how your father met your mother. Not exactly a love story, is it?

JULIEN: Oh, not at all because my father took my mother away from her family when she was 6 years old. And my mother was from a poor family, and my father had made a deal with her parents. He would take good care of their daughter in exchange for this. Her parents had to agree never to see her again. He sent my mother to the university because - this is so sad - when he would let her have a daughter, the little girl would not have to go to school. And my father's mission was to create a superhuman uncorrupted by this world.

SIMON: As you were growing up, your father wouldn't even let you sit back in a chair.

JULIEN: My father believed the world was divided between those who were mentally and physically strong and those who were weak and lazy. For this, I had to undergo a physical and psychological training.

SIMON: Can you tell us about those nights in the cellar?

JULIEN: From the age of 6, I had to spend one night a month in the basement meditating on death. I sat on a stool, alone, in the dark, surrounded by rats. And I had a cardigan with small bells on it. I wasn't allowed to let the bells tinkle, as it meant that I was moving. It was one of his exercises.

SIMON: There are just too many instances of abuse and cruelty to recount - I mean, the way he didn't turn on the heat, the way he made you bathe in his dirty water. He said he gave you his energy that way or something.

JULIEN: Yes. There was a lot of violence in what my father made me do. We could describe it as sadistic. For him, violence was meant to make me stronger and to remind me that life was horrible.

SIMON: I can't bring myself to feel anything other than contempt for your father, and I never knew him. You're a professional. I mean, you're a psychotherapist. Why did your father act the way he did?

JULIEN: Oh, my father had a megalomaniac personality. And from a psychopathological point of view, we can consider that he was paranoiac.

SIMON: I will leave it to readers to discover how you finally got out when you were a teenager. But I gather you still have nightmares about your father.

JULIEN: Oh, for a very, very, very, very long time because, you know, this kind of controlling and psychological indoctrination is very, very difficult to overcome. So I had to learn a lot to get out of my mental prison. I needed to understand what happened to me. And eventually, I became a psychotherapist. And I have now been working for 23 years in order to help victims to get out of the basement.

SIMON: Maude Julien - her memoir, "The Only Girl In The World" - thank you for being with us.

JULIEN: Thank you very much.

(SOUNDBITE OF VARBERG'S "U137") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.