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Enduring Negativity

Representations of Albinism in the Novels of Didier Destremau, Patrick Grainville and Williams Sassine


Charlotte Baker

This study focuses on fictional representations of albinism in the work of the French writers Didier Destremau and Patrick Grainville, and the Francophone Guinean writer Williams Sassine. The focus on selected novels allows for an in-depth study of each narrative and sheds new critical light on these under-studied writers, permitting a comparative discussion of the novels in relation to other writing about albinism. A series of common themes can be found in these novels, which, although present in different combinations and intensities, echo the preoccupations of all fictional writing about albinism. They include a recognition of the problematic relationship between inner and outer reality (in both bodily terms and in relation to notions of inclusion and exclusion), the challenging of accepted categories and designations, and the consequent problematisation of the relationship between Self and Other. Bound up with these issues, of course, are questions of identity and power.


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Chapter 1 - The Albino Body - 23


Chapter 1 The Albino Body Despite the significant number of albino figures in literature, film and art, there has been little critical attention in these areas to the albino body, a body which, in terms of its stereotypes, is deemed racially, physically, men- tally and sexually deficient and which, perhaps more than any other, has been the focus of taboo, prejudice and judgement. This lack of attention has been echoed in the failure of current discussion of the body to account for the albino body, which challenges the ‘norm’ and refuses categorisation. This chapter – and indeed Enduring Negativity as a whole – will attempt to redress the balance to some extent by exploring Destremau, Grainville and Sassine’s representation of the corporeal nature of albino identity. The chapter will explore the profound consequences of asserting the negativ- ity of the albino body for those whose normality it confirms, as well as the possibilities inherent in a body that challenges the boundary between blackness and whiteness, ‘normality’ and ‘deviance’. Whilst the concept of ‘the body’ implies a ‘natural’ entity, in recent years critical attention has turned to bodily subjection, appropriation and agency, which have been explored from a range of perspectives: literary, anthropological, sociological and political. There has been a marked move- ment away from simply writing about the body in terms of its biological state, with the focus instead on material bodies,1 consumer bodies,2 sexu- alised and social bodies, and most recently on the cyborg or virtual body.3 1 Bryan...

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