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Enduring Negativity

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

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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 2 - Myth and Stereotype -57

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Chapter 2 Myth and Stereotype Given the vulnerability of the albino body to interpretation, the frequency of references in the work of Destremau, Grainville and Sassine to the stereo- types and myths that surround the figure of the albino is unsurprising. Overtly stereotypical representations of albinism suggest that the need to account for what is perceived to be ‘lacking’ is a fundamental concern of fictional writing about this figure. The works of these three authors dem- onstrate that albino identity is created, imposed and contested, and in each case problematised by the web of myths, beliefs and stereotypes that have long surrounded albinism. Traditional beliefs, by which I mean beliefs which preceded and continued to run parallel to those introduced by the coloniser, have been sustained and elaborated upon in the form of modern myths and stereotypes, devices of ‘marking apart’ that stigmatise people with the condition. The consequences are profound. As Robert Murphy notes, ‘the greatest impediment to a person’s taking full part in his society is not his f laws, but rather the tissue of myths, fears and misunderstand- ings that society attaches to them’.1 This chapter explores the fabrication of the stigma of albinism, the process and consequences of categorisation through stereotyping, and the dif ficulties that ensue for the stereotyped or stigmatised individual. It will be argued that the portrayal of the figure of the albino is bound up in these stereotypes and that the (im)possibility of discrediting or declining such fixed forms of representation...

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