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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 5 - Power and Identity -141

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Chapter 5 Power and Identity The importance of power in the construction of identity through dif ference is central to the literary representation of albinism. Exploring that relation- ship further, this chapter examines the various ways in which Destremau, Grainville and Sassine represent the associations between violence and power, subordination and resistance. As previous chapters have demon- strated, the novels suggest that it is dif ficult to acknowledge the agency of the figure of the albino unless this is understood in terms of that individ- ual’s status as a victim. The paradox of marginalisation and empowerment discussed in the previous chapter locates the subversive potential of the albino in a form of power that is exercised at the very limits of identity. I pay particular attention to Sassine’s novel Mémoire d’une peau in the first part of this chapter because of the complexity of the narrative, the remark- able negotiation of marginal identity undertaken by the protagonist Milo, and the dif ferent ways in which he attempts to assert power over others. Despite the often extreme nature of Milo’s actions, I will suggest that the narrative of Mémoire d’une peau also delineates more covert and ambivalent forms of resistance to the dominant ideology that insistently positions the albino as a powerless other. In the second part of the chapter, the way in which the alterity of the albino and the subversive potential of this figure is portrayed in the four novels is explored in the context of a...

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