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Enduring Negativity

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

Series:

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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Conclusion Destremau, Grainville and Sassine’s novels suggest that black Africans with albinism are ultimately defined by the corporeal nature of their identity, whether constructed by the individual or imposed from without. A series of common themes present in dif ferent combinations and intensities in the four novels echo the preoccupations of all fictional writing about albinism. These include a recognition of the problematic relationship between inner and outer reality (in both bodily terms and in relation to notions of inclu- sion 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 are questions of identity and power. In Chapter 1, my analysis of textual representations of the protago- nists in the novels of Destremau, Grainville and Sassine demonstrated the importance of the relationship between the individual body and the body politic, identity and its embodiment, and between the subject and domi- nant discourse for an understanding of this figure. This in turn brought to light the insistently negative portrayal of the albino body in fictional writing. The enduring negativity associated with albinism is reinforced by a series of binary oppositions which the novels explored both highlight and contest. Chapters 2 and 3 demonstrated how boundaries and binary oppositions function to exclude the albino, discussing the ways in which myths and stereotypes operate as a means of enforcing these oppositions by firmly positioning people with albinism as other. As a consequence of these constructed means of...

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