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Narratives of French Modernity

Themes, Forms and Metamorphoses- Essays in Honour of David Gascoigne


Edited By Lorna Milne and Mary Orr

Inspired by the work of their colleague David Gascoigne, a group of scholars from the UK and France examine in this book the narrative strategies of some of the most interesting and important French writers of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. Stretching chronologically from 1905 to 2005, the volume examines a wide variety of prose genres, from pornography to Bildungsroman to magic realism, as well as poetry. Michel Tournier figures in several of the contributions, emerging as something of a touchstone for many of the thematic preoccupations that are common throughout the period: values and authority, self and other, identity, spirituality, migration and exile, sexuality, the body, violence and war, and language. The authors also examine the flourishing of intertextuality, as well as the use of traditional forms, such as mythical structures and the ‘robinsonade’, to undermine authoritative ‘métarécits’. Probing these themes and forms, and their metamorphoses across 100 years, the essays demonstrate a striking degree of continuity, linking writers as different as Apollinaire and Houellebecq or Valéry and Fleutiaux, and highlight the difficulty of dividing the period neatly into chronologically ordered categories labelled ‘modern’ or ‘postmodern’.


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Michael Tilby Céline, Invective and the Dismantling of Narrative: Casse-pipe -67


Michael Tilby Céline, Invective and the Dismantling of Narrative: Casse-pipe Casse-pipe, begun by Céline in late 1936 or early 1937, and intended as the second of three novels forming a ‘Ferdinand cycle’ (Enfance–Guerre– Londres),1 occupies a pivotal position in the author’s relentless search for an appropriate narrative of modernity.2 The question of how far it was ever completed is, nevertheless, obscure, amid the author’s claims of manuscripts lost or destroyed in wartime Paris. All that can reliably be said is that it survives solely in the form of fragments, by far the most sub- stantial of which, published belatedly in 1948, almost certainly represents a revised version of the opening episode. The episode features Ferdinand’s night-time arrival at the barracks of the 17e cavalerie lourde, to which he has been sent as a new recruit in, it may reasonably be assumed, 1912, the year when the eighteen-year-old Louis-Ferdinand Destouches had his own first experience of army life. We are thus immediately faced with the paradox of a narrative of modernity that looks back to an earlier world, the paradox being compounded by the fact that Céline’s work from this period has been shown to articulate nostalgia for a golden age, namely the pre- 1 For details of the genesis of Casse-pipe, see Henri Godard’s ‘Notice’ and ‘Note sur le texte’, in Céline, Romans, ed. H. Godard, 4 vols (Paris: Gallimard, coll. Bibliothèque de la Pléiade, 1978–93), III, 863–97. All parenthetical...

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