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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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Margaret-Anne Hutton - Is France Post Post-War? Judging the Nazi Past in Recent Novelsby Maud Tabachnik, Michel Rio and Sylvie Germain -301


Margaret-Anne Hutton Is France Post Post-War? Judging the Nazi Past in Recent Novels by Maud Tabachnik, Michel Rio and Sylvie Germain It has become something of an academic ritual to f lag up the labile if not downright indeterminate nature of terms such as ‘modernity’ and ‘postmo- dernity’ (to which could be added the neglected ‘contemporaneity’). Whilst this volume as a whole probes such definitions, the following discussion touches on just one aspect of potentially problematic periodisations: the status of World War II, and especially the Holocaust, as a watershed for definitions of modernity, or/and as an ethical touchstone for a new genera- tion. Is the common ‘post-war’ qualifier still a viable one? With respect to France, specifically, cultural production both ‘popular’ (thrillers, historical romances, detective stories, BDs) and ‘high’, continued through the last dec- ades of the twentieth century to indicate an on-going preoccupation with the Dark Years of the Occupation, suggesting that France is not yet ‘post post-war’. Might it be, however, that times are changing, and that franco- phone representations of World War II may be entering a new phase? Those who write about such representations (myself included) habitu- ally refer to another, seminal, attempt at periodization, namely historian Henry Rousso’s Le Syndrome de Vichy, and his and journalist Eric Conan’s Vichy, un passé qui ne passe pas, in which it is claimed that France has, since the mid-1970s, been in the grip of an unhealthy ‘obsession’ with its recent traumatic past.1 Although it is as yet...

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