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Experiment and Experience

Women’s Writing in France 2000–2010


Edited By Gill Rye and Amaleena Damlé

Experiment and Experience is a collection of critical essays on twenty-first-century women-authored literature in France. In particular, the volume focuses on how contemporary women’s writing engages creatively with socio-political issues and real-life experiences. Authors covered include well-established names, the ‘new generation’ of writers who first came to the fore of the French literary scene in the 1990s and whose work has now matured into an important œuvre, as well as new emerging writers of the 2000s, whose work is already attracting scholarly and critical attention. Within the overarching theme of ‘experiment and experience’, the contributors explore a range of issues: identities, family relations, violence, borders and limits, and the environment. They consider fiction, autobiography, writing for the theatre, autofiction and other hybrid genres and forms. Their analyses highlight difficult issues, refreshing perspectives and exciting new themes at the start of the new millennium and moving forward into the coming decades.


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Part III Crossing Borders


Margaret E. Gray The Cook, Her Narrative, Its Recipes and the Textual Body in Calixthe Beyala’s Comment cuisiner son mari à l’africaine1 In her novel Comment cuisiner son mari à l’africaine (2000) [How to Cook One’s Husband African Style], Cameroonian immigrant to Paris, Calixthe Beyala, recounts the troubled negotiation of an African ancestral past within a complex, hybrid, cosmopolitan present. Emblematic of the hybrid identity that characterizes not only Beyala herself, but her novel’s narrator, 1 Although this analysis is devoted to a contemporary immigrant novel, I have chosen a title alluding to the 1989 British film, ‘The Cook, The Thief, His Wife and Her Lover,’ directed by Peter Greenaway, for this film stages the horrific act that, in Beyala’s title as well as in her novel itself, remains purely figural: the act of cooking a man. Whereas the husband in Beyala’s novel is ultimately tamed, becoming docile and compliant, or ‘cooked’, the Greenaway film depicts an actual cooking of human f lesh. Discovering his wife’s af fair, a jealous husband murders her lover, whereupon the wife takes revenge by having her dead lover cooked and forcing her husband to take a bite of his rival’s f lesh. In subtle ways, Beyala’s novel manipulates this notion of cooking as revenge, transforming the act often understood as emblematic of domestic, feminine and subaltern servitude to a man. In an explicit reference to the cooking of one’s husband evoked in the novel’s title, Beyala’s narrator proclaims her intention to conquer the resistant Bolobolo:...

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