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Strange Adventures

Women’s Individuation in the Works of Pierrette Fleutiaux


Elizabeth Sercombe

Strange Adventures examines portrayals of womanhood in the works of prize-winning French author Pierrette Fleutiaux. Fleutiaux’s refreshing pictures of womanhood offer insights into how women can become more whole, substantial and free in themselves and in their relationships, as well as how they can contribute to the external world through their creativity and leadership. The study demonstrates how Fleutiaux’s heroines navigate the external, bodily and inner situations of adolescence, early adult life, marriage, motherhood, maturity, leadership and death, in the process developing greater inner resources of wisdom, compassion and resilience. This volume considers selections from Fleutiaux’s œuvre, from her first short fiction Histoire de la chauve-souris to her recent Loli le temps venu, including Métamorphoses de la reine (Goncourt de la nouvelle) and Nous sommes éternels (Prix Femina). Using a theoretical framework which draws on Jungian concepts and the philosophy of Simone de Beauvoir, the study analyses women’s individuation trajectories at each stage of life. Throughout, Fleutiaux’s depictions are shown to pose a challenge to existing conceptions of womanhood and individuality, thus opening up new understandings of what it means to be a woman, and to be human.
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Chapter 2: (Co)-Creating the Woman in Histoire de la chauve-souris, Histoire du tableau and Allons-nous être heureux?


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(Co)-Creating the Woman in Histoire de la chauve-souris, Histoire du tableau and Allons-nous être heureux?

La chauve-souris […] est peut-être le plus difficile à dire de ce qui vous est propre, sombre ou clair, de ce qui vous est inséparable, incomparable, irremplaçable.

The bat […] is perhaps the most inexpressible aspect of your very self, dark or light, inseparable, incomparable, irreplaceable.


The young girl makes transitions throughout her childhood – from stationary to mobile, babbling to talking, home to school. The transition she makes from child to adult is particularly significant, because it is here that her developing personality meets the full force of the world’s constraints – the power of its institutions and ideologies. The adventures of individual women as they enter adult life form the focal points of Fleutiaux’s early short fictions, Histoire de la chauve-souris and Histoire du tableau, and her later novel Allons-nous être heureux? In Histoire de la chauve-souris, the young protagonist is guided through the transition from girlhood to womanhood by a bat which arrives one night in her tower bedroom. The older heroine of Histoire du tableau has already negotiated adolescence, employment, marriage and early motherhood, but is on the brink of a midlife crisis; her path of individuation is triggered by an encounter with a painting. At ← 83 | 84 → a later stage still, Madame Carel in Allons-nous être heureux? has resolved some of the significant transitions...

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