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Isotopias

Places and Spaces in French War Fiction of the Twentieth and Twenty-First Centuries

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Peter Tame

This monograph is the first book to examine places and spaces in French war fiction of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. These places and spaces are presented as literary isotopias, or fictional «worlds», and analysed in a selective corpus of thirty-three novelists and forty-two examples of war fiction. The book identifies and classifies the various types of isotopia that appear in fiction in the form of scenes, images or literary microcosms. The author establishes four isotopic modes – possession, dispossession or loss, alienation, and repossession – by which means the isotopias are expressed. The spaces considered include territorial demands, gains, possessions, losses and national spaces, as well as internal mental spaces.
The corpus of novels selected for this project covers a wide variety of examples of fictional worlds: the spiritual, the marginal, the regional, the ideological, the psychological, the erotic, the ecological and the political. The methods of analysis identify these worlds, demonstrate both how they function in relation to the characters in the novels and how they affect the reader, and provide further illumination on the intentions, achievements and ideologies of the characters and of the novelists concerned. One of the findings of the study is that the greater the stress of war and conflict the more authors and characters tend to seek refuge in their imaginary (isotopic) worlds.
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Chapter 1: Jean Giraudoux, Siegfried et le Limousin (1922): Amnesotopia – The effect of war on individual memory in peacetime

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CHAPTER 1

Jean Giraudoux, Siegfried et le Limousin (1922): Amnesotopia – The effect of war on individual memory in peacetime

Jean Giraudoux completed his novel Siegfried et le Limousin at roughly the same time that Radiguet’s Le Diable au corps was being written.1 However, the geospatial scope of the former went far beyond the narrow radius of place and space around Paris that provides the scene for Radiguet’s story of a wartime adultery. Essentially, as the title suggests, the novel foregrounds the crucial relationship between France and Germany in the wake of the Great War.

Whereas, in Un long dimanche de fiançailles, five isolated Frenchmen were ejected into an apparently empty ‘No Man’s Land’, between the French and German trenches in the Great War, as a punishment for desertion, the narrator of Jean Giraudoux’s Siegfried et le Limousin, Jean, suggests ironically that ‘No Man’s Land’ was actually more populous than one might expect.2 He does this presumably in order to imply that marginality, usually in the form of pacifism in the context of the Great War, was probably a fairly widespread phenomenon among the soldiers of both sides. Describing his friend, Forestier, who is the protagonist of the novel, he relates that ← 133 | 134 →

il [Forestier] était tombé entre les lignes, dans un no man’s land à cette époque grouillant encore de monde.3

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