Places and Spaces in French War Fiction of the Twentieth and Twenty-First Centuries
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.
Chapter 2: André Chamson, L’Année des vaincus (1934): A Franco-German utopia/dystopia?
André Chamson, L’Année des vaincus (1934): A Franco-German utopia/dystopia?
In his autobiography, Le Chiffre de nos jours (1954), André Chamson relates that, during his recovery from a childhood operation on his adenoids, he demanded that Anna, the family’s home-help of Italian origin, show him his favourite map of France and Germany together.1 Anna complained that the boy seemed to be obsessed with Germany. Clearly, in the early 1900s even to this small sickly boy, Germany, as a rival to France, was making its presence felt. Chamson drew on this awareness subsequently in the early 1930s when he wrote his novel L’Année des vaincus (1934) on the theme of Franco-German reconciliation and friendships.
In 1916, friends who were barely two years older than André Chamson were leaving the school where he was a pupil, the Lycée de Montpellier, to fight at the front in the Great War. Some returned from this holocaust, wounded, while others did not return at all. This early proximity to the phenomena of war and death in war confirmed for him the need and desire for peace, particularly peace between France and Germany.
As we shall see, the plot of L’Année des vaincus traces an inverse course in geopolitical terms to that of Robert Brasillach’s Les Sept Couleurs, the fourth novel examined in this chapter, since, whereas, in the latter novel, one of the French characters who had no previous knowledge of Germany...
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