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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 3: André Malraux, L’Espoir (1937): The Spanish Civil War, as a preliminary to the Second World War

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CHAPTER 3

André Malraux, L’Espoir (1937): The Spanish Civil War, as a preliminary to the Second World War

André Malraux was one of France’s most prolific and active authors in the twentieth century. We shall be focusing here on the role played by places and spaces in his fiction. In his writing on art, he developed his theory of metamorphosis to explain how works of art may look different to different cultures, but remain great works of art. Places and spaces are subject to similar transformations, as historical atlases clearly demonstrate. Works of fiction take these transformations one step further in presenting the author’s crafted perception of places and spaces.

Written by one of the first militarily active French supporters of the Republicans in the early days of the Spanish Civil War, Malraux’s L’Espoir begins with a brilliant demonstration of the power of technology, the telephone and the radio, to inform and control. The entire nation-space of the Spanish peninsular is evoked from the centre, Madrid, of the railway network – the trade unionists Ramos and Manuel direct operations – in dramatic fashion in the stuttering announcements of gains and losses all over the country in the first few days of the war. In his history of the Spanish Civil War, Hugh Thomas pays homage to the authenticity of Malraux’s representation of these exchanges in the early days of the war.1 Manuel, the principal character of the novel and a sound engineer, translates the reports on...

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