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


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 2: France violated: Irène Némirovsky, Suite française ([1941/1942] 2004)



France violated: Irène Némirovsky, Suite française ([1941/1942] 2004)

In order to analyse the civilian point of view in the crisis of 1940, we turn to Irène Némirovsky who, as a Jewish author living in France, was doubly threatened by the rapid sequence of events that accompanied the German invasion and occupation of France. Her novel, Suite française, was written during the Occupation of France in the years 1941 and 1942. The novelist was already well-known on the French literary scene of the inter-war period. Born in Russia in 1903, she fled the Revolution of 1917 with her family, arriving in France in 1919. She married Michel Epstein, a Russian Jew and a banker, in 1926. In 1939, just before the outbreak of the Second World War, she was baptized as a Catholic, along with her two daughters. After many years of peacetime socializing in the well-off bourgeois circles of Parisian life, the war with Nazi Germany brought an end to her glittering career. The anti-Semitic laws passed in 1940 and in 1941 by the newly installed, right-wing Vichy government rendered life so precarious for all the family that they left Paris to live in the Burgundy countryside at Issy-l’Evêque. It was here that Irène Némirovsky wrote Suite française that tells the story of the ‘exodus’ from Paris at the time of the German invasion in June 1940 (Part I) and the cohabitation of the...

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