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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: Sweet Occupation? Suite française Part II, ‘Dolce’ – Irène Némirovsky’s novel on the German occupation of France

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CHAPTER 1

Sweet Occupation? Suite française Part II, ‘Dolce’ – Irène Némirovsky’s novel on the German occupation of France

It is with a certain degree of abruptness, which might have been eliminated by further rewriting, that the second part of Suite française opens, describing the reoccupation of Bussy (Burgundy) by the Germans for the third time since the defeat of France in 1940. The action becomes more focused on this one region in the Morvan district, the area that Némirovsky knew quite well since she lived there for the last two years of her life (1940–42). The scenes of peasant life are described in minute detail and a real feeling for nature emerges even more clearly here. Like the Parisians at the beginning of the novel, the inhabitants conceal their treasured belongings from the prying eyes of the invaders. Pianos are locked, guns are hidden, and German time, imposed on the occupied French, made it seem that the enemy had gone so far as to dispossess their unwilling hosts of both space and time. Token resistance begins almost at once, as most families made it a point of honour to put back their clocks to French time, thereby creating large unoccupied empty spaces in the day.1 These chronological spaces are frequently represented in the novel as serving as unofficial periods of mourning for the country in which thousands of homes began to resemble thanatopic funeral-parlours. ← 279 | 280 →

Némirovsky’s...

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