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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 4: The conquest of a contested colonial space revisited: Robert Brasillach’s La Conquérante (1943)

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CHAPTER 4

The conquest of a contested colonial space revisited: Robert Brasillach’s La Conquérante (1943)

Robert Brasillach’s novel La Conquérante was written in 1942 when Vichy France’s control of the French Empire in North Africa was threatened by the Allied extension of the war to the south of the Mediterranean. The novel was first published in instalments in Je suis partout, beginning on 25th April 1942.1 The finishing touches were made in December 1942, one month after the Allies had disembarked on the shores of North Africa in order to open up the long-awaited second front that would combat the Fascist Axis powers there. The novel was, therefore, in one respect the author’s farewell to the part of the French Empire for which his father had fought and died as a soldier in 1914, and which meant a great deal to Brasillach himself. French North Africa was, as he wrote, as dear to him as any French province.2

The Treaty signed on 30th March 1912 that established Morocco as a French Protectorate is described in the novel as ‘la fragile construction du Protectorat adolescent’ [the fragile construction of the adolescent Protectorate].3 The then new colony was also closely identified by the novelist with his mother who, when still very young, had accompanied ← 349 | 350 → her soldier-husband in those early days of the Protectorate and lived for a while in Rabat, despite the obvious dangers of insurgent rebel tribes in nearby regions...

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