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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 1: Jean Dutourd, Au bon beurre (1952): A ‘cornutopia’ – Profiteering in Occupied France



Jean Dutourd, Au bon beurre (1952): A ‘cornutopia’ – Profiteering in Occupied France

There was at least one section of the French population that seems to have profited from the experience of the Occupation that had been dystopian for the majority of the people. In many instances, this unscrupulous minority emerged richer than before in material terms at the end of the war. These were the shopkeepers, represented most memorably in French fiction by the Poissonard family, much maligned by Jean Dutourd in his satirical novel Au bon beurre. As Dominique Veillon observes, the repercussions of the Occupation included a sociological sea-change, particularly in terms of finances:

De nouveaux riches détrônent d’anciens notables. […] Les rentiers sont en voie de disparition tandis que des trafiquants à grande échelle ne savent pas quoi faire de leur argent et accèdent au rang social que confère la fortune.1

[Nouveaux riches dethrone former worthies. […] People of independent means are a dying species whilst big-time criminals don’t know what to do with their money and rise to the ranks in society that money can buy.]

In a chapter significantly entitled ‘Le Crémier-Roi’ [The Dairy King], Henri Amouroux presents a wide range of reactions to the Occupation among shopkeepers, of whom many were apparently only interested in getting rich quickly.2 ← 407 | 408 →

Au bon beurre opens with a scene from the ‘exode’, when several million Frenchmen, women and children took...

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