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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 1945: A space under reconstruction in Marcel Aymé’s Uranus (1948)



France 1945: A space under reconstruction in Marcel Aymé’s Uranus (1948)

We have seen how the horrors of the war and the Occupation have been variously expressed by a range of novelists, from the ‘eye-witness’ fictionalization of the Germans entering France in 1940 and the panic that ensued in Irène Némirovsky’s Suite française to Robert Brasillach’s allegorical representation of the state of the nation in his portrait of an earlier occupation, that of Morocco by the French in 1912.

Recourse to the creative imagination and, even, to fantasy once again appears, reinforced by the post-traumatic atmosphere of post-war France in Marcel Aymé’s Uranus (1948), a novel that depicts a bewildered nation emerging from the experience of the Occupation. As Nicholas Hewitt has observed,

the procedure of introducing fantasy into realistic portrayal tends to occur most in Aymé’s fiction when he is attempting to evoke particularly bleak and complex historical situations and is therefore a natural device in the depiction of the Occupation and the historical period surrounding it.1

Already, with works written and published during the Occupation, Aymé had provided much-needed escapism through the fantasy of his short stories like Le Passe-Muraille (1943) that allowed his compatriots to dream, as Michel Lécureur puts it, of flight from reality ‘en imaginant que l’on peut ← 421 | 422 → changer d’identité et d’apparence, de lieux et de temps’ [imagining that one can change one’s identity...

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