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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: Isotopias in invented autobiography: Four novels on the Occupation by Patrick Modiano

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CHAPTER 4

Isotopias in invented autobiography: Four novels on the Occupation by Patrick Modiano

By the 1970s, de Gaulle’s résistancialisme (the myth that most of the French supported the Resistance during the Occupation) gave way to a much more nuanced, labile portrait of an occupied France in which people could actually have committed themselves to either side, Resistance or Collaboration, and whose choice, moreover, could have been determined by ‘accident’, by chance, or by fate, rather than by intention, motivation or ideological commitment.1 Such literature eschewed the hagiographic tendencies of novels like Gary’s Les Racines du ciel, in which implicit praise of leaders of freedom fighters like de Gaulle was readily discernible. Indeed, the very notion of freedom fighter became problematic in fictional representations of the war in the 1970s. Part of the reason for this development was that a new generation in France was now questioning previous versions of events, prior to producing their own very different versions.

Born in 1945, Patrick Modiano belongs to the first generation of post-war French writers. He is currently the most widely read and the most popular of the mode rétro writers who, from the 1970s onwards, engaged in a re-evaluation of the French experience of the Occupation.2 Modiano’s ← 475 | 476 → fiction is partly an attempt to find his own identity and his place in contemporary French society by means of investigation into the lives of characters who, like his own father who was Jewish...

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