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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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Part 2: The War between the Wars



The War between the Wars1

← 129 | 130 →

← 130 | 131 →


The interwar era (1919–1939) can be divided into two distinct periods: the first, a period in which France sought reconciliation with Germany, and the second beginning in 1933, with the accession of Hitler to the Chancellorship of Germany. French literature and film of the 1920s reflected the nation’s desire for peace and reconciliation with its erstwhile foe. The first novel examined here is a classic in this respect; it is Jean Giraudoux’s Siegfried et le Limousin (1922), with its idealistic view of a Germany based on the old, traditional values of the nineteenth-century, a Germany steeped in culture, philosophy and, according to René Marill Albérès, ‘gemütlichkeit’ [sic].2 The second novel, André Chamson’s L’Année des vaincus (1934), already sounds an alarm-bell in France in its depiction of a Franco-German friendship that is destroyed by the rise of National Socialism in Germany. The third, L’Espoir (1937) by André Malraux, recounts the epic struggle between the Fascists and the anti-Fascists in the Spanish Civil War. Finally, Robert Brasillach’s Les Sept Couleurs (1939) presents the new Germany, in particular, in a new Europe where the ambitions of emerging nations, many of them Fascist, are creating new empires and appropriating new spaces.

From 1933 onwards, Hitler’s greed for territory and his promotion of a policy of Lebensraum for Germany necessarily implied that lands belonging to other...

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