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Fictionalising Trauma

The Aesthetics of Marguerite Duras’s India Cycle

Sirkka Knuuttila

With Marguerite Duras being the most disputed French artist after World War II, symbolising trauma represents the most problematic crux of contemporary trauma research. This book brings together these troublesome issues by way of integrating Duras’s aesthetics and the challenge of working through major historical trauma. Starting from the concept of an embodied mind as developed in current social neuroscience, the study illuminates the stylistic devices of the famous India Cycle that arose from Duras’s relentless struggle with the trauma of French colonialism. It reveals how converting trauma into fiction can become a powerful emotional strategy for surviving traumatic events, which may provoke necessary changes in our cultural memory through collective sharing.


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II. The Aesthetic Strategies of the India Cycle 69


69 II. The Aesthetic Strategies of the India Cycle C’est ne pas une traduction. Il ne s’agit pas du passage d’un état à un autre. Il s’agit du déchiffrement de ce qui est déjà là et qui déjà a été fait par vous dans le sommeil de votre vie, dans son ressassement organique, à votre insu.1 In this chapter, I examine the aesthetic devices of the India Cycle so as to justify a place for it among critical testimonies to the historical trauma of colonialism. The most important function of reading fiction as trauma narrative is to bear witness to the cruelty of human history by uncovering its everyday psychopathology. As Laurie Vickroy (2002, 1−5, 9) summarises, trauma narratives offer an alternative pathway to renovate cultural memory through personal contexts to depersonalised or institutionalised historiographies. This is achieved by utilising different kinds of artistic and scholarly refigurations so as to illuminate trauma’s private and public dimensions. In general, Durasian aesthetics is based on the epistemological and referential aspects lying concealed in the author’s life-long politics of writing, seen as an attempt to transcend the inadequacy of language by a rhetoric which iteratively defamiliarises the recurring mimetic figures used. The problem is how to read the rescription of Duras’s own corporeal and affective experiences, which simultaneously thematises man-made historical traumas in fiction. In her study Postcolonial Duras (2001, 6), Jane Winston offers an answer to this problem. She convincingly demonstrates that, wounded by colonial disaster in her youth, Duras...

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