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Violent Histories

Violence, Culture and Identity in France from Surrealism to the Néo-polar

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David Gascoigne

This volume presents selected papers from the conference ‘Violence, Culture and Identity’ held at St Andrews University in 2003. It seeks to explore the ways in which French writing since 1920 has registered and reflected on the violent national traumas of the World Wars, the Occupation and decolonisation. The essays consider how these crises have led French writers to a critical, often painful reassessment of national, cultural and individual identity. Contributors trace the different challenges offered to any comfortable consensual notions of Frenchness, and to the structures of authority which invest in such a consensus. A recurrent preoccupation is the problematic issue of ‘memory culture’, especially of how a post-conflict generation copes with an avowed or concealed inheritance of violence and guilt. The thematics, ethics, rhetoric and imagery of violence are charted through debates around surrealism and in writings by major figures, such as Malraux, Sartre, Camus, Genet and Modiano, while a final group of essays looks closely at how a new wave within the popular roman noir genre (the ‘néo-polar’) engages emphatically and controversially with these issues and their political implications.
Contents: David Gascoigne: Introduction: France’s Violent Histories – Peter Read: French Surrealism and la démoralisation de l’Occident in 1932 and 2001 – David Gascoigne: André Malraux’s musée imaginaire of Violence – Kirsteen Anderson: Sartre and Jewishness: From Identificatory Violence to Ethical Reparation – Toby Garfitt: Camus between Malraux and Grenier: Violence, Ethics and Art – Mairéad Hanrahan: Genet and the Cultural Imperialism of Chartres Cathedral – Dervila Cooke: Violence and the Prison of the Past in Recent Works by Patrick Modiano: Des Inconnues, La Petite Bijou, ‘Éphéméride’, and Accident nocturne – Alan Morris: Roman noir, années noires: The French Néo-Polar and the Occupation’s Legacy of Violence – Margaret-Anne Hutton: From the Dark Years to 17 October 1961: Personal and National Identity in Works by Didier Daeninckx, Leïla Sebbar and Nancy Huston – David Platten: Violence and the Saint: Political Commitment in the Fiction of Jean Amila.