France Literature Part I

Despite the 21st century. has just begun, it is already possible to observe the literature of the so-called extrême contemporain with the necessary critical detachment, and various specialized research centers are being created in France, entire university courses are being held and conferences are being organized on individual authors or on new trends in the contemporary literary panorama. In short, academic reluctance towards study objects judged to be too little consolidated and often difficult to categorize according to traditional categories is being overcome. One of the reasons for this turnaround can be seen in the extreme vivacity of the French literary world, especially if one compares with what is happening in other European countries. Vivacity of literary production that attracts the interest of the general public, which in turn, despite the times of crisis, keeps the turnover linked to culture in general and publishing in particular at high levels. Every year, one in January and one in September, two literary re-entries are celebrated on the occasion of which more than seven hundred new titles are poured into bookstores each time. Autumn is the great season of prizes, which are deeply felt by the public who live them with the enthusiasm that others reserve for sporting events. In addition to the great Paris Book Fair, every city, even a small one, has its own salon, to which cultural events of great interest are often linked. Of course, in this great turnover, not everything is literature and even literature (with a capital L) responds in different ways to the expectations of the public and the market.

According to MILITARYNOUS, Dominique Viart has developed a rough distinction between a ‘concertante’ and a ‘disconcerting’ literature. The first «goes in search of scandal, but of a scandal calibrated on the taste of the day, which rides on the taste that the public can have, for example, for games of sex, entertainment or cynicism. It goes hand in hand with advertising slogans and pseudo-cultural formulas. It is a consenting reading because it consents to the state of the world which for her is summed up in the laws of the market to be exploited for her own profit. […] There is no doubt that this literature translates something of the welfare state, but it does not think so “(Viart, Vercier 2005, 20082, p. 9). It is not simply a commercial literature in the sense that it sells a lot, novel (detective, science fiction, romance). Viart seems to denounce a tendentiousness of a certain literary production, aimed at reassuring the public and reaffirming its tastes and its values, thus producing, beyond the market issues, a regression, a settling on the state of things. From the literary point of view, this attitude ends up producing a repetitiveness of themes and forms, a vast production that remains on the surface, which fails to innovate genres and forms and is usually expressed in river narratives, conventional poetry, theater. fun. If for ‘concertante’ literature writing is something indefinite and already given, a simple communicative tool, for writers that Viart defines as disconcerting, on the other hand, writing, and therefore style, is the sphere in which the author’s research is aimed at creating a physiognomy, a personality. This is how an informed reader can recognize authors such as Patrick Modiano, Michel Houellebecq, Pascal Quignard, Pierre Michon, Jean Echenoz from a few lines. Disconcerting literature asks questions, transmits concerns and thoughts and knows how to do it in the most diverse registers, not always producing masterpieces.

In the balance between literary genres the balances follow social changes and there is no doubt that the dominant genre in the 21st century. both the novel and that within it the relationship between the sub-genres has changed. Today in the French novel the noir modality emerges strongly, the circumstantial paradigm that allows, for example, an author like Didier Daeninckx (b.1949) to tackle great themes of recent history, still open wounds such as collaborationism or war of Algeria or, as in La route du Rom (2003), those of Nazi persecutions. But these and other themes of recent history are also addressed by the contemporary novel with different approaches: from the unclassifiable one of Modiano’s novels to the identification with an SS officer of Les bienveillantes (2006; trans. It. Le benevole, 2007) by Jonathan Littell (b. 1967), to the story, deliberately in a medium tone, of the protagonist of Lutetia (2005), the manager of the hotel who was, during the war, first headquarters of the German intelligence services and then a sorting place for veterans of the liberation camps, or for the Hollenzorn butler who had to witness the requisition of the castle of Sigmaringen (2013) by Hitler with his staff, novels both by Pierre Assouline (b. 1953), to the account of the still terrible consequences many years after the Algerian war on individual lives in Des hommes (2009; transl. it. Of men, 2010) by Laurent Mauvignier (b. 1967). And the list could go on and on as the history of the 20th century. he is the protagonist of many novels of the last fifteen years even if, due to the diversity of approaches and genres, one cannot speak of a historical novel.

France Literature 1

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