France Literature Part II

Another very fruitful trend is that which, rather than from history, starts from the news, from faits divers. If already the nineteenth century novelists, from Stendhal to Balzac to Flaubert, were inspired by the “Gazette des tribunaux” to build their narratives behind which the chronicle was no longer recognizable, in the 21st century. the news episode causes heterogeneous materials, generally coming from the media, to burst into the literature. In the case of ‘ Adversary (2000; trans. It. The opponent, 2000) by Emmanuel Carrère the text plays on two different levels and opposes to the news the personal relationship maintained by correspondence between the author and Romand, the murderer with a double life, a relationship that borders on identification at various moments. News stories do not interest François Bon (b.1953; Un fait divers, 1993), or Marc Dugain (b.1957; Avenue des géants, 2012, trans. It. Avenue of the giants, 2013), or Régis Jauffret (n.. 1955; Sévère, 2010, trans. It. The banker, 2011) as such, but they provide food for thought on human nature and the functioning of society. “It is a question of responding to the appeal of unusual and bloody facts that appear inexplicable, not so much to decipher them but rather to make them in turn the subject of questions, precisely because they occur in a reality in which causality is constantly denied or suspended between rational and unknown “(G. Rubino, in The contemporary French novel, 2012, p. 69).

More typical of the French novel is certainly the success of the autobiographical genre pushed beyond the ‘classic’ limits of the genre, to the very invention of the genre of autofiction. Critics have developed various definitions of this kind which can all be summed up by saying that self-fiction is, in fact, a fictional tale whose protagonist, or one of the characters, is the author of the text. The author who first, with Fils (1977), used the term, Serge Doubrovsky (b. 1928), published in 2011 a sum of his previous self-narratives with the title Un homme de passage. Self-fiction then turns out to be a genre very congenial to female writers, from Annie Ernaux who adopts this posture in an attempt to objectify the autobiography (many titles, the last one: Retour à Yvetot, 2013) to Marie Darrieussecq (b.1969) who puts on the cover the indication of gender for her Le pays (2005) in which the voice of the author and that of the narrator alternate. Even some texts by Amélie Nothomb, a successful writer who some ascribe to ‘concertante’ literature, can be inserted in the self-finished production: these are novels set in Japan where the writer was born, lived her childhood and where she returned as an adult., to work in a company. Ni d’Ève ni d’Adam, from 2007 (trad. it. Neither of Eve nor of Adam, 2008), tells a love story between a European girl and a Japanese boy with irony and lightness.

According to NATUREGNOSIS, the so-called ‘Minuit’ writers, all published by the publishing house of the same name, have been labeled in various ways by critics: minimalists, for having reduced the narrative to its minimum and impassive dimensions, because they remain detached from the narrative, with irony and intellectualism. Their novels are defined as playful because they play with narrative forms while militating in the ranks of those who promote ‘the return of the story’. The two major exponents of this ‘school’ are the aforementioned Echenoz (his latest titles Courir, 2008, trans. It. Running, 2009; Des éclairs, 2010, trans. It. Lampi, 2012; ’14, 2012) and Jean-Philippe Toussaint (b.1957), who in 2013 concluded withNue a cycle dedicated to Marie, his partner, which began in 2002 with Faire amaour (trad. It. Making love, 2003) and continued with Fuir (2005; trans. It. Fleeing, 2007) and La vérité sur Marie (2009; trans. It. The truth about Marie, 2011).

A separate mention should be made for those writers who, with very different narrative techniques, express a profound criticism of contemporary society. The most important of these is undoubtedly Houellebecq. A much discussed personality, a very talented writer, so much so that in 2010 he won the Goncourt, the most prestigious prize in France, with La carte et le territoire (trad. It. The paper and the territory, 2010), he stages in his novels a near future (see in particular La possibilité d’une île, 2005, trad. it. The possibility of an island, 2005; and the very recent Soumission, 2015, trad. it. Submission, 2015) in which human societies experiment from time to time scientific, political and economic solutions to overcome the unstoppable decline that condemns them to extinction.

France Literature 2

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