The authors studied in this book can be visualized as the islands that constitute an unknown, fragile and trembling literary and cultural Francophone archipelago. The archipelago does not appear on any map, in the middle of an ocean whose name we already know. No Francophone anthology would put these authors together as a matter of course because what connects them is a narrative grammar rather than a national origin or even a language. Yet, their writing techniques and their apprehension of the real (the ways in which they know and name the world) both reflect and actively participate in our evolving perception of what Gayatri Spivak calls the “planet”. The Reparative in Narratives argues that argue that they repair trauma through writing.
One description of these awe-inspiring, tender and sometimes horrifying tales is that their narrators are survivors who have experienced and sometimes inflicted unspeakable acts of violence. And yet, ultimately, despair, nihilism, cynicism or silence are never the consequences of their encounter with what some quickly call evil. The traumatic event has not killed them and has not killed their desire to write or perform, although the decidedly altered life that they live in the aftermath of the disaster forces them to become different types of storytellers. They are the first-person narrators of their story, and their narration reinvents them as speaking subjects. In turn, this requires that we accept new reading pacts. That pact is a temporal and geographical signature: the reparative narrative needs readers prepared to accept that healing belongs to the realm of possibilities and that exposure and denunciation do not exhaust the victim’s range of possibilities. Rosello contends that this context-specific yet repeating pattern constitutes a response to the contemporary figuration of both globalized and extremely localized types of traumatic memories.
Mireille D. Rosello is Chair of the Program of Comparative Studies at the University of Amsterdam and was previously Professor of French literature and comparative literary studies at Northwestern University. Her many books include 'Postcolonial Hospitality' (Stanford University Press, 2001), and 'France and the Maghreb: Performative Encounters' (University of Florida Press, 2005).
Introduction: From the Debate on ‘Repentance’ to the Reparative in Memorial Narratives
1. Algerian Humour: ‘Jay Translating’ Words and Silences
2. René-Nicolas Ehni: Matricide and Deicide as Figures of Unforgivable Violence and Redemption during the Algerian War of Independence
3. The Truth of False Testimonies: False Brothers in Michael Haneke’s Caché
4. Gisèle Halimi’s Autobiographical and Legal Narratives: Doing to Trees what They Did to Me
Conclusion: Repentance and Detective Fiction: Legal Powerlessness and the Power of Narratives
Engagingly written and brilliantly argued, this is a landmark work that will shape critical thinking on memory and colonialism in France and beyond.
French Studies, vol 65, no 2
239 x 163 mm
January 31, 2010
Contemporary French and Francophone Cultures 13