Beyond Return

BookBeyond Return

Beyond Return

Genre and Cultural Politics in Contemporary French Fiction

Contemporary French and Francophone Cultures, 63


May 20th, 2019

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In the aftermath of the efflorescence of experimental literature and theory that characterized the Trente Glorieuses (1945-75), ‘contemporary’ French literature is often said to embrace more traditional or readable novelistic forms. This rejection of the radical aesthetics of mid-century French literature, this rehabilitation of fictional forms that have been called sub-literary, regressive, or outdated, has been given a name: the ‘return to the story.’ In Beyond Return, Lucas Hollister proposes new perspectives on the cultural politics of such fictions. Examining adventure novels, radical noir, postmodernist mysteries, war novels, and dystopian fictions, Hollister shows how authors like Jean Echenoz, Jean-Patrick Manchette, Jean Rouaud, and Antoine Volodine develop radically dissimilar notions of the aesthetics of ‘return,’ and thus redraw in different manners the boundaries of the contemporary, the French, and the literary. In the process, Hollister argues for the need to move beyond the nostalgic, anti-modernist rhetoric of the ‘return to the story’ in order to appreciate the potentialities of innovative contemporary genre fictions.

'Beyond Return is a rich, intellectually vigorous, and persuasive study of contemporary French fiction and its presumed return to subject, story, and world. Entertainingly written and well-documented, it focuses on four major writers of the past forty or fifty years, each representing a different take on how such returns can be situated in terms of modernist and postmodernist stances or beyond them, on what they can consist of, and on what they can mean.'
Gerald J. Prince, University of Pennsylvania

'This book will be an original contribution to scholarship on contemporary French fiction. Hollister’s significant achievement here is to demonstrate how innovative French takes on genre fiction may provide important insights on literary history and cultural politics.'
Ruth Cruickshank, Royal Holloway, University of London

Author Information

Lucas Hollister is an Assistant Professor of French Language and Literature at Dartmouth College

Table of Contents

Table of Contents
Section TitlePagePrice
Note on Translations11
Introduction: Contemporary, French, Literature15
1. The Story and the World (Jean Rouaud)49
Anti-Modern Adventure: The Imitation of Happiness53
Histories and Maps: Littérature-monde76
2. A Circle of Circles (Jean-Patrick Manchette)89
Noir Form 95
Getting Out of Circles: Three to Kill 103
Endless Circles? The Prone Gunman113
3. Ghosts (Jean Echenoz)146
The Manchette Connection150
Displacing Violence: A Year 155
The Phantom Limb: 14 177
4. Apocalypse and Post-History (Antoine Volodine)209
The Volodinian Dystopia: View of the Boneyard 212
Post-Exoticism 232
Conclusion: Beyond Return258
Works Cited265