Australian Journal of French Studies

Fragmenting, Repeating, Rebuilding: The Chaotic Cyclones of Gisèle Pineau’s L’Espérance-macadam

Australian Journal of French Studies (2021), 58, (3), 290–303.

Abstract

This article explores the creative potential of the repeating cyclones at the heart of Gisèle Pineau’s 1995 novel L’Espérance-macadam. Examining the novel in relation to Édouard Glissant’s chaos-monde, it understands the cyclone not simply as catastrophe but also as an ambiguous agent of chaos in line with Glissant’s key metaphor of the slave ship, capable of both destroying and building anew a community through violent cycles of unearthing, fragmenting and interweaving. Engaging with previous critical readings of Pineau’s cyclonic figures that have relied on Freud’s “repetition compulsion”, this article argues that Pineau’s representation of external and internal repetitive events—natural disasters and personal traumas—are not to be read as regression or stasis, but as the possibility of incremental progress through constant movement and towards what Pineau names an “espérance-macadam”. Repetition thus becomes a catalyst for systemic change, allowing her protagonist to process trauma, join a community of survivors of sexual abuse and environmental injustice and find agency within and through the cyclonic events that affect her community.

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Author details

GOLDMAN, JOSEPHINE