France Literature Part III

France Literature 3

Yourcenar, the first woman to enter the Académie Française, in 1980, in place of R. Caillois, concludes the family chronicle, or rather the ” genealogical novel ” begun with Archives du Nord (1977; trad. It., 1982), in which the minutiae of the investigation (about his family in Belgium at the end of the nineteenth century) leads to an evocation of the dead (up to the prehistory of humanity), around a center, the tumultuous and tragic life of his father, the only character to escape the “alchemical defeat of the human being”.

The writers of the Nouveau Roman, A. Robbe-Grillet, M. Butor, C. Simon, N. Sarraute, each continue on their own path.

Robbe-Grillet (Djinn, 1981; trans. It., Sd) models his story on an extraneous logic (the grammatical system of ways and times): the text is a game, with different possible uses, which it holds in its meshes as in the first novels the fascination of a “fixed vertigo”.

Butor continues his search for a musical architecture, and is interested in the creative possibilities of the audiovisual field in art. Thus Le rêve d’Irénée (1979), a text accompanied by a cassette read by the author, presents itself as a sort of dream about the creative imagination.

According to POLITICSEZINE, Simon, the most secluded of the writers of the Nouveau Roman, Nobel Prize 1985, reaffirms his mastery as a storyteller in the Géorgiques (1981), taking up his first historical themes, those of the Route des Flandres. Immense collage, the Géorgiques connect three characters, three places, three main actions around the theme of war (Spanish civil war, French defeat of 1940): the text is constituted in an extraordinary polyphony of voices.

Sarraute continues to analyze, through shifts and expansions of perspective, the situations of conflict and aggression that he had dealt with in his first novels: the investigation extends from the psychological level to language itself and to the way in which others, through language, they shape us: in … disent les imbéciles (1976), for example, and then in the short prose (L’usage de la parole, 1980) each of which stages a single word or an expression and the current language ; texts that are as many embryos of fiction, microscopic listening to language and its virtualities.

The abrupt change in the novelistic style of P. Sollers, of the founding group of the review Tel quel (1960), is surprising: his Femmes (1983), a sort of key description of the intellectual milieu, recalls the Mandarins of S. de Beauvoir, albeit in more violent ways. But his imagination is also exercised in a kind of permanent and polyvalent reading of the sensitive and artistic world, as a continuous possibility of broadening the horizons of experience.

In this sense the critical writings (Théorie des exceptions, 1985, collection of essays on literature – especially of the eighteenth century – on art and music) and novels (Portrait du joueur, 1984; Le coeur absolu, 1987; trad. It., 1988) are connected and dialoguing; dialoguing also with Paradis (1981; trad. it., 1981; whose title, in addition to Dante, refers to Sade: “Everything is heaven in this hell”), an avant-garde text, without punctuation, published in installments in the magazine L ‘Infini, which replaced Tel that starting in 1983.

In the gesture of constant challenge, launched from the first story (Le défi, 1957), Sollers aims to show the relationship between pleasure and knowledge, thanks to a differently modulated “disenchanted singing” that he claims to take as a model from Mozart’s clarinet.

Perec (1936-1982) continues his exploration of language resources within the framework of the researches of Oulipo (Ouvroir de littérature potentielle), the laboratory of experimental literature founded by France Le Lionnaise and R. Queneau.

He writes following meticulous rules of composition; in the line of Roussel and Queneau, he is a formal experimenter, passionate about formal research, yet adhering to human realities. Since 1975 he has written fragments of autobiography such as Je me souviens (1978; trans. It., 1988), an ” overturned ” autobiography, which tells, instead of the more personal past, the more common one, and which gives rise to a sort of collective memory (memory of the Flaubertian clichés of a generation). The obsessive and daring nature of his literary experimentation stands out in W ou le souvenir d’enfance (1975), or in La vie, mode d’emploi (1978; trad. It., 1984) in which he describes a Parisian building and all its occupants, building an enormous story machine, with dozens of characters and highly calculated permutations of the narrative elements, until the notions are fixed in the reader’s mind of necessity and gratuitousness.

New novelists appear in those years.

Echenoz (Le méridien de Greenwich, 1979; Cherokee, 1983; L’épopée malaise, 1986; Lac, 1989) is a novelist of the suspension of meaning, the smiling demolition of dogmas, unstructured spaces and fluctuating times. The cities in which his characters move have no center: we are in a sort of mental periphery, crossed by an elliptical, playful and wise writing.

J.-MG Le Clézio, known as JMG (b.1940), who appeared in 1968 as the initiator of a nouvelle vague of novelists who intend with writing no longer ” to explain ” but ” to testify ”, thus creating a nouvelle fable, continues his line of “classicism without reality” (Bigongiari), and in 1980 publishes his masterpiece, Désert (trad. it., 1985). P. Modiano (b.1945), whose first book was also from 1968, publishes a series of novels suspended between ” lived and dreamed ”, in which the characters are disfigured over time. Two young people, B. Visage (b.1952) and J.-N. Schifano, they choose Italian themes; the first, Sicilian themes, in a trail between Sciascia and Brancati; the second, Neapolitan themes,

France Literature 3