Gender and narrative in L’Hiver de beauté, Les Ports du silence and La Rage au bois dormant by Christiane Baroche
Christiane Baroche was acclaimed in France first as a short-story writer, although, her œuvre as a whole now comprises not only short stories but also poetry, novels and essays. Baroche's first novel Plaisirs amers was published in 1984, but it was her second L'Hiver de beauté, first published in 1987, that really marked a new departure in her writing career. In the two later novels Les Ports du silence and La Rage au bois dormant, the literal Venetian mirror of L'Hiver de beauté has completely given way to complex systems of textual mirroring. As in L'Hiver de beauté, narrative uncertainty is a prime player and it impacts on the portrayal of gender in similar ways. Deeply implicated in the construction of identity, the effects of the mirror motif are multiple, operating, in all these novels, in particularly creative ways on the representation of gender.
Mother–daughter relations in Paule Constant’s fiction
This chapter places Confidence pour confidence within Paule Constant's œuvre as a whole and argues for a more positive reading of the novel. The reading throws light on the trajectory of mother-daughter relations in her fiction. Her novels had been shortlisted for the Goncourt several times before, and she had gained many other literary prizes. The chapter focuses on the specific connections between Confidence pour confidence and four of the earlier novels, Ouregano, Propriété privée, Balta and La Fille du Gobernator, making links between three female characters. They are Tiffany, a 7-year old in Ouregano, growing up to her teenage years in Propriété privée and an adult in Balta, Chrétienne, the little-girl character of La Fille du Gobernator and Aurore, a French writer and one of the four principal women characters of Confidence pour confidence.
The 1990s witnessed an explosion in women's writing in France, with a particularly exciting new generation of writer's coming to the fore, such as Christine Angot, Marie Darrieussecq and Regine Detambel. This book introduces an analysis of new women's writing in contemporary France, including both new writers of the 1990s and their more established counter-parts. The 1990s was an exciting period for women's writing in France. The novels of Louise Lambrichs are brilliant but troubling psychological dramas focusing on the traumas that inhabit the family romance: incest, sterility, the death those we love and the terrible legacy of mourning. The body of writing produced by Marie Redonnet between 1985 and 2000 is an unusually coherent one. The book explores the possibility of writing 'de la mélancolie' through focusing on the work of Chantal Chawaf, whose writing may be described as 'melancholic autofiction', melancholic autobiographical fiction. It places Confidence pour confidence within Constant's oeuvre as a whole, and argues for a more positive reading of the novel, a reading that throws light on the trajectory of mother-daughter relations in her fiction. Christiane Baroche was acclaimed in France first as a short-story writer. Unable to experience the freedom of their brothers and fathers, beur female protagonists are shown to experience it vicariously through the reading, and the writing of, narratives. Clotilde Escalle's private worlds of sex and violence, whose transgressions are part of real lives, shock precisely because they are brought into the public sphere, expressed in and through writing.
This introduction presents an overview of the key concepts discussed in the subsequent chapters of this book. The book concerns with pain, loss or death and throws into relief a darker side to women's writing in the 1990s. The 1990s proved to be an exciting period for women's writing in France. The book shows how Christiane Baroche's use of uncertainty avoids the fixing of identities and self-other relations in a none the less realist mode of writing. It includes essays on writers whose work began to gather interest in the preceding decade but who, in the 1990s, were still in the process of becoming firmly established, like Paule Constant, Sylvie Germain, Marie Redonnet and Leila Sebbar. The book charts the ways in which contemporary women writers are themselves in the process of shaping wider literary debates.
This conclusion presents some closing thoughts on the concepts discussed in this book. The book focuses on various aspects of the subject and identity as they are conceived and represented in contemporary women's writing in France. Fears and fantasies are material reality in Marie Darrieussecq's novels of women in crisis, in the literalisation of metaphors pertaining to women's bodies, in the undercurrents of presence and absence, and in the void at the heart of emotional relationships. A recurrent theme in Clotilde Escalle's novels is the difficult relationships her female protagonists have with their mothers, and it is striking how frequently variations on the mother-daughter theme. The modern trend for self-referentiality in literature means that the writing self is also clearly manifested and, indeed, foregrounded in the work of a significant number of the contemporary French women writers.