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.
self is also clearly manifest and, indeed, foregrounded in the work
of a signiﬁcant number of the contemporaryFrench women writers discussed in this volume. The authorial self as narrator or protagonist is
subject to the same tensions and negotiations as other aspects of the self –
above all, in relation to her readers. Sophie Calle’s experiments with
her/self both challenge and implicate the reader in an ethical relation to the
text, in which respect for the other and the self is precisely at stake. In
Detambel’s L’Ecrivaillon, the writing self is embodied, only to
introduced to the work of writers such as Christine Angot,
Virginie Despentes, Linda Lê and Lorette Nobécourt at the very same time
that these authors were still in the process of establishing their names.1 On
the cusp of a new century and, of course, a new millennium, it is both time
and timely to publish this collection of critical essays on writing by women
in contemporaryFrance. The writers discussed include a number of
important names, such as Angot, Marie Darrieussecq, Régine Detambel
and Agnès Desarthe, whose work was ﬁrst published in the s, as well
Chawaf ’s writing does not,
then, denote a liberating fusion or interchange between self and other,
writing subject and text, text and reader, that is so often associated with
contemporaryFrench women’s writing.20 Vers la lumière, which has hitherto been read almost exclusively in relation to Cixous’s work, may thus
oﬀer a diﬀerent understanding of the fusion between self and other in contemporary women’s writing. In Vers la lumière, self and other merge in a
crippling, inescapable living death, that oﬀers none of the possibilities of
self-reinvention and renewal
desolation when Malika learns of the death of her best friend.
Georgette! ends with the departure of the protagonist in that the reader presumes she has died under the wheels of a car, although the absence of a full
stop after the work’s ﬁnal sentence makes such a conclusion ambiguous.
Writing the dynamics of identity
Ultimately, then, all three texts conclude by a form of inconclusiveness, a
lack of resolution reﬂected in the uncertain sense of self experienced by
their beur protagonists in contemporaryFrance, and in the girls’ status as
cultural nomads never
fundamental to contemporaryFrench autoﬁctions and, in particular, to the way in which Angot makes use
of the zone between autobiography and ﬁction. They also account for the
potential of the intricate mechanisms at work within autoﬁctions, as Angot
constantly plays with, challenges, tests and wilfully confuses the reader
with her insistence on the notion of ﬁctionality.
Angot’s L’Inceste and Quitter la ville deal with recognisable elements
from the life and work of the author in a far more direct manner than her
earlier work. It is as though she has become the protagonist
Gender and narrative in L’Hiver de beauté, Les Ports du silence and La Rage au bois dormant by Christiane Baroche
discussion of the rape episode in the context of reading in/of Baroche’s
novels, see Gill Rye, Reading for Change: Interactions between Text and Identity
in ContemporaryFrench Women’s Writing (Baroche, Cixous, Constant) (Bern:
Peter Lang, ), pp. –, –, –. For a wider discussion of Baroche’s
women characters, see Michael Worton, ‘Le chant de la sirène: les romans de
Christiane Baroche’, Sud, , –.
Seminal texts for this kind of critique are Adrienne Rich, ‘Compulsory heterosexuality and lesbian existence’, Signs, (), –; Judith Butler
Unnatural women and uncomfortable
readers? Clotilde Escalle’s tales of
Described by critics variously as one of the ‘new barbarians’ of French
writing,1 as one of the cruel ‘Barbarellas’ who seek only to depict the disarray of contemporaryFrench society,2 and as one of the new breed of
women writers who hold a violent and deep-seated grudge against the gaze
of men,3 Clotilde Escalle is remarkable among new writers for the dispassionate way in which she presents violent sexual and familial dramas.
Escalle was born in in Fez
The novels of Louise L. Lambrichs are brilliant but troubling psychological dramas focusing on the traumas that inhabit the family romance: incest, sterility, the death of those we love and the terrible legacy of mourning. Louise Lambrichs's œuvre comprises five novels but also a number of factual or biographical works on medical issues such as cancer, dyslexia and sterility. These concerns are reflected in her novels which often deal with the pain of having, losing and desiring children. This chapter focuses on two novels, Journal d'Hannah and A ton image. Journal d'Hannah concerns a woman forced to abort a much-wanted second child and subsequently rendered sterile, while A ton image deals with the issues of cloning and incest. However, the fascination of Lambrichs's novels lies less with the medical issues than in the psychological perspective she adopts.
Memory and identity in Marie Redonnet’s fiction of the 1990s
The body of writing produced by Marie Redonnet between 1985 and 2000 is an unusually coherent one. The artistic endeavour is a recurrent feature of Redonnet's texts. From Doublures, with its cast of costume-makers, toy-makers, acrobats and performers, right through to Villa Rosa, whose eponymous villa is a haven for painters, dancers and musicians, the desire to invent and create impels a vast array of characters. In many cases of a veritable compulsion, the creative act is seen by Redonnet's characters as a means of generating identity, or, at the very least, of elaborating a fuller, more cohesive and enduring sense of self than that which originally exists. In Candy story and Villa Rosa, self-portraiture is a common pursuit, whilst photography, and its correlative of film-making, feature in the texts Rose Mélie Rose, Candy story, Le Cirque Pandor and Fort Gambo.