Published online by Cambridge University Press: 04 February 2021
The chapter studies modern exophonic/translingual fiction in French, acknowledging its emergence as a recognizable phenomenon in the interwar period in the work of authors such as Irène Némirovsky, but exploring in particular its consolidation over the past three decades since the rise to prominence of authors such as Andrei Makine and Vassilis Alexakis in the 1980s. The consecration of translingual authors among those celebrated in the 2007 ‘littérature-monde’ manifesto is understood as an important stage in this process. The chapter interrogates the power of French literature to recuperate difference – whether linguistic, cultural or social – by conscripting translingual novelists to a national literary ‘project’ defined in terms of ethnolinguistic nationalism and the ‘genius of the French language’. The chapter explores these authors’ relationship to French language and literature, seen as ‘realms of memory’ in their own right. Translingual writing has, however, the potential to disrupt Pierre Nora’s limited and Hexagonal understanding of Frenchness: the corpus explored to demonstrate this possibility includes work by Akira Mizubayashi (of Japanese origin), Chahdortt Djavann (of Iranian origin), Vassilis Alexakis (of Greek origin) and Katrin Molnár (of Hungarian origin), all of whom fictionalize their acquisition of the French language and deploy this in various ways to test the limits of the contemporary ‘French’ novel.
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