French literary images of the Algerian war : an ideological analysis
The Algerian war of 1954 to 1962 is generally acknowledged to have been the apogee of France's uniquely traumatic retreat from overseas empire. Yet, despite the war's rapid establishment as the focus for a vast body of literature in the broadest sense, the experience of those years is only now beginning to be acknowledged by the French nation in anything like a balanced way. The present study seeks to contribute to the continuing elucidation of this historical failure of assimilation by considering the specific role played by prose fiction in contemporary and subsequent perceptions of the relevant events. Previous research into this aspect of the Franco-Algerian relationship has tended either to approach it as a minor element in a larger conceptual whole or to attach insufficient importance to its fundamentally political nature. This thesis is conceived as an analysis of the images of the Algerian war communicated in a representative sample of French literature produced both during and after the conflict itself. The method adopted is an ideological one, with particular attention being given in each of the seven constituent chapters to the selected texts' depiction of one of the principal parties to the conflict, together with their attendant political mythologies. This reading is primarily informed by the Barthesian model of semiosis, which is drawn upon to explain the linguistic foundations of the systematic literary obfuscation of this period of colonial history. By analysing points of ideological tension in the fictional imaging of the war, we are able to identify and to evaluate examples of both artistic mystification and demystifying art. It is argued in conclusion that the former category of narrative has never ceased to predominate, thus enabling French public opinion to continue to avoid its ultimate responsibility for the war and its conduct.