Art and the artist in the literary works of Elsa Triolet
This thesis takes a representative selection of Triolet's works to study the themes of writing and creativity as they are presented in the novels. These are all portraits of artists and the accounts of the search for a synthesis of aesthetic freedom and ethical responsibility. It considers Triolet's importance as a foreign writer, adopting a new creative language to be adopted by a different cultural environment, to be essential in understanding her importance to the French literary tradition. By emphasising her formative years in the avant-garde circles of prerevolutionary Russia, my study demonstrates her considerable contribution to the meeting of Russian and French aesthetic theories. I extend this with close textual readings of certain works to demonstrate her techniques in novelistic construction which reveal many Formalist practices before Formalist works in translation made their official influence on creative methods. The introduction considers the reasons for Triolet's neglect as a writer. It then considers various contemporary and recent critical appraisals which indicate the interest she has received until present and which allow me to define my own critical approach. Part One traces Triolet's literary evolution from her formative years in Russia, through exile to her first publications in Russian. It then considers her insertion into French literary activity, and her association with the schools of socialist realism and the "nouveau roman". Part Two examines two traditional novels which portray the creative and metaphorical roles of the artist and his work, showing the constant conflict between private and public lives. In Part Three, I show how aspects of novelistic traditionalism are gradually foregrounded so that the work develops a dual-sided character where it both narrates and examines the processes of its own narration. In Part Four, this move to highly self-conscious aesthetics demonstrates an idiosyncratic exploration of new paths for the novel that bring visual, auditive and cinematographic media into the traditional domain of written art. Accompanying the very post-modernist experimentation, I show how this research within the novel into the novel's own future has an ethical and redemptive purpose whose final conclusion is that creativity and human freedom are inexorably interwoven.