Despair, destruction and creation : a study of the works of Emmanuel Bove, 1898-1945
Emmanuel Bove wrote some thirty novels and short stories between 1924 and 1945.
His writing represented a challenge to the 'Belles lettres ', and was celebrated by Max Jacob
and Rainer-Maria Rilke, praised by Samuel Beckett and rediscovered by Peter Handke. His
work describes a disintegrating society using the perspective of a central character whose
experience of the day-to-day is of a hostile world, be it in a family environment or a country at
war, that causes physical and mental illness. Bove's work anticipates the Absurd and
Existentialist literature, and its expression of ennui is an aspect of its modernity.
Previous studies of Bove's work have analysed its aesthetic qualities and its narrative
structures, and compared it with the Nouveau Roman, the literature of the Absurd and
Existentialism, Russian novels of the nineteenth century and English!American writing of the
first half of the twentieth century. In this study, fiction is shown to be a social and
psychological archive, representing the rejection and alienation of the subject, his material
deprivation and mental suffering. Despair is emphasised as a constant in the threatening
experience that is everyday life. The importance of the family and of socio-historical influences
on the subject's condition is discussed. The study examines the possibility of redemption by
writing, and analyses how the texts give expression to artistic creation as a positive response to
the negative experience of the everyday.
The thesis claims that Bove's work is an exploration of the human psyche, its
experience of trauma and its responses. It analyses the representation of suffering and the
causes of the destruction of the individual. The theoretical support for the interpretation of the
texts is drawn mainly from the disciplines of psychology and psychoanalysis. Psychoanalytical
theory underpins also the interpretation of references in the text to artistic creation that is
indicated as one of the possible responses to suffering.
The thesis is divided into two parts. Part One gives an introduction to Bove's life and
work (Chapter I); it places Bove's writings in the literary historical context of the development
of novel writing from Dostolevski to the Nouveau Roman (Chapter 2), and discusses the
approach of previous critics to Bove's work (Chapter 3). Part Two presents an analysis of the
expression given to the despair and destruction of the subject and to the compensatory,
therapeutic value of creative writing. Chapter 4 focuses on the mind and Chapter 5 on the body.