Postcolonial France? : the problematisation of Frenchness through North African immigration : a literary study of metropolitan novels 1980-2000
This thesis undertakes a literary study of contemporary novels published by metropolitan French writers between 1980 and 2000, and analyses their representation of the changing relationship between France and North Africa. It begins by analysing the specificity of the situation in France, arguing that this is largely due to the functioning of the French Republican tradition, which equates inassimilable difference with inferiority. Consequently, France’s former colonies represent a privileged site of the Republican relationship with difference. This is particularly acute in the case of Algeria, by virtue of its former status as an integral part of the French Republic, and as a result of the large population of Algerian origin resident within France. It therefore offers a useful perspective from which to assess the extent to which French identities and systems of representation have been problematised in the post-colonial era. Part One examines contemporary French attitudes towards the wider Maghreb, including examples from Morocco, Algeria and Tunisia. Drawing on traditions which extend back to Montaigne and Montesquieu, it considers contemporary updating of Orientalist traditions within which French writers have explored other countries as seen from the Hexagon. Part Two concerns the singularity of Algeria’s relationship with France. By focusing on a case-study – representations of the Paris massacre of 17 October 1961 – the thesis draws wider conclusions about the way in which attitudes to the Algerian War are changing, and the key role potentially played by literary and other artistic representation. The final chapter looks at recollections of life in Algeria in the work of two women writers, Marie Cardinal and Hélène Cixous. It concludes that their early experience there of conflict and otherness was fundamental in shaping the development of their writing project, and that their literary memories destabilise notions of a unified ‘Frenchness’.