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14Women in French Studies A Tribute to Marie Cardinal Claire Marrone We were all saddened by the death ofMarie Cardinal in May of2001 atthe age ofseventy-two. She inspired so many ofus with herprolific corpus, beginning with Ecoutez la mer (1962). She moved us by bringing personal experiences into her texts. She touched us with her humble and sensitive demeanor. Cardinal reveals her humility, for example, when she writes: "Je suis toujours étonnée que tant de gens dans le monde s'intéressent à ce quej'écris. J'ai toujours envie de dire 'ce n'est pas de ma faute, je ne l'ai pas fait exprès....' [L]es écrivains, souvent, ne sont pas à la hauteurde leurs livres. En tout cas c'est ce qui m'arrive" (letter to the author). In her bold treatment ofsuch issues as women's bodies, the mother-daughter relationship, female subjectivity, and gender oppression, Cardinal expressed many ofthe fears and repressed desires ofher contemporaries, particularly women. The majority of Cardinal's work was inspired by her life experiences. She is best known for her celebrated autobiographical novel, Les Mots pour le dire (1975), a text that highlights the healing benefits of writing and the community that artistic production anticipates, from family, to colleagues, to the society ofreaders.1 Cardinal's popularity among women from varied walks of life is fitting for the author who expressed a preference for communicating with "real" women rather than following literary trends. She often said that she wrote for women like those she met during her years struggling to raise a family, those who "ne savent pas traduire en mots ce que leur corps sait: la lenteur des gestations, la viscosité féconde, l'épaisseur nourrissante. . . L'archaïsme de nos vies de femmes" {Autrement dit 81). She wished to give these women "des mots qui seront des armes" {Autrement dit 81). Colette Hall remarks that "l'oeuvre de Cardinal est ancrée dans le quotidien, dans le concret de la vie des femmes. Elle parle au nom de toutes celles qui n'ont pas droit à la parole" (10). In attributing to her literary projects this political significance, Cardinal communed with other women in a way that allowed her to heal her own pain. In Les Mots pour le dire, she outlined her traumatic relationship with her mother and her battle with mental illness. The text maps out the protagonist's progress toward overcomingher emotional disorderby highlightingthe interpretive work ofpsychoanalysis and the cathartic benefits ofcommunication. According to Lyn Thomas and Emma Webb, Les Motspour le dire "seems to have inspired in its women readers abeliefin their ability to bring about change intheir own lives" (41). Cardinal continually reached out to her readers and shared her personal struggles with them. In her last work, Amour... amours... (1998), she expressed her nostalgia for herbirthplace,Algeria. Born to aFrench colonial family, Cardinal was forcedto leave her beloved homeland because of the French-Algerian War. She had long tried to articulate her bicultural origins. In Les Pieds-Noirs (1988), for instance, we read ofthe influence ofboth France and Algeria on her sense of identity: "Deux pays, deux coeurs, deux têtes..." (54). Instead ofthe birth ofthe writer portrayed in Les Mots pour le dire, however, Amour... amours... depicts the would-be writer, Marrone1 5 the incapable writer, the aging amateur who seemingly will never find satisfaction in her own literary production. The text emphasizes the significance oforality in the heroine's self-understanding—the importance ofthe spoken word so vital to Algerian culture. Cardinal's nomadic existence took her to many lands. She became a Canadian citizen in 1960, and toward the end ofher life she divided her time between southern France and Canada. I had the pleasure of meeting Cardinal and her family in Montreal in 1994. There, I experienced her warmth and intellectual generosity as we discussed such topics as autobiography, feminism, women's writing, and women's lives.2 I also saw a side ofCardinal that is very difficult to know through books and interviews. I witnessed her love for her family, a love that endured despite marital strife and filial difficulties. I spoke to her son Benoît...

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Additional Information

ISSN
2166-5486
Print ISSN
1077-825x
Pages
pp. 14-15
Launched on MUSE
2016-04-06
Open Access
No
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