In classic crime fiction the demonic is located first in the crime, which mobilizes the reparative function of narrative, and then in the criminal, whose identification ensures the security of the community. The pleasure of reading such texts is bound up with the localization and erasure of the demonic forces. However, the contemporary roman noir in France (particularly the works of Modiano and Japrisot) rewrites the elements of crime fiction, presenting texts without these triumphant conclusions — texts in which the protagonist is simultaneously victim, criminal and detective. They are, I suggest, part of an alternative tradition of the demonic in French fiction, which understands its force to be chronic rather than acute, a structural component of subjectivity. In this article I explore a psychoanalytic reading of these protagonists and of the demonic in its chronic manifestation, drawing on Žižek's reading of Lacan and placing this in contradistinction to the work of Freud. I shall also reconsider the reading experience, proposing, as an alternative to the plot-driven desire for closure, the possibility of reading for the demonic, with its concomitant desire for unpleasure and sustained radical ambiguity.


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pp. 218-231
Launched on MUSE
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