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  • Poétiques de la violence et récits francophones contemporains by Emmanuel Bruno Jean-François
  • Charlotte Baker
Poétiques de la violence et récits francophones contemporains. Par Emmanuel Bruno Jean-François. (Chiasma, 39.) Leiden: Brill Rodopi, 2016. x + 300 pp.

This study examines the thematic, stylistic, and ethical dimensions of twentieth- and twenty-first-century francophone writers' reactions to the proliferation of violent images that characterize our contemporary reality. It examines the normalization and even the trivialization by repetition of violence in all its manifestations, whether social, psychological, political, or territorial. Emmanuel Bruno Jean-François focuses on the emergence of new literary representations of violence or 'une littérature de la violence' (p. 7), but also examines the potential of literature to see violence differently, not simply as something banal. The opening chapter draws on foundational texts of modern thought on violence, individual identity and social identity, including the works of Sigmund Freud, Émile Durkheim, Walter Benjamin, and Hannah Arendt, as well as the work of contemporary thinkers including Homi Bhabha, Edward Said, Julia Kristeva, Giorgio Agamben, Édouard Glissant, Amin Maalouf, and Deberati Sanyal. Here, the author convincingly establishes the links between critical perspectives on violence and major themes in contemporary thought, which underpin his study. He moves on to consider the impossibility of representing violence, examining violence as spectacle in the work of Amélie Nothomb; its scatology and eschatology in the works of Ahmadou Kourouma, Abdourahman Waberi, Ananda Devi, and Véronique Tadjo; its obscenity in Devi and Nothomb; and its instrumentalization in the work of Yasmina Khadra. The third chapter explores the origins and causes of violence, which the author is careful to distinguish as he examines desire, power, compulsion, and aggression, as well as the cruelty associated with pleasure and suffering, from a psychoanalytical perspective. The second half of the study then considers literature not only as a space for the representation of violence, but as a means by which to counter violence. As Jean-François remarks, '[i]l y est notamment question des moyens mis en place par les auteurs pour amener une déconstruction des formes mêmes de l'écriture, tantôt à travers la langue, tantôt à traverslesstructures du récit' (p. 16). The final two chapters, in particular, focus on the violence done to literary texts, describing a new literary aesthetic that makes visible real violence that, the author reminds us, is otherwise often invisible. The scope of the study is impressive. It ranges across geographical locations including Algeria, Belgium, Canada, Côte d'Ivoire, Djibouti, Iran, Madagascar, Martinique, Mauritius, and Morocco to identify a new generation of writers whose work develops a poetics to account for the crisis in the representation of violence and breaks with established aesthetic values. Among the writers discussed are Alfred Alexandre, Tahar Ben Jelloun, Lise Blouin, Devi, Fariba Hachtroudi, Khadra, Kourouma, Nothomb, Raharimanana, Tadjo, and Waberi. Not only does the author carefully trace the evolution of contemporary concepts of violence and their thematic and formal manifestations in the works studied, but he draws from an impressive body of philosophical, sociological, and literary work to examine the aesthetic and ethical strategies of representation that the contemporary proliferation of violence in fiction has inspired. [End Page 474]

Charlotte Baker
Lancaster University


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