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3. Shadowing the Storyteller In chapter 1, I discussed Boubacar Boris Diop’s novel on the genocide in Rwanda and said that much of Diop’s work is turned toward catastrophe, be it literary, historical, political, or mythical. His 1997 novel, Le Cavalier et son ombre (The Rider and his Shadow), is written in the confluence of all these catastrophic dimensions, especially the literary and the political. By foregrounding the relationship between law and storytelling, this novel urges us to question where the law of the story comes from and how and why storytelling and figurality require an abeyance within Law, ‘‘Law’’ being perceived as foundation or groundedness. In Aveuglante, we saw that the demand for the story comes from the other as the urgent mode of survival : ‘‘Tell me a story or I will die,’’ one prisoner says to another. Whereas Aveuglante’s beginning is located in the political, the coup attempt against the sovereign, Le Cavalier begins by foregrounding the problems of beginning a story and becoming a storyteller and then moves within the story and through it toward questions of politics and justice by posing the question of the relationship between law and sovereignty. In this way, the novel relates literature to politics but without allowing us to forget or ignore that what we are dealing with is storytelling. The emphasis the novel places on storytelling does not weaken the political and ethical import of the work. Instead of becoming less relevant or less poignant by being inscribed in fiction, the political and the ethical, I argue, become more poignant when they are inscribed in literature. In destitute times, when violence has reached extreme limits and politics has fallen into the logic of the mythical, and when sovereignty has claimed for itself the absolute site of lawmaking, all that remains is the story. This remainder is both ethical and political for in the story perhaps a horizon of possibility for justice can still be imagined, in spite of everything . In this sense, I disagree somewhat with Diop’s own assessment of this work as ethically and politically less significant because it is too literary. While I agree, as I have already said, that with the novel that follows it, Murambi, le livre des ossements, Diop’s writing undergoes a significant shift for PAGE 86 86 ................. 17176$ $CH3 01-15-09 14:19:20 PS Shadowing the Storyteller 87 both aesthetic and ethical reasons, I maintain that Le Cavalier remains an important novel aesthetically, yes, but also, politically and ethically. In spite of its playful labyrinthine structure and its masterful metaphorical language, in sharp contrast with Murambi’s stripped-down style and rather straightforward narrative, Le Cavalier, in a desperate yet hopeful, critical yet promising mood, brings to the fore for literature important ethical and political exigencies. Following the double tendency in the novel toward the literary and the political, in the first movement of my reading I analyze the time and space of narration. Like Murambi, this novel too takes place between two catastrophic events. Whereas the story begins in the aftermath of a catastrophe, where a rupture has already taken place, it also announces the possibility of a catastrophe to come. Neither of these catastrophes is registered directly within the text. Rather, they are told in the temporal modes of always already and not yet. The story unfolds in the interstice that relates these modes to each other. In this reading, I show how in this novel narration constructs itself in the articulation between the time of catastrophe, which has the modes of always already and not yet, and of avowal, of récit, as storytelling. By ‘‘avowal’’ I do not mean confession, which can imply redemption, expiation of guilt, or justice in its strictly juridical sense. The sort of avowal I am thinking of is the avowal of something so dangerous and threatening that in the course of the avowal it may, paradoxically, carry the story and storyteller away to a realm from which there is no return to ‘‘reality,’’ the ‘‘world,’’ or ‘‘ordinary life.’’ In order for there to be an avowal, there must have been a catastrophe whose ripples still threaten, for as I have already maintained, we are never certain whether a catastrophe has indeed come to an end. The story comes forth as protection for the storyteller from these ripples and as exposure to an unknown path, an opening without content and without a projected end, which the storyteller futilely tries...


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