Contemporary French literature


Contemporary French literature

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Contemporary French literature is French literature roughly from the 1990s to today.

The economic, political and social crises of contemporary France˜—exclusion, immigration, unemployment, racism, etc.—and (for some) the notion that France has lost its sense of identity and international prestige—through the rise of American hegemony, the growth of Europe and of global capitalism (French: mondialisation)—have created what some critics (like Nancy Huston) have seen as a new form of detached nihilism, reminiscent of the 50s and 60s (Beckett, Cioran). The best known of these authors is Michel Houellebecq, whose Atomised (French: Les particules élémentaires) was a major international phenomenon. These tendencies have also come under attack. In one of her essays, Nancy Huston criticises Houellebecq for his nihilism; she also makes an acerbic censure of his novels in her work The teachers of despair (French: Professeurs de désespoir).

Although the contemporary social and political context can be felt in recent works, overall, French literature written in past decades has been disengaged from explicit political discussion (unlike the authors of the 1930s-1940s or the generation of 1968) and has focused on the intimate and the anecdotal. It has tended to no longer see itself as a means of criticism or world transformation, with some notable exceptions (such as Michel Houellebecq or Maurice Dantec).

Other contemporary writers during the last decade have consciously used the process of "Autofiction" (similar to the notion of "faction") to renew the novel (Christine Angot for example). "Autofiction" is a term invented by Serge Doubrovsky in 1977. It is a new sort of romanticised autobiography that resembles the writing of the romantics of the nineteenth century. A few other authors may be perceived as vaguely belonging to this group: Alice Ferney, Annie Ernaux, Olivia Rosenthal, Anne Wiazemsky, and Vassilis Alexakis. In a related vein, Catherine Millet's 2002 memoir The Sexual Life of Catherine M. gained much press for its frank exploration of the author's sexual experiences.

Many of the most lauded works in French over the last decades have been written by individuals from former French colonies or overseas possessions. This Francophone literature includes the novels of Ahmadou Kourouma (Côte d'Ivoire), Tahar ben Jelloun (Morocco), Patrick Chamoiseau (Martinique), Amin Maalouf (Lebanon) and Assia Djebar (Algeria).

Other contemporary authors include: Jonathan Littell, David Foenkinos, Jean-Michel Espitallier, Christophe Tarkos, Olivier Cadiot, Chloé Delaume, Patrick Bouvet, Charles Pennequin, Nathalie Quintane, Frédéric-Yves Jeannet, Nina Bouraoui, Hubries le Dieu, Arno Bertina, Edouard Levé,and Christophe Fiat.

References

Francophone Literature:

  • Littérature francophone, by Jean-Louis Joubert. Paris: Nathan, 1992
  • Littérature moderne du monde francophone, by Peter Thompson. Chicago: National Textbook Company (McGraw-Hill), 1997
  • Négritude et nouveaux monde—poésie noire: africaine, antillaise, malgache, by Peter Thompson. Concord, MA: Wayside Publishing, 1994

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