Shaping the Novel: Textual Interplay in the Fiction of Malraux, Hébert, and Modiano

Shaping the Novel: Textual Interplay in the Fiction of Malraux, Hébert, and Modiano

Shaping the Novel: Textual Interplay in the Fiction of Malraux, Hébert, and Modiano

Shaping the Novel: Textual Interplay in the Fiction of Malraux, Hébert, and Modiano

Synopsis

Examining works by Malraux, Anne Hebert and Patrick Modiano, Shaping the Novel studies textual interplay in 20th century French prose, focusing on the postmodern debate of intertextuality.

Excerpt

The dialogue between form and message is intrinsic to the novel as genre. Yet the strength of that discourse has been shaken in the twentieth century by an increasingly evident problematization of affirmations of any kind. This radicalized vision of the authoritativeness of language (or rather its lack thereof) has led to a perception of all human endeavors and of knowledge itself as highly relative. The novel reflects this intellectual current by turning its glance inward to meditate on the creative act as a form of self-contained assertion with its own particular significance. Our purpose here is to consider important exemplars of novelistic self-consciousness in the writings of three major twentieth century authors: André Malraux, Anne Hébert, and Patrick Modiano. The common ground shared by the novels we explore is the concern for textual display, or the text's pointing to itself, as a means of artistic expression and philosophical inquiry.

Part One of this study examines Malraux's Les Noyers de l'Altenburg (written in 1943 and generally considered a traditional novel penned by a canonical author) via questions raised in his 1976 essay Néocritique. The link between these two writings has never before been formally established and might be considered by some as iconoclastic in that it seeks to identify the Noyers text as a forerunner to the postmodern dilemma. Yet the tie is crucial to comprehending Les Noyers where the tension between permanence and metamorphosis reaches a pinnacle. Indeed, while many of Malraux's critical essays attest to a keen awareness that the end of the twentieth century would mark a turning point not only for art (especially literature) but for society as a whole, this sensitivity to impending change is perhaps most strongly conveyed in Néocritique where the author calls into question the very viability of the written word and discusses the paradigm of a new type of Colloquium, a form of inquiry both stemming from and reflecting the permutation inherent to our age. Malraux's abstract presentation . . .

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