Academic journal article The Romanic Review

Anny Duperey: The Silence of Photography

Academic journal article The Romanic Review

Anny Duperey: The Silence of Photography

Article excerpt

In 1992 Anny Duperey, better known as an actress than as a writer, published Le Voile noir. The work mixes photographs and narrative and is fairly original in its concept. It links photographs, photographer, reader and beholder (reader and narrator) in an emotional dynamic, ensuring its commercial success when it appeared for the holiday season. The discourse created around the photographs and originally meant as the discourse of those photographs reenacts the search of a discourse proper to photography. Let us examine the premises and the fate of this discourse.

Anny Duperey's parents, Lucien and Ginette Legras, died of accidental asphyxiation in the bathroom of their new home on November 6, 1955. Anny was eight and a half years old, her sister was five months old. In Le Voile noir, Anny tells how she refused to deal with the loss directly and erased any memories of her life with her parents before the tragedy, hence "le voile noir" [the black veil]. Anny's father was a professional photographer for about five years before he died. He was a member of a group dubbed "Le groupe des sept." His carefully protected negatives remained with Anny's sister and then with Anny herself for more than thirty years before the latter had the strength to have them printed. These pictures and the trauma of Army's childhood are presented to the readers as the origin of the book and the material for it:

"Mon pere fit ces photos. Je les trouve belles. Il avait, je crois,

beaucoup de talent. J'avais depuis des annees envie de les montrer.

Parallellement montait en moi la sourde envie d'ecrire, sans avoir

recours au masque de la fiction, sur mon enfance coupee en deux.

Ces deux envies se sont tout naturellement rejointes et justifiees

l'une l'autre. Car ces photos sont beaucoup plus pour moi que de

belles images, elles me tiennent lieu de memoire. Je n'ai aucun

souvenir de mon pere et de ma mere. Le choc de leur disparition

a jete sur les annees qui ont precede un voile opaque, comme si

elles n'avaient jamais existe. (Le Voile noir 9)

Duperey's book is certainly original in its conception and escapes a conventional literary genre classification. The mixed media are integrated in one narrative that is neither a photo novel nor an illustrated novel.(1) The book is presented, as we have just seen, as an autobiographical project. It remains strictly true to its contract of autobiographical referentiality and rejects, ideally of course, any attempt at fictionalization. It does not function, however, as an autobiography per se as it tries, though not quite successfully, to keep the attention off the "I"; i.e., there is an acknowledged resistance to the autobiographical contract, the material without the topic. The focus of the narrative, the trauma caused by her parents' death and the alleged amnesia about her early childhood, transforms the photographic material brought in the narrative and as narrative into documentation fit for interpretation by an outsider, rather than material exposed and explained to the reader. The autobiography crosses over into biography, the reinvention to the best of one's knowledge of somebody else's life. This particularity of the material and of the story made out of it reaffirms the link I exposed elsewhere between autobiography and the absence of photographs, instead of invalidating it as it first appears.

The photographs become, in this book, the guarantee of referentiality, extending their "indexical" quality to the text. Christian Metz, borrowing Pierce's taxonomy, reminds us that the indexical is "the process of signification (semiosis) in which the signifier is bound to the referent not by a social convention (= "symbol"), not necessarily by some similarity (= "icon"), but by an actual contiguity or connection in the world: the lightning is the index of the storm" (156).(2) Indexicality is also, in the present case, what links the text and the author of the text to the photographs. …

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