Contemporary French literature

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FranceLiterature

This article is about French literature from the year 2000 to the present day.

Overview

The economic, political and social crises of contemporary France -terrorism, violence, 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).[ citation needed ]

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.[ citation needed ] 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).[ citation needed ]

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.[ citation needed ]

Contemporary French 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, Bruno Guiblet, Christophe Fiat, and Tristan Garcia.

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), Mehdi Belhaj Kacem (Tunisia) and Assia Djebar (Algeria).

France has a number of important literary awards Grand Prix du roman de l'Académie française, Prix Décembre, Prix Femina, Prix Flore, Prix Goncourt, Prix Interallié, Prix Médicis, and Prix Renaudot. [1] In 2011 a new, controversial, award was created called Prix des prix littéraires ("Prize of Literary Prizes") which picks its winner from among the winners of these prizes. [2]

Extrême contemporain

The term extrême contemporain is a French expression used to indicate French literary production published in France in the last 10 years. [3] The extrême contemporain is, then, an ever-shifting concept.

This term was used for the first time by French writer Michel Chaillou in 1989[ citation needed ]. This simple and convenient definition hides a complex and chaotic literary situation, both from the chronological point of view (the temporal boundaries of the extrême contemporain are in continuous shifting) and for the hetereogeneity of present French literary production, which cannot be defined in a clear and homogeneous way. The term extrême contemporain, therefore, is all-inclusive. The literary production of this period is characterized by a transitory quality; because of the manifolded nature of such an immense corpus of texts, the identification of specific tendencies is inevitably partial and precarious.

Therefore, to define the extrême contemporain as a literary movement would be very improper: it is a mere term of convenience used by commentators and not by the authors themselves.

The extrême contemporain can be seen as a "literary constellation" hardly organized in schemes. In some cases, authors of the extrême contemporain follow an "aesthetics of fragments": their narration is broken into pieces or they show, like Pascal Quignard, for instance, a preference for short sentences. The "apportionment" of knowledge can also be carried out by the use of a chaotic verbal stream, the interior monologue, tropisms, repetition and endophasy. The feeling of uncertainty experience by writers leads him to put in question the notion of novel and its very form, preferring the more general notion of récit. Then, a return to reality takes place: in Pierre Bergounioux's works, readers witness the cultural upsetting concerning generations which follow one another; François Bon describes the exclusion from social and industrial reality; many authors of crime stories, like Jean-Patrick Manchette and Didier Daeninckx, describe social and political reality, and so it does Maurice G. Dantec in his works halfway between spy stories and science fiction; on another side, Annie Ernaux's écriture plate ("flat writing") tries to demolish the distance between reality and its narration.

Subjects are shown in a persistent state of crisis. However, a return to everyday life and trivial habits also takes place: the attention is focused to the "outcasts of literature", like, for instance, old people. This use of triviality and everyday life expresses itself in a new sort of "minimalism": from Pierre Michon's Small lives fictional biographies of unknown people, to Philippe Delerm's "small pleasures". The facets of this minimalism manifest themselves in many ways, through the triviality of the subject, through short forms, or through concise and bare phrases. On one hand, heroicized characters try to build up their own individual way against a senseless reality, so that emarginated or marginal people emerge through the building up of their own story; on the other hand, a "negative minimalism" takes place: characters stagnate in social and relational difficulties.

French authors of the extrême contemporain (selection)

See also

Notes

  1. Prix des Prix Littéraires, prix-litteraires.net
  2. Laurent Martinet, L'Express, 15, 12, 2011, "A quoi bon un prix des prix littéraires
  3. 2000–2010

Related Research Articles

French literature is, generally speaking, literature written in the French language, particularly by citizens of France; it may also refer to literature written by people living in France who speak traditional languages of France other than French. Literature written in the French language, by citizens of other nations such as Belgium, Switzerland, Canada, Senegal, Tunisia, Algeria, Morocco, etc. is referred to as Francophone literature. France itself ranks first on the list of Nobel Prizes in literature by country.

Michel Houellebecq French writer

Michel Houellebecq ; born Michel Thomas; 26 February 1956 or 1958) is a French author, known for his novels, poems and essays, as well as an occasional actor, filmmaker and singer.

Pascal Quignard French writer

Pascal Quignard is a French writer born in Verneuil-sur-Avre, Eure. In 2002 his novel Les Ombres errantes won the Prix Goncourt, France's top literary prize. Terrasse à Rome, received the French Academy prize in 2000. In 1980 Carus had been awarded the "Prix des Critiques".

The Prix Décembre, originally known as the Prix Novembre, is one of France's premier literary awards. It was founded under the name Prix Novembre in 1989 by Philippe Dennery. In 1998, the founder resigned after he disapproved awarding of the prize to Michel Houellebecq's novel Atomised. The prize then got a new patron – Pierre Bergé – and a new name: Prix Decembre.

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Annie Ernaux is a French writer.

Richard Millet French writer

Richard Millet is a French author.

Pierre Bergounioux is a French writer. He won the 1986 Prix Alain-Fournier for his second novel, Ce pas et le suivant. And in 2002, he won the SGDL literary grand prize for his body of work.

The Prix Alain-Fournier is a French literary prize, awarded by the town of Saint-Amand-Montrond in honour of Alain-Fournier, author of Le Grand Meaulnes. It is intended to give encouragement to a novelist at the beginning of their career, and it can be awarded for first, second or third novels, provided that the author has not previously received any recognition at a national level.

<i>The Map and the Territory</i> book by Michel Houellebecq

The Map and the Territory is a novel by French author Michel Houellebecq. The narrative revolves around a successful artist, and involves a fictional murder of Houellebecq. It was published on 4 September 2010 by Flammarion and received the Prix Goncourt, the most prestigious French literary prize, in 2010. The title is a direct quote from Jean Baudrillard's text "Simulacra and Simulation", which itself refers to the Jorge Luis Borges short story "On Exactitude in Science".

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The Grand prix de littérature de l'Académie française is a French literary award, established in 1911 by the Académie française. It goes to an author for his entire oeuvre. Originally an annual prize, it has since 1979 been handed out every second year, alternately with the Grand prix de littérature Paul-Morand.

The Prix de la langue française is chronologically the first grand prix of the literary season in France.

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Hédi Kaddour French poet and writer

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The grand prix de littérature de la SGDL is a French literary prize created by the Société des gens de lettres in 1947 in order to reward an author for the whole of his work, and which is given during the spring session of the society.

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The grand prix de la Critique littéraire was created in 1948 by Robert André. It is awarded each year by the French PEN club to a literary essay. Chaired by Joël Schmidt, its jury is now made up of Jean Blot, Jean-Luc Despax, Jean-Claude Lamy, Daniel Leuwers, Jean Orizet, Laurence Paton, Antoine Spire and Patrick Tudoret. Since its creation, it has rewarded many leading authors and intends to promote a literary criticism of quality and, quite simply, literature.

Philippe Vilain is a French man of letters, writer, essayist, doctor of modern literature of the University of Paris III: Sorbonne Nouvelle.

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References