A defiant muse and Une affaire personnelle: French narratives of Occupation

Isaac, Debra (2018) A defiant muse and Une affaire personnelle: French narratives of Occupation. Doctoral thesis, University of East Anglia.

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Abstract

This thesis in Creative and Critical Writing consists of two components, a novel and a critical essay. Both address the challenges a novelist faces when writing about real-life figures and Occupation in the Second World War and when confronted with inescapable gaps and inconsistencies in the historical record.
For seven decades, there have been changing and contested versions of France’s past reflecting the country’s history of resistance, collaboration, anti-semiticism and fascist sympathies. Against this background, my critical essay seeks to show how two French novelists, Patrick Modiano in Dora Bruder and Laurent Binet in HHhH, deliberately use gaps as part of their narrative form. I argue that this allows each novelist, in very different registers, to engage openly with the theme of wartime Occupation, with the difficulties of writing about real-life figures from the recent past, with voids in the record, with historiography and with ethical issues. Each also proceeds from a personal perspective which is essential to how the reader engages with the past. For both novelist and reader, the text becomes une affaire personnelle.
The novel, A Defiant Muse, is inspired by a real-life figure, Dina Vierny (1919 - 2009) who lived through the Occupation. In a series of fictionalised interviews and meetings, the narrator uncovers the holes in Vierny’s oft-told story of her life while probing the undiscussed elements in her own family past. The novel thus draws attention to gaps in the record as a means of exploring the wartime period as well as examining the stories people told about it after, and the secrets they wanted to guard. It is also une affaire personnelle as the narrator seeks to piece together and understand elusive, unexplained and distant evidence.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Faculty \ School: Faculty of Arts and Humanities > School of Literature and Creative Writing
Depositing User: Jackie Webb
Date Deposited: 01 Apr 2019 13:50
Last Modified: 01 Apr 2019 13:50
URI: https://ueaeprints.uea.ac.uk/id/eprint/70415
DOI:

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