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  • Caroline

Literary Focus: The Invention of the self

Updated: Feb 28, 2020

How do we become something other than what the world has made of us?

It’s a simple question that has been around for a long time – in Simone de Beauvoir, in Marguerite Duras. But we must always reinvent the answer because the world changes.

Autofiction since the 1970s has become increasingly popular in France and is usually defined as a literary genre in which the author of a novel inserts him or herself as a character into the story or writes an autobiography including fictional elements. French writer Serge Doubrovsky is said to be the founder of the autofiction with “Fils” published in 1977. Other contemporary authors include Annie Ernaux, Christine Angot, Camille Laurens, Edouard Louis and Abdellah Taïa.

Abdellah Taïa by Abderrahim Annag
“Maybe the true purpose of my life is for my body, my sensations and my thoughts to become writing, in other words, something intelligible and universal, causing my existence to merge into the lives and heads of other people.” Annie Ernaux

The success of autofiction can be attributed to the effects it has on readers. These types of novels send readers back to themselves and help them understand the intricacies of their own life and how to link them to the rest of society and history. Many literary works have tried to capture the sense of the modern individual and show that a person’s inner life can allow changes from the inside out. Resistance, reinvention and love are often the core themes.

These 5 major works have been translated into English :

- Les années (The Years) by Annie Ernaux

- Arrête avec tes mensonges (Lie with me) by Philippe Besson

- Dans ces bras-là (In his arms) by Camille Laurens

- Eddy Bellegueule (The end of Eddy) by Edouard Louis

- Une mélancolie arabe (An Arab Melancholia) by Abdellah Taïa

To delve deeper into complex notions of identity and sexual diversity, one should also take a look at esteemed philosophers, journalists and sociologists such as Didier Eribon, Eric Fassin, Michel Foucault, Jean-Claude Kaufmann, Paul P. Preciado, Marie Helène/Sam Bourcier, Mona Chollet and Victoire Tuaillon.

After the creation of "Les Couilles sur la table", a fortnightly podcast in which Victoire Tuaillon questions masculinity from a feminist point of view, the counters are at their highest: more than 500,000 plays per month, including a number of chic fans (the novelist Alice Zeniter or the comic book artist Pénélope Bagieu). Today, this success story finds its extension in a book, now available at the mediatheque.


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