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The “unnatural” French novel of today: Éric Chevillard’s L’Auteur et moi

Eva S. Wagner

Abstract

Chevillard’s novel L’Auteur et moi (2012) touches on a problem which is paradigmatic for contemporary French prose (and perhaps “postmodern” literature in general), namely the problem of literary authenticity. Are the “unnatural” dimensions of this novel – especially its persistent irony, its playful rejection of generic norms and its attacks on the interpretative authority of its readers – playful but futile devices which lack any authentic narrative concern? Or do they represent a topical and authentic answer to the challenges of an “exhausted” genre? The present paper elaborates on this question by analysing, on the one hand, the “unnatural” (and simultaneously highly comical) devices of the novel in detail. This analysis is centred, firstly, on Chevillard’s multifaceted parody on the conventions of both narrative and non-narrative (argumentative, lyrical, scientific) discourse and, secondly, on the ways in which the novel provokes and challenges professional readers – both by the subversive use of literary-theoretical categories (author; narrator; implied author) and by the anticipation and depreciation of its own hermeneutic reception. On the other hand, this paper interprets Chevillard’s novel as the expression of an authentic literary effort which manifests itself not in the narrative contents, but in the novel’s “unnatural” composition, which offers three exits from the generic impasse with which the present-day French novel struggles.

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Published Online: 2018-07-04
Published in Print: 2018-06-28

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