Les écrivains d’outre-France : French literature, world literature and the translingual text

Professor Charles Forsdick will be presenting a research paper entitled Les écrivains d’outre-France’ : French literature, world literature and the translingual text’ at the University of London Institute in Paris on Thursday 22 January at 5pm.

The presentation explores (and historicizes) the recent emergence within French literature of a substantial group of authors known as ‘translingual’, i.e. those whose relationship to France, French and Frenchness is not based primarily on colonialism and its afterlives, but is linked instead to a choice to migrate culturally, linguistically and (usually also) geographically into a sphere of French influence. What such texts reveal is that the traditional ‘linguistic family romance’ (Yildiz) of which literature is an essential vehicle is under real strain as we see a new potential for ‘French’ literature to be de-colonized, de-ethnicized and de-territorialized. Translingual literature in French is often read, however, as being more about the demonstration of creative potential or the indication of cultural complexity than the actual performance of new literary possibilities. Concluding with a consideration of the work of specific authors, including Vassilis Alexakis and Dai Sijie, the paper suggests that translingual authors encourage us nevertheless to read literature in French – and to understand the genesis of that literature – in ways that reflect what Robert Stam has called a ‘relational, contrapuntal, polycommunal multiperspectival history’. In the light of this approach, it is suggested that translingual writing in French permits a particular glimpse of French as a language increasingly detached from its close ties to a single nation, and of French literature as a body of texts whose transnational and even multilingual dimensions are becoming more and more apparent.

In the Granville-Barker room, 4th floor. See http://ulip.london.ac.uk/CF for further details.

Charles Forsdick is James Barrow Professor of French at the University of Liverpool, and AHRC Theme Leadership Fellow for ‘Translating Cultures’. He has published widely on travel writing, colonial history, postcolonial literature and the cultures of slavery. He is also a specialist on Haiti and the Haitian Revolution, and has written widely about representations of Toussaint Louverture.

The Uprising

The scene shows a street, unadorned post-war concrete buildings, the image is unstable. There’s a man in one corner: is he carrying a machine gun? The voice calls out: use your brains before you shoot, says the subtitle, why don’t you use your brain? It’s from the film The Uprising, or from a video posted on YouTube, which is what the 80 minutes of Peter Snowdon’s film are made from, or with, or of… The preposition is significant, though it won’t bear the weight of the demonstration. That needs more elaborate moves, and some explanation. The film charts the phases of the Arab Spring through a compilation of videos downloaded from the Net and occasionally traced to their original source. No specific coordinates of time or space are given, but we know we’re in 2011 and the clips enable us to identify Cairo, the Pearl Roundabout in Manama, Tunis, Sana’a. In the final credits the film scrupulously lists the URLs for the material used within each “day” of the chronicle, which is organised as one week running from 7 days ago to today, at which point the film ends. But the documentary function of the film is secondary. Its primary thrust is transformative, or translational. In this sense it intends to be, according to the film-maker, more than the sum of its parts, and a singular act of the imagination that subtends the historical interest of any of the documents from which – or with which, or of which – it is composed.

It is translational in the generic sense that it does the work of subtitling material that would otherwise remain only partially accessible to Western audiences. And it is translational in the more critical sense that it moves the material from one mode to another, or from one sphere to another, and in so doing accrues other significance to it. So joyful disbelief resonates in some of the videos, appal and incomprehension in others, anger too, and terrible poignancy in at least one, but the film is none of these registers exactly or immediately. Its mode is more reflexive: how am I looking at this now, where am I looking at this now? What arc lies between a handheld camera dancing a sudden break into a sprint as the subtitles inform us that they’re using real bullets, and the “today” that extends from the screen to my seat in an art-house cinema or a university screening-room? What sort of meshing of our terrible remoteness now from these events does it offer us?

The film is showing in Paris at the Ateliers Varan in November.

http://www.ateliersvaran.com/spip.php?article25

http://theuprising.be/the-movie

 

Beckett Letters vol 3

By invitation of the Center for Writers & Translators and the Department of Comparative Literature & English, George Craig and Dan Gunn will present this new volume of Samuel Beckett’s letters, on the evening of its worldwide publication by Cambridge University Press.

A reading and discussion on Thursday 16 October at 19.00 in the Grand Salon, 31 avenue Bosquet, for a celebration of the publication of The Letters of Samuel Beckett Volume III, 1957-1965

This third volume reveals the author striving to find a balance between the demands put upon him by his growing international fame, and his need for the peace and silence from which new writing might emerge. During this period Beckett has to face the fact that his work – despite his own advocacy of failure – is not only critically acclaimed but also popular with the public. And for the first time Beckett has a woman as his chief correspondent: in the intense and abundant letters to Barbara Bray is to be found one of the excitements of this volume.