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Memory, Violence, and Genocide in Contemporary Francophone Literature

  • Author(s): Khamo, Nanar
  • Advisor(s): Lionnet, Françoise
  • et al.

My dissertation investigates questions of violence and alterity in texts by J. M. G. Le Clézio, Natacha Appanah, Ananda Devi, Khal Torabully, and Véronique Tadjo. By bringing together francophone postcolonial studies and genocide studies, I create new conversations that can foster a better look at transnational literature and history. I compare traditional historiography and contemporary fiction, and analyze literary techniques, such as voice, character, and perspective, to demonstrate how authors transcend boundaries to create collective memories of violent events. The first chapter compares and contrasts portrayals of genocide and historical violence in Le Clézio's Révolutions. I focus on the interweaving of past and present in the novel to argue that ultimately Le Clézio falls shorts of creating a genuinely multidirectional space, even as he does give voice to the historically marginalized. In the second chapter, I move to cases of "nongenocide" to allow for a broader discussion of violations of human rights in two of Appanah's novels: in Les Rochers de Poudre d'Or I focus is on gender issues and "coolies," the indentured laborers bound for Mauritius, and in Le dernier frère, I discuss the little-known history of a group of Central European Jews who were kept in an old colonial "camp" in Mauritius during World War II. I analyze Appanah's treatment of such violent histories in conjunction with the concept of "nongenocide" (Meierheinrich 2011), and I conclude that Appanah creates multidirectional (Rothberg 2009) conversations about historiography and race to foreground traumas hidden from collective memory. The question of narrative point of view with regards to victimhood and representation drives my interrogation of the two texts that I study in the third chapter. Torabully's Mes Afriques, mes ivoires and Tadjo's L'ombre d'Imana, are responses to genocide in Rwanda that reveal the authors' anxieties about the civil war in Côte d'Ivoire and its risks of descending into genocide. In all the chapters of this thesis, I examine how authors represent different forms of historical violence so as to answer a central question: what are the literary tools these authors mobilize in order to create empathy and community among different groups as well as between author and reader(s).

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