Travel sickness: Marie NDiaye, Herv Guibert and the liquidation of the White Fantasy-Subject

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This paper considers some of the psychic and cultural implications of identity disintegration in works by French writers Marie NDiaye (born 1967) and Herv Guibert (19551991). In Guibert's Le Paradis (1992), the unravelling narrative (part-detective story, part postcolonial travelogue set in West Africa and the Caribbean) forces the European narrator's fantasy subjectivity apart, yanking him out of a zone of solidly racialised and sexualized privilege, and into a deathly exposure to blistering, sickly, post-white heat. In NDiaye's Rosie Carpe (2001), the eponymous French heroine, suddenly adrift with her provincial family in Guadeloupe, swings in NDiaye's bizarre narrative between exalted and desirable white-pink woman, and epically humiliated, liquidized, greyish mess. The ethnically inflected privilege of Guibert's and NDiaye's protagonists, seemingly so secure at the novels' outsets, comes apart at the seams in these narrative spaces of exception and singularity. The aesthetic and ethical implications of becoming-other and of shifting from crisply French (and human) to messily francophone (and barely human) are, in Guibert's and NDiaye's neo-colonial travellers' tales, anything but easily digestible, but nevertheless demand our rigorous critical interrogation.

Keywords: HIV/AIDS; abjection; fantasy; metamorphosis; neo-colonialism; projection; whiteness

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: University of London.

Publication date: April 1, 2009

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  • The International Journal of Francophone Studies offers a critical preview for a new development in the understanding of 'France outside France', with a thorough insight into the network of disciplinary issues affiliated with this study. The journal complements the thriving area of scholarly interest in the French-speaking regions of the world, bringing a location of linguistic, cultural, historical and social dynamics within a single academic arena.
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