French literature after World War II  

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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.
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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.
aftermath of World War II, French literature of the 20th century, literature after World War II

The 1950s and 1960s were highly turbulent times in France: despite a dynamic economy ("les trente glorieuses" or "30 Glorious Years"), the country was torn by their colonial heritage (Vietnam and Indochina, Algeria), by their collective sense of guilt from the Vichy Regime, by their desire for renewed national prestige (Gaullism), and by conservative social tendencies in education and industry.

Contents

The novel

Nouveau roman

The French novel from the 1950s on went though a similar experimentation in the group of writers published by "Les Éditions de Minuit", a French publisher; this "Nouveau roman" ("new novel"), associated with Alain Robbe-Grillet, Marguerite Duras, Robert Pinget, Michel Butor, Samuel Beckett, Nathalie Sarraute, Claude Simon, also abandoned traditional plot, voice, characters and psychology. To a certain degree, these developments closely paralleled changes in cinema in the same period (the Nouvelle Vague).

Oulipo

The writers Georges Perec, Raymond Queneau, Jacques Roubaud are associated with the creative movement Oulipo (founded in 1960) which uses elaborate mathematical strategies and constraints (such as lipograms and palindromes) as a means of triggering ideas and inspiration.

Poetry

Poetry in the post-war period followed a number of interlinked paths, most notably deriving from surrealism (such as with the early work of René Char), or from philosophical and phenomenological concerns stemming from Heidegger, Friedrich Hölderlin, existentialism, the relationship between poetry and the visual arts, and Stéphane Mallarmé's notions of the limits of language. Another important influence was the German poet Paul Celan. Poets concerned with these philosophical/language concerns -- especially concentrated around the review "L'Ephémère" -- include Yves Bonnefoy, André du Bouchet, Jacques Dupin, Roger Giroux and Philippe Jaccottet. Many of these ideas were also key to the works of Maurice Blanchot. The unique poetry of Francis Ponge exerted a strong influence on a variety of writers (both phenomenologists and those from the group "Tel Quel"). The later poets Claude Royet-Journoud, Anne-Marie Albiach, Emmanuel Hocquard, and to a degree Jean Daive, describe a shift from Heidegger to Ludwig Wittgenstein and a reevalution of Mallarmé's notion of fiction and theatricality; these poets were also influenced by certain English-language modern poets (such as Ezra Pound, Louis Zukofsky, William Carlos Williams, and George Oppen) along with certain American postmodern and avant garde poets loosely grouped around the language poetry movement (such as Michael Palmer, Keith Waldrop and Susan Howe; with her husband Keith Waldrop, Rosmarie Waldrop has a profound association with these poets, due in no small measure to her translations of Edmond Jabès and the prose of Paul Celan into English).

May 1968

The events of May 1968 marked a watershed in the development of a radical ideology of revolutionary change in education, class, family and literature. In theater, the conception of "création collective" developed by Ariane Mnouchkine's Théâtre du Soleil refused division into writers, actors and producers: the goal was for total collaboration, for multiple points of view, for an elimination of separation between actors and the public, and for the audience to seek out their own truth.

Magazines

The most important review of the post-1968 period -- "Tel Quel" -- is associated with the writers Philippe Sollers, Julia Kristeva, Georges Bataille, the poets Marcelin Pleynet and Denis Roche, the critics Roland Barthes, Gérard Genette and the philosophers Jacques Derrida, Jacques Lacan.

Ecriture Féminine

Another post-1968 change was the birth of "Ecriture Féminine" promoted by the feminist Editions des Femmes, with new women writers as Chantal Chawaf, Hélène Cixous, Luce Irigaray...

Colonial literature

From the 1960s on, many of the most daring experiments in French literature have come from writers born in French overseas departments or former colonies. This Francophone literature includes the prize winning novels of Tahar ben Jelloun (Morroco), Patrick Chamoiseau (Martinique), Amin Maalouf (Lebanon) and Assia Djebar (Algeria).

Theater

Inspired by the theatrical experiments in the early half of the century and by the horrors of the war, the so-called avant-garde Parisian theater, "New Theater" or "Theatre of the Absurd" around the writers Eugène Ionesco, Samuel Beckett, Jean Genet, Arthur Adamov, Fernando Arrabal refused simple explanations and abandoned traditional characters, plots and staging. Other experiments in theatre involved decentralisation, regional theater, "popular theater" (designed to bring working classes to the theater), and theater heavily influenced by Bertold Brecht (largely unknown in France before 1954), and the productions of Arthur Adamov and Roger Planchon. The Avignon festival was started in 1947 by Jean Vilar who was also important in the creation of the T.N.P. or "Théâtre national populaire".




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