Anne Serre, start where the story ends (Poitiers)

International study day

Anne Serre, “begin where the story ends”.

University of Poitiers – FoReLLIS – April 5, 2024

Born in 1960, Anne Serre, author of fifteen books of narrative fiction, gradually asserted herself in the margins, then more at the center of the French-speaking literary landscape of our time, translated or in the process of being translated into six languages ​​(English , German, Dutch, Spanish, Italian, Korean), Goncourt Prize for Short Stories in 2020. Long described as “unclassifiable”, it hit the headlines in 2012 with its very iconoclastic Small table, be put ! approaching the theme of entry into literature in the form of an orgiastic tale conceived as a daring allegory. Her first novel, Housekeepers, in Champ Vallon (1992), already announced a half-libertine, half-crazy vein and close in certain respects to English nonsense. From her first books, published in the 1990s, she was the subject of careful criticism, in particular from Jean-Pierre Richard, who devoted a study to her.[1]. Between non-conformism and provocation, the work of Anne Serre, which has reached maturity, today calls for the examination of university criticism. This day will therefore aim to explore it, in all its complexity, by highlighting the following elements which seem to characterize it in a privileged way.

What immediately raises questions is that the work curiously associates a dreamlike dimension, shaped by a long companionship of madness and mourning, with jubilant, invigorating creativity and the exhibition of the marvelous joys that give the language and its powers. The writing is lively, playful, of great clarity, despite the dark depths of its waters, refusing any pathos, almost always dodging confessions of vulnerability. Another aspect that stops the reader: through a certain instability of the enunciation and the narrative codes, the author displays an androgynous identity, stages the natural duplicity of beings (“People have the right to have two lives », In the heart of a golden summer, “Strong as a Turk”), and is on the lookout for the moment when readings, daydreams and performances will crystallize and give access to the other side of the mirror. Voluptuous moment which installs it fleetingly in an uchronic universe strewn with pitfalls and evasions.

Brought to short forms, to the novella, Anne Serre strikes by the alliance of virtuosity, freedom of tone and a certain cruelty. Voluntarily mocking, quick to play with pedantry as well as ignorance, eager for intellectual and moral pleasures as well as carnal pleasures, the work resonates with the literary climate of the Enlightenment, his Rousseauist passion for nature, his fight against social constraints. She nevertheless draws most of her inspiration, her fascination for death and murderous impulses, from European romanticism and post-romanticism, from expressionism, from the Fellinian grotesque – all sources that deserve to be researched and questioned. .

Finally, the work presents a certain number of creatures that stand out for their oddity, maenads in delirium, out-of-phase narrators or picaresque gueridans…: parables, self-portraits diffracted into as many miniatures, carousels of images, symbolic narratives or philosophical tales. The novelist quotes in her notebooks the text that Walter Benjamin devoted to the characters of Robert Walser: “These are characters who have passed through dementia, and that is why they remain so heartbreaking, unshakeable, inhuman in their superficiality. If we want to name in a word what is joyful and disturbing about them, we can say: they are all healed. »[2]

In the same text, Benjamin observes that Walser “begins where the tale ends”. With Anne Serre, the characters, just like the work as a whole, seem to be situated on this side or on the other side of the fairy tale (once the subject of her student dissertation), in this indeterminate space, precisely, “Where does the tale end” and whose characteristics we should perhaps try to grasp.

As we can see, this rich and often disconcerting work offers a multitude of entries. Proposals, for a communication in a maximum 30-minute format, should be sent to Anne Debrosse and Alix Tubman-Mary before October 10, 2023, in pdf format. Please add a small bio-bibliography.

The day will include a meeting with Anne Serre and her translator, Mark Hutchinson. The author will speak in particular about her predilection for certain foreign literatures and her reception abroad and in the United States, where a film adaptation of Housekeepers is in progress.

Proposals to be sent before October 10, 2023 to:

[email protected]

[email protected]

[1] J.-P. Richard, Essays of truant criticismGallimard, 1999
[2] Walter Benjamin, “Robert Walser” in Oeuvres II, Paris: Gallimard, coll. “Folio/Essays”, 2000, p. 160.

[3] Photography © Sophie Bassouls

2023-06-04 05:38:55

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