Absent the Archive is the first cultural history in English that is devoted to literary and visual representations of the police massacre of peaceful Algerian protesters. Covered up by the state and hidden from history, the events of October 17 have nonetheless never been fully erased. Indeed, as early as 1962, stories about the massacre began to find their way their way into novels, poetry, songs, film, visual art, and performance. This book is about these stories, the way they have been told, and their function as both documentary and aesthetic objects. Identified here for the first time as a corpus—an anarchive—the works in question produce knowledge about October 17 by narrativizing and contextualizing the massacre, registering its existence, its scale, and its erasure, while also providing access to the subjective experiences of violence and trauma. Absent the Archive is invested in exploring how literature and culture represent history by complicating it, whether by functioning as first responders and persistent witnesses; reverberating against reality but also speculating on what might have been; activating networks of signs and meaning; or by showing us things that otherwise cannot be seen, while at the same time provoking important questions about the aesthetic, ethical, and political stakes of representation.
“This is a ground-breaking volume that makes visible to readers the entangled histories and legacies of 17 October 1961 in the French cultural imaginary. It is an outstanding work of ethical scholarship, offering a creative analysis of ‘rogue’ cultural texts that been produced in response to a massacre in central Paris that continues to live in the shadows of French history."
Claire Gorrara, Cardiff University