Australian Journal of French Studies

Introduction: Truth and Representation in French and Francophone Studies

Australian Journal of French Studies (2019), 56, (2), 117–124.


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AJFS 56.2 2019 DOI:10.3828/AJFS.2019.09 Introduction: Truth and Representation in French and Francophone Studies LESLIE BARNES, ASHOK COLLINS & GEMMA KING Guest Co-editors Can fiction tell the truth? This question is at the heart of a very public feud that erupted between Camille Laurens and Marie Darrieussecq in 2007, a dispute that began when the former accused the latter of “une sorte de plagiat psychique” in the pages of La Revue littéraire and, once the dust had settled, saw Laurens lose her contract at P.O.L and both authors publish reflections on literature, ownership, authenticity and betrayal in the era of autofiction ascendant.1 In an essay entitled “Marie Darrieussecq ou le syndrome du coucou”, published shortly after the release of Darrieussecq’s novel Tom est mort (2007), Laurens likens her colleague to a brood parasite, a thief who would appropriate another’s story to ensure the success of her own literary endeavour. Both authors had written works about the death of a child, but only Laurens had lived through it.2 In her accusation and subsequent writing, Laurens lays claim to the traumatic experience and its representation, insisting that the death of a child is not a theme to be explored in literature, but a trauma to which the work of literature might testify. Darrieussecq reads the accusation, which is not the first such accusation to be levelled against her, as a deliberate attempt to police fiction as a literary enterprise, to determine its rights and limitations. Within the context of the rise of autofiction and its attendant claim to authentic representation, she says, imagination is suspect: “Le roman, au fond, est perçu par les tenants de la véracité comme un plagiat de l’autobiographie. Comme si la fiction n’était jamais que copie, ou le masque, d’un Camille Laurens, “Marie Darrieussecq, ou le syndrome du coucou,” La Revue littéraire, 32 (2007), 1–14 (p. 4). Following the scandal, Laurens published a work of autofiction, Romance nerveuse (Paris: Gallimard, 2010), in which she recounts the years of disappointment, creative paralysis and destructive encounters that followed her excommunication from P.O.L. For her part, Darrieussecq published Rapport de police: Accusations de plagiat et autres modes de surveillance de la fiction (Paris: P.O.L, 2010), a work tracing the history and social function of such accusations. For a study examining in greater detail the feud and its implications for fiction, see Leslie Barnes, “Truth, Trauma, Treachery: Camille Laurens v. Marie Darrieussecq”, MLN, 130: 4 (2015), 998–1012. 2 Camille Laurens, Philippe (Paris: P.O.L, 1995). 1

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Author details

Barnes, Leslie

Collins, Ashok

King, Gemma