Going around in creative circles

Francosphères (2019), 8, (2), 103–107.



Going around in creative circles

Un pas en avant

deux pas en arrière

Deux pas en avant

un pas en arrière

Telle est ma philosophie

En somme vous n’avancez pas

Non, mais je danse.2

‘Qui voyage ajoute à sa vie’ – Amazigh proverb

Going around in circles, moving between spheres, the plurifocal vantage point of a multilingual migrant. Mots migratoires, not contaminating but enriching language through accents, dialects, and heteroglossia. Le voyage des mots.3 Calling out the limits of linguistic hegemony, the monotony of monolingualism. Scratching the surface of silence to reveal words of wisdom. Listening lips, moving memories, travelling tongues. Going places. Dancing.

Je suis ravie to take on the role of associate editor of Francosphères (big shoes to fill, following in the footsteps of Catherine Gilbert). The emphasis on francosphères moves beyond la francophonie, with its colonial underpinnings, revealing intercultural encounters across borders, not only in world literature but also in political or social science and performance culture through music, poetry, theatre, film, and art.4 Beyond francophone postcolonial studies, then, to creative engagement with transcultural spheres, through the prism of the French language, dé-idéologisée, in all its diversity, a kaleidoscope of ‘vernacular Frenches’.5 The focus on spheres decentres and transnationalizes French studies, or rather reveals its transnational nature, while remaining wary of the marginalizing undertone of the term ‘francophone’.6 As Charles Forsdick notes, ‘it is clear that the “French” in “French studies” is increasingly determined by processes – within, beyond and across nation-spaces [or spheres] – of migration, return migration, travel and tourism, transnational circulation and diasporization’, while, to quote Françoise Lionnet, ‘the term “Francophone” has served to marginalize non-hexagonal writers, to ghettoize them’.7

Moving away from the centre-periphery binary, Francosphères is concerned with actively ‘tracing […] and interrogating’ multiple spheres – ‘the French, hexagonal sphere’, ‘the international postcolonial sphere’, but also ‘European francophonies’ and Mediterranean journeys that often spill into the diglossic and multilingual.8 ‘The freedom to speak any language in a plurilinguistic world’,9 probing at the limits of cosmopolitanism,10 towards a global community of cultural diversity, a brave new Tout-Monde, while acknowledging the specificities of situated localities.11 Resisting the homogenization and exclusionary nationalism or ‘tribalisme occidental’ which accompanies mondialisation,12 instead advocating mondialité, leading to a ‘dialogue globale mais pas globalisante’, including on environmental matters.13 Writing prophetically in 2012, Hargreaves stated that ‘within the space of a further twenty years or so we will see the old paradigm of the diachronically structured study of the literary culture of the Hexagon largely supplanted by a multidisciplinary field of study embracing the full spatial expanse of French-language cultures around the globe.14 Encouraging meaningful exchange and translation between the self and the others within the self, ‘au-delà des frontières et des identités linguistiques ou culturelles spécifiques’.15 As Moroccan novelist and film-maker Abdellah Taïa puts it in his interview with Philippe Panizzon: ‘À l’intérieur même de ce « je », le mien, qui s’exprime, il y a beaucoup d’autres histoires, beaucoup d’autres « je »’.16

Drawing from Édouard Glissant, this is not about understanding or comprehension through ‘la philosophie de l’Un’ and a false sense of rootedness, but rhizomatic thinking, contrapuntal poetics of relation, meeting points of transmission: connaître in addition to – if not opposed to – savoir.17 Savouring languages, tasting tongues, sharing stories of multilingual memories as a resistance to forgetting, reconstituting the past:

Toutes ces saveurs ont a jamais disparu, comme ces moments de joie familiale, de plaisanteries, de rires et d’émotion, partagés en arabe et en français, avec quelques mots d’hébreu pour le gefen, la prière sur le pain et le vin qui ouvrait le repas …18

Thus writes Marrakech-born Lucette Heller-Goldenberg of her childhood experiences in Une enfance juive en Méditerranée musulmane, a collection of mini memoirs undergoing translation into English. We might consider translation as a form of estrangement and vulnerability in cutting to the heart of the matter, which takes courage – or cœurage, love in two languages – ‘the simultaneity of alienation and creativity implicit in Khatibi’s bi-langue’.19 What Jacques Derrida calls appropriation and transport, in the sense of both travel and transcendence, across and beyond borders, transcultural and supernatural, relevant and revealing.20 ‘Francopolyphonies in translation’ leading to ‘franco-reciprocities’, including in post-secular contexts, pluralist spaces, and overlapping spheres.21

And so we come full circle, in a Sufi-like whirl. La boucle est bouclée.

As these meanderings suggest, one direction we are hoping to push the journal into is that of creativity, through the introduction of a creative writing and translation section (from French to English and from any language to French).22 Yet perhaps it is more apt to say that we endeavour to push the journal further into the direction of creativity, as Francosphères is already committed to academic engagement with creative works, whether these be literary or otherwise artistic, as is evident in this issue and the online archive of back issues. Another direction we wish to pursue is that of amplified dialogue, through the introduction of paradigm articles which invite responses. To this end, we welcome critical reflections (in English or French) on Anaïs Maurer’s proposition of ‘Océanitude’ as an ‘autre francophonie’ and ‘une nouvelle Négritude’ in ‘Océanitude: repenser le tribalisme occidental au prisme des nationalismes océaniens’. The recent move to open access, in partnership with the Open Library of the Humanities, reflects this desire to extend reach and broaden scope, as does the bilingual (and at times translingual) nature of Francosphères.23

Of course, in this endeavour to move forward, we must acknowledge the contribution of those who have gone before us, leading the way, and here we remember Nick Hewitt (see tribute by Andrew Hussey), but also Kate Marsh, a personal source of inspiration and ‘an exemplary advocate’ of ‘integrity, collegiality and rigorous intellectual curiosity’, to which we can only aspire in this journal and elsewhere.24 I hope one of these days to relate her research on ‘French’ India to Hubert Haddad’s recent novel Premières neiges sur Pondichéry, which ends with these moving words: ‘Aime ton prochain, c’est toi-meme, nul n’est autre que toi. Il m’a fallu du temps pour comprendre.25

I would like to thank Lia Brozgal and Charles Forsdick for their encouragement. I would also like to thank Lauren De-ath for, quite literally, bearing with me.

Albert Memmi, Le Mirliton du ciel (Paris: Chemins de tr@verse, 2011), p. 49.

Alain Rey, Le Voyage des mots: de l’Orient arabe et persan vers la langue française (Paris: Éditions Tredaniel, 2013), with calligraphy by Lassaâd Métoui.

On the term ‘francosphère’ as an alternative to ‘francophonie’, see Jacqueline Dutton, ‘Francophonie and its futures: Utopian, digital, plurivocal’, Australian Journal of French Studies, 48 (2011), 3–18 (pp. 7–8). On the potential of ‘francosphères’ to be an ‘all-inclusive term for all aspects of cultures of French expression’, with reference to this journal, see Alec G. Hargreaves, ‘The transculturation of French studies: Past, present, and future’, Bulletin of Francophone Postcolonial Studies, 3 (2012), 2–8 (p. 6, n. 16). For an in-depth discussion of ‘the expansion of the purview of French studies to a wider Francosphere’ and ‘different zones in the Francosphere’ (what I am calling francosphères, intentionally using the plural lower-case and retaining the accent), see Charles Forsdick, ‘Mobilising French studies’, Australian Journal of French Studies, 48 (2011), 88–103 (pp. 96, 94).

Françoise Lionnet, ‘Universalisms and francophonies’, International Journal of Francophone Studies, 12.2–3 (2009), 203–21 (p. 217). On Leïla Slimani and ‘la langue de-idéologisée’, see Lorenza Starace, ‘Leïla Slimani’s Chanson douce: Paradoxes of identity and visibility in the littérature-monde paradigm’, this issue. See also Charles Forsdick, ‘Beyond francophone postcolonial studies: Exploring the ends of comparison’, Modern Languages Open, 2015, >> [accessed 28 August 2019].

See David Murphy, ‘De-centring French studies: Towards a postcolonial theory of Francophone cultures’, French Cultural Studies, 13 (2002), 165–85. Hargreaves highlights the drawbacks of the ‘transnational’ label, instead advocating ‘transculturation’ (pp. 7–8). For a defence of francophonie, in the name of francophone (postcolonial) studies, see Lydia Moudileno, ‘Francophonie: Trash or recycle?’, in Transnational French Studies: Postcolonialism and Littérature-monde, ed. by Alec G. Hargreaves, Charles Forsdick, and David Murphy (Liverpool: Liverpool University Press), pp. 109–24 (pp. 121–23). For a brief overview of the debate between Alain Mabanckou and Leïla Slimani on the use and usefulness of the term ‘francophone’, see Starace, this issue.

Charles Forsdick, ‘What’s “French” about French studies?’, Nottingham French Studies, 54 (2015), 312–27 (p. 323); Lionnet, p. 205. For a discussion of the ghetto and diaspora as ‘travelling concepts’ (drawing from Mieke Bal’s interdisciplinary ‘rough guide to a moving practice of cultural analysis’), see Bryan Cheyette, ‘Against supersessionist thinking: Old and new, Jews and postcolonialism, the ghetto and diaspora’, Cambridge Journal of Postcolonial Literary Inquiry, 4 (2017), 424–39 (pp. 437–38); Mieke Bal, Travelling Concepts in the Humanities: A Rough Guide (Toronto: Toronto University Press, 2002), p. 185.

Andrew Hussey, ‘Why Francosphères?’, Francosphères, 1.1 (2012), i–iii (p. i); Moudileno, pp. 112, 114. On ‘European francophonies’, see Dutton, p. 16. See also Pierre Taminiaux, ‘La Francophonitude belge’, Francosphères, 2.2 (2013), 149–61.

Starace, this issue.

See Anna-Leena Toivanen, ‘Clandestine migrant mobility, European peripheries, and practical cosmopolitanism in Fabienne Kanor’s Faire l’aventure’, this issue.

Édouard Glissant, Traité du Tout-Monde (Paris: Gallimard, 1997). See Eric Prieto, ‘Edouard Glissant, Littérature-monde, and Tout-monde’, Small Axe: A Caribbean Journal of Criticism, 14 (2010), 111–20. For a discussion of the ‘“global” concept of francophonies’, see Lionnet, pp. 210, 217.

Anaïs Maurer, ‘Océanitude: repenser le tribalisme occidental au prisme des nationalismes océaniens’, this issue.

‘Changer à travers l’échange avec l’autre sans perdre ou sans diluer notre sens de soi-même’. These quotations are taken from the exhibition (Fondation Boghossian – Villa Empain, Brussels: 19 April 2017–10 September 2017). See Hans Ulrich Obrist and Asad Raza, Mondialité: ou les archipels d’Edouard Glissant (Brussels: Fondation Boghossian, 2017). See also Maurer, this issue.

Hargreaves, p. 2.

Pierre Taminiaux, ‘Francophonie globale, communauté linguistique et diversité culturelle’, this issue. See also Rebekah Vince, ‘“L’humain n’a pas de frontière”: An interview with Hubert Haddad’, Bulletin of Francophone Postcolonial Studies, 8 (2017), 2–10; Rebekah Vince, ‘Frontiers/Frontières’, trans. by Khalid Lyamlahy, Apulée: revue de la littérature et de la réflexion, 4: Traduire le monde (2019), 215–16.

Philippe Panizzon, ‘« La vraie liberté n’existe nulle part »: un entretien avec Abdellah Taïa’, this issue.

Édouard Glissant, Poétique de la Relation (Paris: Gallimard, 1990), p. 61. Glissant also writes: ‘La pensée du rhizome serait au principe de ce que j’appelle une poétique de la relation, selon laquelle toute identité s’étend dans un rapport à l’Autre’ (p. 23). Here he draws from Gilles Deleuze et Felix Guattari’s Rhizomes: Introduction (Paris: Éditions de Minuit, 1976) and, we might say, takes this work to its open-ended conclusion. On the incorporation of Edward Said’s notion of counterpoint (or the contrapuntal) into Glissant’s model of ‘Relation’, see Charles Forsdick, ‘Between “French” and “francophone”: French studies and the postcolonial turn’, French Studies, 59 (2005), 523–30 (p. 530); Edward Said, Culture and Imperialism (London: Chatto & Windus, 1993), pp. 59–60. On transmission as an alternative to rootedness, see Taminiaux, this issue.

Lucette Heller-Goldenberg, ‘Mamada’, in Une enfance juive en Méditerranée musulmane, ed. by Leïla Sebbar (Paris: Bleu autour, 2012), pp. 185–92 (p. 191). This collection is currently undergoing translation overseen by Lia Brozgal and due for publication in 2020 (University of California Series in Jewish History and Cultures).

Tina Dransfeldt, ‘Towards an ethics of bilingualism: An intertextual dialogue between Khatibi and Derrida’, Interventions, 19.4 (2017), 447–66; Abdelkebir Khatibi, Amour bilingue (Paris: Fata Morgana, 1983).

Jacques Derrida, Qu’est-ce qu’une traduction « relevante »? (Paris: L’Herne, 2005 [1999]).

Laëtitia Saint-Loubert, ‘Francopolyphonies in translation’, Francosphères, 5.2 (2016), 183–96. See also Sura Qadiri, ‘Writing (post-secular) polyphony in London and Paris: Alice Zeniter’s L’Art de perdre and Zadie Smith’s White Teeth’, Francosphères, 7.2 (2018), 235–50. See also the ‘Francopolyphonies’ book series (Leiden: Brill, 2004–), ed. by Kathleen Gyssels and Christa Stevens.

As an example, see Denis Pourawa and Karin Speedy, ‘Les Voix clandestines/clandestine voices’, Francosphères, 6.2 (2017), 179–85.

On the translingual, see Jacqueline Tutton, ‘État présent: World literature in French, littérature-monde, and the translingual turn’, French Studies, 70 (2016), 404–18; Charles Forsdick, ‘French literature as world literature: Reading the translingual text’, in The Cambridge Companion to French Literature, ed. by John D. Lyons (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2015), pp. 204–21.

Charles Forsdick, ‘Kate Marsh – a tribute’, University of Liverpool, >> [accessed 28 August 2019].

See Kate Marsh, ‘Pondichéry: Archive of “French” India’, Francosphères, 3 (2014), 9–23. Hubert Haddad, Premières neiges sur Pondichéry (Paris: Zulma, 2017), p. 179. See Vince, ‘“L’humain n’a pas de frontière”: An Interview with Hubert Haddad’, p. 6.


Author details

Vince, Rebekah