Contemporary French Civilization

“Le passeport de la douleur ou rien”: Fawzia Zouari’s Ce pays dont je meurs and the politics of pain

Contemporary French Civilization (2016), 41, (1), 49–67.

Abstract

French-Maghrebi literature is often seen to be complicit in what Madeleine Hron calls a “politics of pain” whereby the writer displays the suffering of her perceived cultural group in a bid for recognition, understanding and compassion. In such readings, the group’s suffering is often imagined to be expressed via the protagonist’s sick or wounded body. This reading of Fawzia Zourai’s novel Ce pays dont je meurs argues, against existing scholarship, that the body of Zouari’s anorexic protagonist, though it gives expression to a shared suffering also, paradoxically, articulates a critique of a “politics of pain” and the political potential of empathy that informs it.

Nombre de lectures critiques considèrent que la littérature francomaghrébine se rend complice de ce que Madeleine Hron appelle “une politique de la douleur.” Elles perçoivent ainsi dans l’écrivain(e) qui écrit la souffrance de l’entité culturelle à laquelle on l’identifie une demande de reconnaissance, de compréhension et de compassion. D’autre part, elles font de l’écrivain(e) qui fait état de son corps malade ou mutilé le/la porte-parole de l’immigration, de la souffrance et du traumatisme qu’elle a subis. A contrepied de ce type d’interprétation, ma propre lecture de Ce pays dont je meurs propose que la protagoniste anorexique de Fawzia Zouari, si elle exprime effectivement la souffrance de son groupe, articule également une critique de cette “politique de la douleur” et les potentialités politiques de l’empathie qu’elle sous-tend.

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Kemp, Anna