Australian Journal of French Studies

Calligraphy or Photography? Representations of the City in Michaël Ferrier’s Tokyo, petits portraits de l’aube

Australian Journal of French Studies (2020), 57, (2), 190–203.


This article examines Michaël Ferrier’s “La Chambre du fond: quatre essais de kanjis malgré la nuit”, one of the stories in his Tokyo, petits portraits de l’aube, as an instance of a writing that positions itself against an “écriture photographique”—as defined by writers like Hervé Guibert and Annie Ernaux—and models itself instead on Japanese calligraphy. It argues that Ferrier thus effects an instance of “aesthetic translation” (Pamela Genova) by translating the principles and praxis of Japanese calligraphy into a prose that weaves Japanese writing into its narrative structures, even as it represents aspects of Japanese culture. Writing is thus foregrounded as both form and content in Ferrier’s brief story about Tokyo; but at the end of this work, Ferrier acknowledges the dominance of photography in contemporary art, especially in depictions of Japan, and works it into his own calligraphic and writerly representation of the city.

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