Evoluee or integree: Black and Beur publishing practices in contemporary metropolitan French women writing

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Author: Claire Mouflard
Date: May 2016
From: Romance Notes(Vol. 56, Issue 2)
Publisher: University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Department of Romance Languages
Document Type: Article
Length: 7,332 words

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THE debate regarding the labeling of certain authors and of their literatures as "French" or "francophone" gained increased interest from the general media in 2006 when a series of prestigious French literary prizes were awarded to a number of ecrivains etrangers de langue francaise. (1) "Pour une litterature-monde en Francais," a manifesto signed by forty-four established authors including Tahar Ben Jelloun, Maryse Conde, and Edouard Glissant was published in the French newspaper Le Monde on March 15, 2007 and advocated for the banning of the term "francophone" in favor of the development of a "world-literature in French."(2) The manifesto's supporters particularly sought to annihilate the bond that was previously established between authors of immigrant descent and France's colonial past under the "francophone" label, a bond which forever kept these authors outside of the metropolitan French literature realm since it served as a reminder of the former colonies' subjection to the French language as part of the French colonial empire's mission civilisatrice. (3)

Today, beyond the labeling of literary productions as French or francophone and beyond the efforts to create a space for a "litterature-monde en Francais," a visual form of literary classification subsists in the case of female authors who write in the French language and whose ancestry ties them to Africa or the Maghreb, particularly in the metropolitan French imaginary: for the public they are not French or francophone, but Black or Beur, an image that is fabricated and conveyed through the use of paratextual clues chosen by these authors' publishers to accompany their narratives. (4)

In this article I consider the packaging of French metropolitan authors Marie NDiaye, Calixthe Beyala and Nina Bouraoui's texts in exploring their publishing houses' choice of paratext as well as these authors' expressions of compliance, defiance or neutrality regarding their fabricated authorial identities and their status as neocolonial cultural commodities. (5) The Editions Stock's transition from the exotic colonial packaging of French-Cameroonian Beyala's first two novels in the late 1980s to the neutral paratexts and integration within their litterature francaise collection of French-Algerian Bouraoui in the mid-2000s is particularly demonstrative of a shifting commercial process of audience formation that appears to be anchored in the author's assumed racial, cultural and national identity. Reflecting on the controversy surrounding NDiaye's winning of the Prix Goncourt in 2009 for Trois femmes puissantes, on Beyala's condemnation for plagiarism and subsequent awarding of the Grand Prix du Roman de l'Academie Francaise in 1996, and on Bouraoui's undisputed acclaim, this article examines the use of paratextual clues in the negotiation of the female francophone authorial identity in France.

The semantics attached to the terms "Black" and "Beur" as they are used in this article purposely reflect the simplistic racial binary that characterizes the metropolitan publishing practices affecting the postcolonial authors discussed in this study. The term "Black" here connotes the literature of authors of Sub-Saharan African descent that continues to be marketed as exotic and erotic, a reminder of France's colonial past and female objectification in Africa, as evidenced...

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Gale Document Number: GALE|A471850457