Date of Degree
PhD (Doctor of Philosophy)
My dissertation investigates significant changes in the way the Nazi occupation of France and the Holocaust have been portrayed in fiction. Two novels published in 2006 - Didier Daeninckx's Itineraire d'un Salaud Ordinaire and Jonathan Littell's Les Bienveillantes - are essential for this study. Both of these controversial books shook existing literary models concerned with the memory of the victims of the war by making the perpetrators of atrocities central characters. These two novels allow me to contextualize the full evolution of such literary actors, beginning with the work of Robert Merle and Louis-Ferdinand Celine. My dissertation examines the portrayal of the character of the salaud (villain) in French novels, arguing that, by narrating the Holocaust from the point-of-view of the perpetrators, the author is paradoxically creating another way to remember its victims. The study of literary Nazis and their French counterparts led me to explore what Hannah Arendt called the "banality of evil," a concept that is often invoked to explain an individual's conduct, but that does not fit as well when applied to a literary character's sexuality; while the Nazis and their collaborators are depicted as "ordinary men', a terminology given special meaning though the work of Christopher Browning, their sexual preferences and lives are far from ordinary.
Collaborators, French Literature, Memory, Second World War
Copyright 2011 Marion Duval