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Book Chapter

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The Representation of the Relationship between Center and Periphery in the Contemporary Novel


NDiaye, Refugee narrative, Attraction of center, Houellebecq, Disappearing center, Disillusionment


This chapter analyzes the textual representation of tensions between center and periphery in two Goncourt Prize-winning novels by French writers, Michel Houellebecq and Marie NDiaye. In La Carte et le territoire (2010), Michel Houellebecq invents a fictional alter ego living outside the periphery of the Francophone world, in Ireland, from where he explores social and cultural developments in contemporary France that he finds disturbing. Embracing his otherness and alienation, he utilizes his marginalization to investigate disturbing and unacceptable aspects of contemporary France in an original auto-fictional narrative. In Trois femmes puissantes (2009), Marie NDiaye explores reality from the perspective of female characters living in Africa who reject their marginalization and forcefully assert their rights to a life in which they will be freed from the powerlessness, exclusion and humiliation that they experience daily. NDiaye invents new narrative strategies through which to express these women's will for empowerment. These two thought-provoking novels present original insights into the experience of northern and southern peripheries, in relation to a problematic center—Paris and France.


© Anthony Zielonka. Reproduced with permission.