New in literature (and history)

History and literature are increasingly concerned with traces. It is this new relationship with time that explains the richness of current hybridizations. After the avant-gardes of the 1950s-1970s, could writing be reconnecting with reality??

With its Truths of the novel, Franois Dosse offers a panoramic journey through French narrative literature, broad, constantly opening up reading horizons. This picture of French literature today, without refraining from incursions on the side of Cercas, Appelfeld or Alexievitch, is painted by a historian, author in particular of History in pieces (1987).

However, it is not a question of analyzing contemporary French literature based on the archives and biographies of authors (Dosse being, however, the author of Biographical bet), nor to conduct a historical reading of literature, in the manner of Judith Lyon-Caen, Dinah Ribard or Christian Jouhaud, who endeavor to show that literature is not a reflection of his time, but a tool for instituting reality.

A double book

Franois Dosse carries out a patient work of reading and synthesizing both texts and academic works, presenting the issues of dozens of stories: the perspective is paradoxically not very far from literary criticism, which is evident in the dialogue that Franois Dosse leads with numerous literary works (Dominique Viart, Alexandre Gefen, Emmanuel Bouju, Pierre Schoentjes, Catherine Coquio, among others). Corpus and tools are shared: a way of expressing the fruitful nature of the exchanges between history and literature in the way of reading the texts, far from field rivalries.

countering certain refrains on the death of literature or its decline, Dosse develops a lodge of its inventiveness and its productivity: it is to this vitality that the essay testifies, by the profusion and the richness of the references requested. Composed of two parts, it constitutes a double book.

On the one hand, an analysis attentive to the conflicts and complementarities between literature and history, all these assaults on the border, according to the beautiful formula of Patrick Boucheron, lied as much by historians as by writers. Dosse analyzes these exchanges, confrontations or negotiations from the works of Arlette Farge or Ivan Jablonka as well as from the stories of Laurent Mauvignier, Clo Korman and Ric Vuillard.

On the other hand, from the moment the essay recognizes literature as having a cognitive capacity, a possibility of establishing knowledge about the world, it grasps in today's literature a true history of present time, according to the subtitle of the book, to map the ills of society, express its points of tension, examine its possible revivals. If occasional analogies are developed with historiographical knowledge, as around ego-history, the relationships between literature and history are less at the heart of this second part.

Even if he recalls the debates which opposed Eric Vuillard and Robert Paxton, Dosse develops a position reconciling the fields, emphasizing the synergies, undoubtedly attenuating the frictions, the disciplinary rivalries or the reminders of theorder of speechesto use Foucault's formula.

A new relationship with time

No doubt this first part is more clearly part of a broad and topical epistemological questioning, as marked by the recent work of Enzo Traverso, Isabelle Lacoue-Labarthe or Sam Rachebuf, among others. François Dosse presents, with caution, the terms of the debate and resituates the essential limits of the lively discussions of recent decades on the passionate and conflicting relationships between literature and history.

The interest of this part is in particular to explore these debates in counterpoint to an epistemological archeology, recalling the attacks of Seignobos tempting against the literary microbes or attempts to reconcile Lansonism. Contemporary ways of writing history and literature come together in a delinarized conception of time, concerned with traces and hauntings: in the wake of Bergson, time is no longer deciphered as succession, causal continuity, but according to a heterochronic modality and temporal entanglements.

It is this new relationship with time which explains, according to Dosse, the exchange conditions and the richness of hybridities. This is an attractive hypothesis carried out in silence in the book: the shift into temporal configurations or regimes of historicity would explain to a large part this chase between historians and writers, and not only the field effects, the institutional porosities, the companionships individual.

Therefore, if historians and writers share the same experience of time and history, they take approaches which are not without analogy:

The novelist, like the historian, no longer claims to be omniscient, and his investigation is more of a demonstration than a causal demonstration, following Bruno Latour's invitation to carry out a course of slimming down causalist explanations. Paradoxically, the consequence of this renunciation is the omnipresence of the novelist and the historian as individuals transmitting their hypotheses, their implied subjectivity, their doubts and certainties. (pg. 295)

Ricur and Deleuze

This is not only the book of a specialist in historiographical methods, establishing the long-term genealogy of these exchanges.; it is also an essay led by the biographer of Paul Ricur and Gilles Deleuze.

These are the two essential figures in the analysis carried out, which constitute a continuous base of reflections. First, by mobilizing Ricur's reflections on the power of narration to give shape to history and to recompose ourselves individually or collectively in the crucible of a narration. Then, by seeking, in the wake of Deleuze, a very largely emancipatory literature, concerned with futures more than with firm identities.

The analyzes are based on recent analyzes by Dominique Viart and Alexandre Gefen, describing the contemporary era marked by a decline of the avant-gardes and a reconquered transitivity. After a time of autonomy and closure of the work, today would end a thought of literature centered on formal issues, careless of the world, fascinated by what Barthes called theintransitivity of writing.

The reflections of Franois Dosse are written in the wake of the proposals of Franois Hartog developed in Regimes of historicity : literature would confront the presentism of the time. Not only would it be deeply inscribed there, as shown by the importance of memory and places of memory which have been developed since the present of social actors, but it would resist it in part by re-inscribing the events in a longer time, reapplying the hauntings of the wars (Jean Rouaud, Alexis Jenni, Jean Echenoz) as well as the remanence of distant times touching on the prehistoric (Pierre Michon, Jean-Loup Trassard or Pascal Quignard).

Wandering readings

However, this presentism is not the most effective tool for grasping the contemporary. Instead of an end to the future and utopias, the Anthropocene draws a dynamic which gives the future a more sensitive consistency which writers are seizing.

The forms of collective writing, the renewal of literary radicalism, heirs to the imaginations of the Commune, which Justine Huppe and Denis Saint-Amand analyze in particular, allow us to have a more invigorating vision of today's literature. But this undoubtedly required approaching the literary field by opening oneself widely to plural forms of writing, to wild literatures or to activism which often turns its back on nature. author function formerly analyzed by Foucault.

The breadth of this synthesis makes it an ideal entry point for those who want to discover the contemporary novel, prove its richness, and grasp its most salient aspects. The pedagogical concern of always summarizing the stories, of recalling the characters, of explaining the issues, makes this book a particularly accessible work, if not a compass for orienting oneself in the novelistic profusion of today.

The reader should therefore not shy away from the monumental nature of the book. Its cartographic content and its division by writers even encourage wandering reading.