Hidden Truths and Uncovered Secrets in French and Francophone Fiction (NeMLA 2022, Baltimore)
Nobody keeps a secret better than authors writing in French! From hidden crypts, family or government secrets, buried bodies, and memories to a lack of transparency and truths resurfacing unexpectedly, French and Francophone fiction abounds in acts of concealment. In Gide's Les Faux-Monnayeurs, Edouard's parents hide the truth about his illegitimate birth in order to protect him from an identity crisis. Secrecy also appears as a destabilizing agent that threatens the status quo as seen in L’Homme au masque de fer by Alexandre Dumas. In the crime novel Sombres citrouilles, Malika Ferdjoukh demonstrates how a secret that was supposed to guarantee comfort and stability, if kept for too long, becomes stifling and perilous.
The themes of hidden truths and uncovered secrets span across different genres. Secrecy is an important narrative element in family dramas (Marie Chauvet’s Amour, colère et folie), in mystery novels that are bestsellers in the French-speaking world (Gaston Leroux’s Le mystère de la chambre jaune), or in adventure novels which often feature protagonists on a quest to uncover secret or hidden knowledge (Jules Verne’s Le voyage au centre de la terre).
This panel explores the use of secrets as an act of care and/or an act of destruction in French and Francophone cultural production. How are hidden or forgotten truths from the past reinvented when they resurface in the space of the present? What role do obscureness, conspiracies, and alternative knowledge play in the post-truth era? Can concealed truth or knowledge provide protection and stability?
This session welcomes papers that explore how hidden truths and uncovered secrets are mobilized as acts of care in French and Francophone works.