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Accessibility and the unknown: The world of Christian Gailly

Melanie A Kemp, University of Nebraska - Lincoln


Uncertainty and doubt are vital elements of the emotional response Christian Gailly elicits in his essentially realistic (but by no means realist) fiction. Gailly, one of the most intriguing new writers published by the Editions de Minuit—the home of the New Novel, of Beckett and Duras—relies on a narrative voice that treasures mockery above all: mockery of the reader's expectations, of the seriousness of the action he narrates, even of intelligibility itself. Such a narrator leaves the reader adrift in a world where only partial impressions are created, and empty spaces left unexplained. At one moment his narrative might be entirely objective; at another, it lapses into a subconscious inner dialogue which relentlessly subverts the reality of every outward utterance. Any attempt by the narrator to explain the emotions behind his characters' words inevitably leads to dubious afterthoughts, to a kind of laconic raillery that undermines the very motivations he is trying to express. More troubling for the reader, he does this in a style so abbreviated, so unnaturally terse, that the reader might well be forgiven for simply failing to understand what on earth is going on. His extremist version of minimalism is not to everyone's taste; even his publishers complain of the difficulty of following his stories, of his exaggerated refusal to provide detail, of his unfinished sentences, of his unresolved loose ends. Gailly greets such criticism with pointed sarcasm. Notwithstanding, he admittedly strives to alleviate a certain potential readerly disaffection. His goal is not so much to estrange the reader as to involve the reader; he sees his eccentric style as an invitation to curiosity rather than animosity. It is the reader's task to allow him- or herself to be drawn in by Gailly's unpredictable barrage of fleeting and uncertain impressions, and so to enter what Gailly, in a formula decidedly and touchingly at odds with the traditional language of the avant-garde, calls a triangle of beauty: poetry, painting, and music. ^

Subject Area

Literature, Comparative|Literature, Modern|Literature, Romance

Recommended Citation

Kemp, Melanie A, "Accessibility and the unknown: The world of Christian Gailly" (2004). ETD collection for University of Nebraska - Lincoln. AAI3131547.