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French Theory by François Cusset

By François Cusset

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11 Nabokov is one of the writers from whom Georges Perec systematically quotes in La Vie mode d’emploi (one such quotation is indeed taken from Pale Fire),12 and Perec emulates his admired predecessor in including in this work a disproportionately extensive paratextual apparatus: a concluding ninety-page series of pièces annexes comprises an index of names 11 12 Julian Barnes’s novel Flaubert’s Parrot (1984) likewise brings to life the voice of an enthusiastic student of and commentator on Flaubert, one Geof frey Braithwaite, whose commentary is progressively infiltrated and distracted by his own obsessions.

If he dares to disbelieve Stendhal’s letter to Mérimée, the reader can experience the work with a heightened degree of intimacy. By stripping, or perhaps rather by deconstructing, the barrier that the paratext represents, the reader undresses the text, discovering aspects of its character neither outlined in the paratext nor ostensibly destined for disclosure by the author. In this way, the paratext foreshadows a power play between author and reader, with the impotence of one feeding the power of the other.

55). The significance of omnipotence, when juxtaposed to Octave’s impotence, is telling. God is Octave’s antithesis. This Creator-God, Octave’s faith in whom is being threatened by his studies, is powerful yet elusive (due to his lack of physical presence). As a list of Holy attributes is collated, parallels begin to emerge, according to which God increasingly takes on the trappings of the author. They share the role of Creator, both are thought of as being in a position of ultimate and unquestionable power, and, like the relationship between God and the world, the author’s power over a work is traditionally acknowledged despite his lack of physical presence within it.

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