The Persian Novel in French: A Hybrid Genre

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Institutional Affiliation : 
School of Oriental and African Studies
Academic Bio: 
Laetitia Bif is a second year doctoral candidate at the School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London. She holds a BA in Philosophy from Sorbonne University, Paris, and an MA in Middle Eastern studies from SOAS. Her doctoral dissertation studies the Respective Representations of France and Iran through their Contemporary Literature (post 1970), within the frameworks of Orientalism and Occidentalism.

Writers from Iranian origin who write in French, have published a fair amount of novels in Paris since the beginning of the 1990s.  While the themes and styles of their works vary, all of them address issues of exile and narrate stories about France and Iran: how to adapt to the first country and continue to carry the second one in one’s heart and writings.  My paper will analyze the genre specificity of novels by Franco-Iranian authors, and the challenges which the inevitable influence of the French novelistic tradition presents to French authors of the Iranian diaspora.

I will briefly review the works of Sorour Kasmaï (Le cimetière de verre), Sara Yalda (Regard persan), Ali Erfan (Adieu Ménilmontant), and Nahal Tajadod (Passeport à l’iranienne), and will  analyze dialectically their use of the genre of the novel, against the backdrop of the authors’ personal history, and their involvement with France, the French language and French literary tradition. All of them are first generation immigrants, since they were born in Iran and lived there at least during their childhood,  and --for several of them—much longer. The paper will argue that their uses of the novel, which I consider primarily  a Western form, are influenced by their degree of French-ness and Iranian-ness. Although all writers use the French language, Kasmaï for example,  wrote her first novel in Persian and  then translated it herself, while Erfan “writes Persian in French”, actually making simultaneous or even subsequent translations. The close-reading of these four texts and their comparison will show that the preferential use of the  French or the Persian language imposes certain literary norms and creates different forms of the novel, which reflect the diasporic experience.

Academic Discipline : 
Comparative literature
Time Period : 
Other : 
Iranian Literature in the Diaspora

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