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Comparative analysis of autofictional features in the works of Amelie Nothomb, Calixthe Beyala and Nina Bouraoui.

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30 years after the coining of autofiction (Doubrovsky, 1977), there is still no general consensus about its exact meaning. This research set out to discover autofiction, whether there is a need for this term, why the public has taken such an interest in autofiction. Research questions were divided into two major categories: 1. What is autofiction? What is its origin? How has it evolved? Which differences are there, if any, between autobiography and autofiction? Is there a need for the separate genre of autofiction? Why/why not? What are its general characteristics? 2. Do the three analysed women authors – Nothomb, Beyala and Bouraoui – incorporate these elements in their writing? If so, how and why? Is autofictional writing a stage/posture in the personal writing development of an author? Is there any link between the writing of the own persona and the obsession with the public persona? Concentrating on terminological and theoretical issues, extensive literature review was done in the first part of the research. Starting from main literary criticism regarding fiction and autobiography/autofiction, the theoretical side of my research dealt with narrative identity and the true/false dichotomy of fact/fiction. Together with qualitative research about intertextuality as applied by autofictional writers (difference plagiarism and intertextual borrowing) led to a functional definition of autofiction, the basis for the comparative study of the three authors. For the research into their public persona, extensive internet research and analysis of newspaper articles were undertaken to show: 1. how the authors portray themselves; 2. how they are perceived by the media; 3. how this possibly influences their writing style. Autofiction requires analysis of: 1. why authors write 2. about what they write 3. how they incorporate the Self and the world in their writing. Bouraoui compares writing to an almost sexual act of love, the most intimate possible. Writing was the only way she could deal with childhood memories and repressed homosexuality. Beyala writes to communicate with others, while Nothomb considers writing as a means to live more intensely, after anorexia. The specificities and distinctive characteristics of the texts and authors were discovered through narrative analysis (factual research into the authors’ public persona + textual analysis of literary oeuvres). In Chapter 3 (Calixthe Beyala), feminine literary criticism as well as postcolonial theories guided my reading. Chapter 4 (Nina Bouraoui) allowed reflexion on the links between memory, identity, truth and autofictional writing. All chapters included research on Doubrovsky’s link between psychoanalysis and autofiction. In conclusion, there is a strong indication that one should speak of autofictions in the plural. This research explains some of the differences between autobiography and autofiction while underlining the importance of the existence of this new, separate sub-genre. The researcher had an opportunity to reflect on human memory and re-interpretation of facts. Where does the dividing line between truth and falsehood fall when the author puts the reader deliberately on a false track by introducing his/her work as « a novel »? Recent, post-modern writing has deliberately transgressed the fine dividing line between fact/fiction. The present research corroborates this view.


Thesis (Ph.D.)-University of KwaZulu-Natal, Pietermaritzburg, 2011.


Nothomb, Amélie., Beyala, Calixthe., Bouraoui, Nina., Autobiographical fiction--History and criticism., Biography as a literary form., Autobiographical fiction, African., Theses--French.