Raconter en bafouillant, bafouiller en racontant. Traumatisme et narrativité chez Hugo Claus
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Number of pages
SourceÉtudes Germaniques, 68, 1, (2013), pp. 71-92
Article / Letter to editor
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Algemene Cultuurwetenschappen (ACW)
SubjectStudying Criticism And Reception Across Borders
In this article two novels by Hugo Claus are analysed from the perspective of Trauma theory : Desire (1978) and The sorrow of Belgium (1983). Trauma destroys an individual’s life-narrative and results in a Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. In Desire it is Didi that seems to suffer from it : she lost her human identity and her awareness of time, she is barely able to speek – which means that she has lost the plot that can give her life meaning and coherence. The reader is never told what exactly is the matter : all he gets are flashes, which are not sufficient to tell him the whole story. Moreover, he is confronted with the fact that the language of the novel is very ambiguous. These two characteristics – the unability to get to a fullblown story and the loss of language – the reader shares with a PTSD-patient, which suggests that this novel has a performative aspect : the reader lives through the same drama as that of the characters. In The sorrow of Belgium, uncle Omer is confronted with a malfunctioning language and ability to narrate. His problem manifests itself in repetition and in misunderstandings due to the ambiguity of words. The reader encounters exactly the same problem at the end of the novel, when a passage that seemed rather superficial at first sight in reality turns out to be full of meaning. However, there are characters in this novel whom one would expect to be traumatised that nevertheless do not show the typical characteristics. Above all the father, Staf, talks endlessly about the terrible things that happened to him, even so much that the members of his family are no longer interested. The feeling of the « surplus » of narratives, that are as a consequence not healing any more but aim at hiding something, is a feeling shared by the reader while he is reading this strange novel, which gets in its turn a performative aspect.
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