Monumental Misdeeds: Rewriting French History and Identity with Claude Izner and Alix de Saint-André

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In the context of contemporary French debates opposing history and memory, both frequently related to representations of national identity, this essay compares two popular novels by metropolitan French women, each centred on the symbolic power of a famous Paris monument. Strong plots, humour and attractive characters engage the reader in these alternative explorations of French identity, its ‘lieux de mémoire’ and the different narratives that sustain and inflect it. Claude Izner’s Mystère rue des Saints-Pères (2003), set in 1889, places the Eiffel Tower at the centre of a strikingly cosmopolitan society. Alix de Saint-André’s Papa est au Panthéon (2003) questions the patriarchal structures of conventional commemoration and suggests that identity may be based on mistaken assumptions about the past. Both novels portray the historical roots of contemporary identity as inclusively multi-cultural, and undermine neat distinctions between history and memory. Further distinguished from current political and intellectual debates by their enjoyable light-heartedness, these texts make a thoughtful contribution to the range of narratives of French identity.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)277-285
Number of pages9
JournalFrench Cultural Studies
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2010


  • French fiction, history, Claude Izner, memory, monuments, national identity, Alix de Saint-André


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