Extrême contemporain

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The term extrême contemporain is a French expression used to indicate French literary production published in France in the last 10 years.[1] The extrême contemporain is, then, an ever-shifting concept.

This term was used for the first time by French writer Michel Chaillou in 1989[citation needed]. This simple and convenient definition hides a complex and chaotic literary situation, both from the chronological point of view (the temporal boundaries of the extrême contemporain are in continuous shifting) and for the hetereogeneity of present French literary production, which cannot be defined in a clear and homogeneous way. The term extrême contemporain, therefore, is all-inclusive. The literary production of this period is characterized by a transitory quality; because of the manifolded nature of such an immense corpus of texts, the identification of specific tendencies is inevitably partial and precarious.

Therefore, to define the extrême contemporain as a Literary movement would be very improper: it is a mere term of convenience used by commentators and not by the authors themselves.

The extrême contemporain can be seen as a "literary constellation" hardly organized in schemes. In some cases, authors of the extrême contemporain follow an "aesthetics of fragments": their narration is broken into pieces or they show, like Pascal Quignard, for instance, a preference for short sentences. The "apportionment" of knowledge can also be carried out by the use of a chaotic verbal stream, the interior monologue, tropisms, repetition and endophasy. The feeling of uncertainty experience by writers leads him to put in question the notion of novel and its very form, preferring the more general notion of récit. Then, a return to reality takes place: in Pierre Bergounioux's works, readers witness the cultural upsetting concerning generations which follow one another; François Bon describes the exclusion from social and industrial reality; many authors of crime stories, like Jean-Patrick Manchette and Didier Daeninckx, describe social and political reality, and so it does Maurice G. Dantec in his works halfway between spy stories and science fiction; on another side, Annie Ernaux's écriture plate ("flat writing") tries to demolish the distance between reality and its narration.

Subjects are shown in a persistent state of crisis. However, a return to everyday life and trivial habits also takes place: the attention is focused to the "outcasts of literature", like, for instance, old people. This use of triviality and everyday life expresses itself in a new sort of "minimalism": from Pierre Michon's Small lives fictional biographies of unknown people, to Philippe Delerm's"small pleasures". The facets of this minimalism manifest themselves in many ways, through the triviality of the subject, through short forms, or through concise and bare phrases. On one hand, heroicized characters try to build up their own individual way against a senseless reality, so that emarginated or marginal people emerge through the building up of their own story; on the other hand, a "negative minimalism" takes place: characters stagnate in social and relational difficulties.

Some French authors of the extrême contemporain[edit]


  • Dominique Viart, Le roman français au XXe siècle, Paris, würzburg, 1999.
  • Matteo Majorano (ed.), Le goût du roman, Bari, B. A. Graphis, 2002.
  • Matteo Majorano (ed.), Le jeu des arts, Bari, B. A. Graphis, 2005.
  • Dominique Viart, Bruno Vercier, La littérature française au présent: Héritage, modernité, mutations, Paris, Bordas, 2005
  • Bibliographie. Études sur la prose française de l'extrême contemporain en Italie et en France (1984–2006), Bari, B. A. Graphis, 2007


  1. ^ 2000–2010

See also[edit]

External links[edit]