In 2009, the French government launched a national debate to define French national identity. The people, as well as experts and intellectuals, responded to this initiative in many ways. The discussions often led to determining who belonged to the national community and who did not. Hence, descendants of immigrants often became a target in the debate. Didier Daeninckx, a well-known writer who often intervenes in the public sphere, published a short novel entitled Galadio (2010) as a response to the debate imposed by the government. It tells the story of a young man in 1930s Germany whose father, a tirailleur sénégalais, met his mother, a German, during the 1920s when French colonial troops were stationed in the Ruhr region to pressure Germany to honor the Treaty of Versailles. This analysis seeks to assess what this literary piece adds to the debate by focusing on its complex conception of identity. The form of the historical novel allows Daeninckx to remind us of the participation of the African colonies in both WWI and WWII. The main character’s identity is also multidimensional, which is essential to the novel’s effort to avoid simple definitions of national identity unambiguously tied to nationality. Finally, following a protagonist who has strong ties to Germany, colonial West Africa and France allows for a geographical and temporal displacement necessary for the allegory mechanism to function and for its meaningfulness to become obvious in 2010.
|Journal||Modern & Contemporary France|
|State||Accepted/In press - Nov 2014|