n French Studies in Southern Africa - Main gauche, main droite : jeux de mains, jeux du destin (Malraux, Camus, Vercors)

Volume 2006, Issue 36
  • ISSN : 0259-0247



Our right and left hands each have specific abilities which are largely determined by the collective imagination, which in turn perpetuates certain preconceptions attached to the concept of right and the left in general. Thus it is accepted that the right side is more often right than not, and the left is more often wrong or faulty. This cultural predestination seems to be strong enough as to influence the way in which we relate to our hands and what we do with them. Unconcerned by this human predestination, the fictional character can deviate from the somehow strict pattern of our hand's assigned roles. This study explores how three French twentieth century writers assigned to each hand roles and abilities opposite to the accepted norm. Malraux, Camus and Vercors share a common tendency in setting their heroes in a conflicting relationship with their destiny, resulting in an attempt to overcome their submission to a fate more often fatal than not. Whether war, revolution or insurrection, the background of their action provides them with ideal opportunities to succeed in such reversal. Therefore the inversion of the preconceived ideas attached to the right and the left conventions, signifies the successful questioning of the fatality of the human condition: a right hand with a left hand's predestined role or the opposite, a left hand with a right hand's connoted abilities. The corpus of this study covers the fictional world of Malraux from to , Camus and by Vercors. Further to their exploration of the possibilities of reversing the tole assigned to each hand, they applied the principle of inversion to their narrative techniques. What we imply here is the mechanism by which two points of view are combined to produce two different images of the same reality, one of them being the inverted reflection of the other. By putting both inversions in relation to each other, we propose to assign to the hand a symbolic function which not only serves the character whose hand it is, but also illustrates the relation between reality and narration.

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