Pierre Guyotat joined the French colonial army in Algeria willingly. The atrocities he witnessed while in uniform, however, convinced him that the war was wrong. He did what he could to encourage other soldiers to desert. For these efforts, he was jailed in solitary confinement for three months. In this way, he experienced the war as perpetrator, witness, and victim. His writing of the war echoes and extends these conflicting capacities, radicalizing and ultimately shattering the problems and processes of recognition and identification. In his novel Éden, Éden, Éden Guyotat radicalizes narration by eliminating traditional distinctions between characters, between character and setting, and between scenes. The text is one sentence, a breathless single paragraph, articulated only with the caesuras provided by commas, colons, and backslashes. The book itself is an atrocity, an assault on the notion of “subjectivity” common to both the realist novel and Western psychological norms. It attacks not only the idea of monotheistic theologies but their very structure—the grammar of faith—and with it the spiritualization of all careor desire. Éden, Éden, Éden is a world without love, lovingly described. Journalism is its closest analogue. Éden, Éden, Éden affects the nerves directly with the brutality of fact. If it is an ethical work, it offers an ethics of atrocity. Catastrophe is the subject of the book, and it is the fate of those subject to it.
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Stuart Kendall; Eden and Atrocity: Pierre Guyotat's Algeria. Comparative Studies of South Asia, Africa and the Middle East 1 May 2008; 28 (1): 11–19. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/1089201x-2007-052
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