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A Professional Conscience: On an Episode of Self-Accusation in Raymond Queneau’s The Last Days

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Abstract

A course of action plays out in the margins of Raymond Queneau’s early novel that provides an object lesson in the peculiar phenomenon of self-accusation. The character caught up in this unfortunate fate seems intent on pulling at the thread that will make him unravel, for reasons no one else can understand, driven by a conscience that will never be satisfied with the sacrifices made to appease it. The contradictions and torments characteristic of the self-accuser’s actions will be approached here above all with Nietzsche’s idea of ressentiment in mind, that form of existence which shows remarkable inventiveness in the pursuit of its own abasement.

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  • DOI: 10.1007/978-3-030-28289-9_8
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Notes

  1. 1.

    Raymond Queneau, The Last Days, trans. Barbara Wright (London: Atlas, 1990), p. 230. Hereafter referred to as LD.

  2. 2.

    Raymond Queneau, “Technique of the Novel,” in Letters, Numbers, Forms: Essays, 1928–70, trans. Jordan Stump (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 2007), p. 28.

  3. 3.

    Queneau, “Technique,” p. 29.

  4. 4.

    Friedrich Nietzsche, On the Genealogy of Morality, ed. Keith Ansell Pearson, trans. Carol Diethe (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2007), pp. 66; 94. Hereafter referred to as GM.

  5. 5.

    For an expansive treatment of this tendency see Deleuze’s canonical reading of ressentiment in Nietzsche and Philosophy, where not only is “perpetual accusation” seen as a fundamental characteristic of the man of ressentiment, but the nature of the force it expends always find itself “interiorized,” “turned back against itself.” Gilles Deleuze, Nietzsche and Philosophy, trans. Hugh Tomlinson (London and New York: Continuum, 1992), pp. 118; 128.

  6. 6.

    Walter Benjamin , “Experience and Poverty,” in Selected Writings, volume 2: 1927–1934, ed. Michael Jennings et al. (Cambridge, MA and London: Belknap Press and Harvard University Press 1999), p. 732.

  7. 7.

    For a reading of Queneau’s use of the fait divers as a discursive form in its own right, see Rachel Galvin, “Raymond Queneau Reading the Newspaper,” in News of War: Civilian Poetry, 1936–1945 (New York: Oxford University Press, 2018), pp. 216–25.

  8. 8.

    “… Larousse says it: a devil is someone who slanders.” Raymond Queneau, Children of Clay, trans. Madeleine Velguth (Los Angeles: Sun & Moon Press, 1998), p. 121.

  9. 9.

    Elias Canetti, The Secret Heart of the Clock: Notes, Aphorisms, Fragments: 1973–1985, trans. Joel Agee (London: Deutsch, 1991), p. 99.

  10. 10.

    Maurice Blanchot, The Unavowable Community, trans. Pierre Joris (Barrytown: Station Hill Press, 1988), p. 8.

  11. 11.

    Giorgio Agamben, “K.” in Nudities, trans. David Kishik and Stefan Pedatella (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2011), pp. 21–22.

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McAuliffe, S. (2019). A Professional Conscience: On an Episode of Self-Accusation in Raymond Queneau’s The Last Days . In: Hagberg, G. (eds) Narrative and Self-Understanding. Palgrave Macmillan, Cham. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-030-28289-9_8

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