Dialogic Spaces and Literary Resonances in the French Translation of A. S. Byatt’s Autobiographical Story ‘Sugar’

  • Eliana Maestri


The French version of A. S. Byatt’s ‘Sugar’ (1987), ‘Le Sucre’, translated by Jean-Louis Chevalier, appeared in 1997 in the collection Le Sucre et autres récits [Sugar and other stories]. It opens with a preface, written by Byatt and translated by Chevalier himself, which situates the translation at the very heart of the receiving culture, a culture dominated by a querelle littéraire [literary quarrel] between autobiography, as first theorized by Philippe Lejeune in 1971, and ‘autofiction’, its powerful competitor, as theorized by Serge Doubrovsky in 1977. In his work Lejeune intended the term ‘autobiography’ as practised, for instance, by Rousseau, Verlaine or Gide, who created Western norms for ‘autobiography proper’, to indicate a writing practice constructed upon accounts of childhood and the ‘myth of Myself’ (Lejeune 1998: 72, tr.1). In opposition to Lejeune, Doubrovsky coined the term ‘autofiction’ to problematize ‘the story of a true life’ (Doubrovsky 1988: 69, tr.) and the nature of truth in autobiographical writing, especially in view of the erroneous and/or artificial nature of memory. Doubrovsky wrote his own autobiography Fils: roman [Son: novel] (1977) and theoretical essay ‘Autobiographie/vérité/psychanalyse’ [Autobiography/truth/ psychoanalysis] (1988) to reflect upon the constitutive incoherence and intrinsic aporias of his own novel.


French Translation Paternal Grandfather Mother Figure Parental House Mirror Stage 
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© Eliana Maestri 2014

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  • Eliana Maestri

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