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Beyond ReturnGenre and Cultural Politics in Contemporary French Fiction$
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Lucas Hollister

Print publication date: 2019

Print ISBN-13: 9781786942180

Published to Liverpool Scholarship Online: May 2020

DOI: 10.3828/liverpool/9781786942180.001.0001

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A Circle of Circles (Jean-Patrick Manchette)

A Circle of Circles (Jean-Patrick Manchette)

(p.75) Chapter Two A Circle of Circles (Jean-Patrick Manchette)
Beyond Return

Lucas Hollister

Liverpool University Press

This chapter examines Jean-Patrick Manchette, ‘father of the néo-polar,’ who is widely credited with bringing French crime fiction into step with the radical left politics of the 1970s. This chapter argues that an attention to questions of generic conventions and narrative shape allows us to reconsider the politics of noir as a literary form. This reconsideration of Manchette’s fictional politics begins with a close reading of Manchette’s essays on what he called the forme-polar or noir form. I then analyze two of Manchette’s late novels, Three to Kill (1976) and The Prone Gunman (1981), showing how issues of masculinity, gendered violence, and (post-)colonial violence are embedded in these fictions. Moving to questions of narrative shape and meta-aesthetic rhetoric, I show how Manchette’s work offers a radical and challenging view of the implications of working with and in cliché. Ultimately, this chapter lays out the case for a more expansive reading of Manchette’s work, one which goes beyond populist narratives about the noir novel in France, and which reads Manchette’s work as a politicized challenge to the ‘noir form’ itself.

Keywords:   Jean-Patrick Manchette, Néo-polar, Noir, Mystery, Marxism, Hegel, Situationism, Masculinity, Imperialism

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