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Getting the Rythm and a Residence Permit: 53 cm by Bessora


This essay analyses 53 cm (1999), Bessora's first novel, which tells the tragicomic story of Zara, a semi-clandestine immigrant, and her quest for a residence permit in a France hypocritically «open» to others. The Helveto-Gabonese novelist has been described as «Queneau's and Jarry's exotic grandniece» because of her ability to transform standard French into an intimate and whimsical language; indeed, she seems to enjoy what Lise Gauvin has termed «linguistic over-awareness», that is, an awareness of language so acute that it excludes any automatic use of words. Bessora goes even further: her over-awareness is not only linguistic, it is cultural as well. As a woman at the crossroads of languages she is concerned in this novel with the subversion of certain «ethnic» representations of the masculine and the feminine. Without regard for taboos or censorship, whether in terms of content or style, Bessora narrates a multiple identity and destroys stereotypes with the help of a swinging writing full of original lexical constructions, syntactic disruptions and semantic transgressions.

SvD, May 2009

  • Publications > Volumes WomenWriters > Crossroads of Languages > Vitali

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