Seminar: Hitler’s French Literary Afterlives

Seminar: Hitler’s French Literary Afterlives

Dr Manu Braganca, School of Languages, Cultures and Linguistics, University College Dublin


Hitler’s French Literary Afterlives

Thursday 5th April at 14.00 in C0079


To this day, French novelists have written approximately one thousand novels about the Second World War which remains undoubtedly one of the darkest and most vividly remembered pages of history in contemporary France. Recent examples include: Les Bienveillantes (2006) by Jonathan Littell, Jan Karski (2009) by Yannick Haenel or HHhH (2010) by Laurent Binet (adapted to the cinema in 2016, with Cillian Murphy). Many of these became best-sellers and often won the most prestigious literary prizes, thus playing a key role in shaping French collective memory of this dramatic and, for many, traumatic period of history.


The responsibility of Nazi Germany in the outbreak of the Second World War and its role in its worst atrocities have always been central in French narratives. Yet, surprisingly, Hitler rarely features as a character in these novels. To some extent, Hitler’s presence and absence from French fiction can be explained by factors that do change over time. The two aims of this talk, however, are: first, to offer a theoretical framework on the difficulties that all writers face when they want to include historical characters in fictional texts; and, second, to reflect more specifically on how these difficulties translate when applied to Adolf Hitler.