Date Published:December 2020
Contemporary novelist Anne Garréta’s latest novel, Dans l’béton (2017), a playful récit d’enfance, would appear to be a marked departure from the rest of her corpus, which is marked by a sustained and focused political project of writing against difference. Despite this apparent divergence, Dans l’béton remains as politically driven as the works that precede it, as indicated by Monique Wittig’s own récit d’enfance, L’opoponax, serving as an explicit intertext—a fact that was completely occluded in Dans l’béton’s reception, which privileged comparisons with Raymond Queneau’s Zazie dans le métro instead, Garréta’s linguistic playfulness converging with Queneau’s néofrançais. The novel’s political force obtains from Garréta’s deployment of the two principal materials it foregrounds: the béton from which the title derives and the merde that is paired with it throughout the text. I show how these two materials are weaponized to attack the social structures of the heterosexual nuclear family and of race, their intractable materiality reflecting the intractable materiality of language itself. Language, in Dans l’béton, stands in for both shit and concrete as a material that, once we are in it, demands action if we are to build something other than broken social structures that continue to be reproduced, as seemingly endless as the narrator’s father’s unending supply of concrete, or cows’ continual production of excrement.