Rebellion and nihilism in the works of Leila Sebbar and V. S. Naipaul
Stranges, Peter Bartles
Doctor of Philosophy
This study proposes that Leila Sebbar and V. S. Naipaul, two widely-read contemporary novelists, intuitively understand Albert Camus' idea of revolt, using it to legitimate their non-essentialized, transcultural models of individual and collective identity. This dissertation views an Algerian teenager's rendezvous with Nobel Prize-winning author V. S. Naipaul in Les Carnets de Sherazade as a magical portal through which Leila Sebbar allows us to see her fiction as a subversion and a reappropriation of the liberal philosophical principles underlying V. S. Naipaul's novels and travel journals. Although they interpret the increasing visibility of cultural, racial, and religious fundamentalisms in Western and non-Western societies as signs of a gathering nihilistic storm, neither Sebbar nor Naipaul believe that these epistemologically bounded ideologies of revolt are invincible. Instead, both depict rebellion, an epistemologically open-ended and altruistic form of revolt, as the exclusive means through which post-colonials across the globe can experience individual and communal wholeness---liberty, equality, fraternity, and peace---amidst the eponymous mixing of different peoples and truths in the late twentieth century. Chapter One explores the concepts of rebellion and nihilism in Albert Camus' The Rebel and Francis Fukuyama's The End of History and the Last Man. It also investigates the uncanny philosophical and thematic parallels in Leila Sebbar's and V. S. Naipaul's works. Chapter Two analyzes the theme of the returned gaze in Sebbar's Sherazade and Le Fou de Sherazade. It shows how Sherazade, Sebbar's title character, resists Orientalism and Islamic orthodoxy in a rebellious manner. The Algerian teenager challenges the "master's" desire for supremacy without denying his or her dignity. Chapter Three investigates the relationship between Sebbar's fiction and Lettres parisiennes: autopsie de l'exil, her correspondence with Canadian author Nancy Huston. It demonstrates that Sebbar's formulation of exile as a hybrid, contingent identitarian space in Lettres parisiennes is coterminous with Camus' notion of rebellion. Chapter Four is a detailed study of Sherazade's encounter with V. S. Naipaul in southwestern France in Les Carnets de Sherazade. Using Anne Donadey's model of mimicry, it claims that Sebbar subverts the British-Caribbean writer's representations of the ex-colonized's subjectivity and revalidates his underlying faith in rebellion.
Comparative literature; Modern literature; African literature; Caribbean literature