Daughters Who Remember: the Omnipresent Mother in Nathalie Sarraute’s Enfance, and the Absent Mother in Patrick Modiano’s La Petite Bijou


Nell KupperFollow

Journal Title/Source

Orbis Litterarum

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Journal Article


Languages, Literatures, and International Studies


Pairing the two novels of Enfance by Nathalie Sarraute and La Petite Bijou by Patrick Modiano lends a new perspective to the struggle of the female protagonist’s function of remembering. Where the dominant critical view of both novels separately has thus far presented each of the daughters as resolving her personal struggle in a positive way at the end of the text, deeper affinities between these two narratives reveal a common denominator that debunks this perspective. Rereading these works with some insight from a psychological framework and the function of the feminine gender’s memory, I suggest that in both narratives the daughter’s persistent conflict is a struggle towards autonomy away from a binding maternal bond manifesting itself in unresolved issues of attachment and differentiation. In the case of Enfance, the connection with the mother remains too intense, and in the case of La Petite Bijou, a connection is never realized.

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