“Un créole extrêmement vivace”: Linguistic Identity and Belonging in Bessora’s 53 cm

Livi Yoshioka-Maxwell

Abstract


This article draws on applied linguistics approaches to examine how Swiss-Gabonese author Bessora’s novel 53 cm (1999) engages with the image of the il/legitimate speaker to challenge the myth that cultural assimilation grants acceptance in France. Bessora’s novel represents the bureaucratic machinery of the immigration system as a means to police French nationality as not only a political identity, but as an ethnic and racial entity as well—a practice that presents a fundamental contradiction to the republican philosophy of acceptance through integration. Bessora’s manipulation of the written word on the page, from typeface choice to punctuation, evokes oral discourse while also creating intertextual relationships with earlier critical and literary works to show the lingering influence of the colonial imaginary on contemporary perceptions of linguistic legitimacy in France. Pushing back against myths of French cultural purity, 53 cm suggests that the cultural hybridity historically associated with contact zones far from the hexagon is in fact deeply embedded in the French cultural patrimoine


Keywords


Linguistic legitimacy; Bessora; cultural assimilation; national identity; contact zone

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