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    Three is the loneliest number: Marie Vieux Chauvet, Marie NDiaye and the traumatized triptych

    Asibong, Andrew (2016) Three is the loneliest number: Marie Vieux Chauvet, Marie NDiaye and the traumatized triptych. In: Benedicty, A. and Glover, K.L. (eds.) Revisiting Marie Vieux Chauvet: Paradoxes of the Postcolonial Feminine. Yale French Studies 128. New Haven, U.S.: Yale University Press. ISBN 9780300214192.

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    I want to focus my discussion on a very specific form of splitting common to Chauvet’s and NDiaye’s disintegrating creatures and the textual structures which (fail to) contain them. This is the fragmentation of the whole into three dissociated parts. If triads, trios and tripartite entities proliferate throughout the crumbling worlds of these two writers, nowhere does the disorientating trope of one-into-three mark itself more clearly than in those instances of experimental triptychs which are themselves fissured into three split-off and only vaguely associated fragments. Taking three cases of ostentatiously triadic texts – Chauvet’s Amour, colère et folie (1968) and NDiaye’s Trois femmes puissantes (2009) and Ladivine (2013) – I shall try to show how each book offers the reader a particular vision of a single entity being violently hewn in three. The three narrative pathways offered by each text perform a tripartite dissociation of self. What is especially worthy of note, however, is the way in which these three novels stage, in their different tripartite structures, what is essentially the same pattern of three-way psychic splitting. Traumatized selfhood is dissected analogously across the three different triptychs. But the nine fragments of split-off, horror-struck life that emerge are capable of being critically reassembled into three new paradigms, three re-sutured, post-traumatic psyches. In the exploration that follows, I hope to create a space of synthesis for these dissociated shards of shattered being, an analytic “container” in which Chauvet’s and NDiaye’s wandering, mixed-up, fragmented “thirds” may finally meet, reflect and compare stories.


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