Christine Montalbetti

Christine Montalbetti was born in Le Havre in 1965. She teaches literary theory at the University of Paris (VIII) in Vincennes-Saint Denis. Her academic interest in textual structures and elements and the relationship between language and reality also permeates her literary work, which consists of several prose texts and a recent play. In her oeuvre the text itself, not the plot, is the focus – as a result Montalbetti has often been classed as following the »nouveau roman« or post-modern style.

In her first novel, »Sa fable achevée, Simon sort dans la bruine« (2001; t: His Tale Concluded, Simon Walks into the Drizzle), the rather idle protagonist makes a full retreat behind the meandering narrative flow, the intelligent elegance of which earned critical approval. »L’Origin de l’homme« (2002; t: The Origin of Man) is an ironic play on the realist novel and uses the biography of Jacques Boucher de Perthes, an amateur scientist who, in the 19th century, made a revolutionary contribution to research on prehistoric man. In Montalbetti’s account, his life-story finds proper form – he is hero, star and protagonist at the same time.

»Western« (2005) focuses on that particular genre and its conventions. The classic Western film is modified through Montalbetti’s narration: snapshots, zooms and changing perspectives interrupt events, which nevertheless culminate in a typical duel showdown. The narrative voice forces dialogues between the characters aside and, in commentaries and reflections, moves through the familiar scenery as through the prop room of a theatre. By directly addressing the audience, the narrator shatters the fictional world of the work. A similar play on the expectations of the reader is found in »Petits déjeuners avec quelques écrivains célèbres« (2008; t: Breakfast With Some Famous Writers). The title and table of contents encourage the expectation that the book will be a portrait of authors such as Jean-Philippe Toussaint, Tanguy Viel and Haruki Murakami. However in reality, the history and sub-plots of the narrative voice, his commentary, thoughts, memories and feelings overgrow the portrayal of the meetings with the authors, and indeed the reality of these meetings is in question: »Christine Montalbetti, he says for a third and last time in a voice which suddenly seemed softer to me, certainly a little more tainted with that assertiveness which he had shown in the two preceding paragraphs, you know very well that we have never, never, had breakfast together. We would have needed to meet for that to happen. // What, do you think, should I answer to that?«

© international literature festival berlin