Chloé Delaume

Biography

Chloé Delaume from a photograph by Coxalgie (2010) [Wikimedia Commons]

Chloé Delaume was born Nathalie Abdallah in Versailles on 10 March 1973 of a French mother and a Maronite Lebanese father. She grew up in Beirut, at the time a war zone, before returning to France in 1978. The family settled in the suburbs of Paris, where Delaume’s mother taught French in a collège, and her father worked as a captain in the merchant navy. After her father obtained French nationality, the family name was changed to Dalain.

In 1983, at the age of ten, she witnessed her father shooting her mother dead and then kill himself, a traumatic event which lies at the core of Delaume’s work. She addresses the issue directly in Le Cri du sablier, where the narrator literally attempts to empty herself of her father’s lethal legacy (a grain of sand, hence the hourglass in the title).

Following the crime that left her orphaned, she lived with her grandparents, and uncles and aunts. During the 1990s Delaume enrolled for a degree in Lettres Modernes at Nanterre University (Paris X). She began a Master’s degree intending to write her dissertation on the subject of ‘Pataphysique chez Boris Vian’, but did not complete it. In several of her novels and in her constantly evolving biography, available on her website (www.chloedelaume.net), Delaume intimates that this period of her life, from late childhood to her beginnings as a writer, was marked by several suicide attempts. The struggle against depression is one of the recurrent motifs in Delaume’s work, along with autofiction, family tragedy, virtual reality and technologies of the self.

Having left Nanterre in the late 1990s, Delaume worked in an escort bar, an experience that served as the backdrop for her first novel Les Mouflettes d’Atropos. At the same time, she started writing articles for the magazine Le Matricule des anges (at first under her real name) and became a regular contributor to the literary journal EvidenZ, which she co-founded with among others, the philosopher and author Mehdi Belhaj Kacem (to whom Delaume was married from 1999 to 2002).

It is around 1999 that Chloé Delaume came into being as a persona and since then she has been squatting in Dalain’s body: ‘Je m’appelle Cholé Delaume. Je suis un personage de fiction. J’ai investi le corps que j’ai fait mien un vendredi poisseux de 1999’ (La Vanité des somnabules). She takes her first name from Boris Vian’s heroine in L’écume des jours and her last from Antonin Artaud’s rewriting of Alice in Wonderland (La Larve et laume), thus placing herself in a literary heritage. The choice of a new identity underlines the importance that fiction and experiments in self-narrative have for Delaume.

In several accounts, she describes this change of identity as something much more meaningful than the adoption of a pseudonym. Rather, it is an attempt not only to come to terms with the pain caused by her family’s tragedy, but also her own narrative, and to reinvent herself beyond sociocultural and familial determinism. In an interview with Barbara Havercroft, she explains how this new identity gave her the sense of being a subject for the first time: ‘Il était nécessaire de me créer une nouvelle identité, qui porterait mon propre Je, l’imposerait dans le réel. Se définir comme personnage de fiction, c’est dire je choisis qui je suis, je m’invente seule, moi-même, jusqu’à l’état civil. Je ne suis pas née sujet, mais par ma mutation en Chloé Delaume, je le suis devenue.’

Becoming a subject is according to Delaume the main purpose of her experimentation with the genre of autofiction. The subjectivity that she endlessly (re)constructs through her novels and performances is not a search for stability. As Shirley Jordan puts it, ‘Delaume engages in repeated autofictional self-repositioning’ (2012), which makes her autofictional practice closer to Foucault’s notion of ‘technologies of the self’ than a search for a coherent or ‘true’ identity. Delaume rapidly became a key figure in French autofiction, along with authors such as Christine Angot and Serge Doubrovsky, who coined the term. However, her inventive writing cannot be reduced to an exploration of the autofictional self. With her disrupted syntax and her particular use of punctuation marks, Chloé Delaume’s writing is characterised by deep poetic inflections.

Delaume’s first novel, Les Mouflettes d’Atropos, was published by Farrago in 2000, to be followed a year later by Le Cri du sablier for which she received the prestigious Prix Décembre. By 2014 she had authored a body of works comprising 22 books (several novels, theatre and short stories), poetry and an essay. Delaume’s interest in formal exploration makes her an heir of Queneau and the Oulipo group. This is obvious in some of her work, Corpus Simsi and J’habite dans la télévision, for example. In the latter, Delaume subjects herself to an experiment: spending 22 months in front of the television from morning until evening. She narrates the effects of this constant exposure to televisual content in a novel taking the form of a report. In Corpus Simsi, a book based on previous experiments with videogames and virtual reality, Delaume becomes a virtual character in Sim City.

In Dans ma maison sous terre, Delaume revisits her family story in the light of new information: her murderous father was not actually her biological father. This fact, disclosed by her maternal grandmother, results in Delaume rewriting her family romance. Où le sang nous appelle, written together with her current partner Daniel Schneidermann, revolves around Georges Ibrahim Abdallah, Delaume’s uncle, who has been in a French prison since 1982 for his involvement with Lebanese terrorist groups. Recently, Delaume confided in her interview with Havercroft her desire to (temporarily) turn her back on autofiction with the aim of exploring the space of ‘pure’ fiction.

Delaume is also the author of several short texts as part of collective projects. As a musician and occasional singer, she collaborates on the Dorine Muraille project and takes part in numerous performances. From 2005 to 2007, she was forum manager for the television programme Arrêt sur images on France 5 and, since 2010, has been general editor of the collection ‘Extraction’ published by Éditions Joca Seria.

None of her work has yet been translated into English, though some of her novels are available in German and Spanish.

Compiled by Evelyne Ledoux-Beaugrand

Bibliography


Les Mouflettes d’Atropos (Paris: Farrago, 2000)

Mes week-ends sont pires que les vôtres (Paris: Néant, 2001)

Le Cri du sablier (Paris: Farrago/Léo Scheer, 2001)

Monologue pour épluchures d’Atrides [poetry] (Marseilles: CIPm/Spectres Familiers, 2003)

La Vanité des somnambules (Paris: Farrago/Léo Scheer, 2003)

Corpus Simsi  [text/screenshots of videogame] (Paris: Léo Scheer, 2003)

Certainement pas (Paris: Verticales, 2004)

Les Juins ont tous la même peau (Paris: Kimé [La Chasse au Snark], 2005)

J’habite dans la télévision (Paris: Verticales, 2006)

Chanson de geste & opinions (Vitry-sur-Seine: Mac/Val, 2007)

La Dernière Fille avant la guerre (Paris: Naïve, 2007)

Transhumances [theatre] (Alfortville: Ère, 2007)

La Nuit je suis Buffy Summers [game-book] (Alfortville: Ère, 2007)

Dans ma maison sous terre (Paris: Seuil, 2009)

Eden matin midi et soir [theatre] (Paris: Joca Seria, 2009)

‘S’écrire mode d’emploi’ in Autofiction(s): Colloque de Cerisy, ed. by Claude Burgelin, Isabelle Grell and Roger-Yves Roche (Lyon: Presses Universitaires de Lyon, 2010, pp.109-126)

Narcisse & ses aiguilles [short story] (Saint-Etienne: L’Une & l’Autre, 2009)

Au commencement était l’adverbe [theatre] (Paris: Joca Seria, 2010)

La Règle du Je [essay] (Paris: PUF [Travaux Pratiques], 2010)

Le Deuil des deux syllabes [short story] (Saint-Etienne: L’Une & l’Autre, 2011)

Une femme avec personne dedans (Paris: Seuil, 2012)

Perceptions, with François Alary et Ophélie Klere (Paris: Joca Seria, 2012)

Où le sang nous appelle, with Daniel Schneidermann (Paris: Seuil, 2013)

Compiled by Evelyne Ledoux-Beaugrand

 

Criticism

Bertrand, Michel: ‘Autobiographie, autofiction, jalousie hystérique: Annie Ernaux et Chloé Delaume’ in Al di là del cliché. Rappresentazioni multiculturali e transgeografiche del feminile ed. by Marie-Christine Jullion, Clara Bulfoni and Virginia Sica (Milan: Franco Angeli, 2002, pp.17-29)

Briere, Emilie: ‘Écrire la souffrance de l'enfant au tournant du XXIe siècle: le récit à l'épreuve de l'innommable’ ([Thesis], University of Montreal, 2012)

Cornelio, Dawn: 'Les limites de la narration minée dans Certainement pas de Chloé Delaume’ (Contemporary French and Francophone Studies 13.4, 2009, pp.423-430)

—: ‘Elle se nomme Chloé Delaume: un parcours personnel et littéraire’ in Protean Selves: First-Person Voices in Twenty-First-Century French and Francophone Narratives ed. by Adrienne Angela and Erika Fülöp (Newcastle: Cambridge Scholars Publishing, 2014)

—: ‘Fragmentation des corps et des identités chez Chloé Delaume’ (@nalyses, 11.1, Winter 2016: ‘Subjectivités mouvantes: Somatisation et subjectivation dans les écrits des femmes depuis 1990’, ed. by Evelyne Ledoux-Beaugrand and Anne Martine Parent, pp. 135-159), available online at https://uottawa.scholarsportal.info/ojs/index.php/revue-analyses/issue/view/247

Decimo, Marc: ‘De quelques histoires de famille à la naissance de Chloé Delaume: traumas et usage singulier de la langue’ in Relations familiales dans les littératures française et francophone des XXe et XXIe siècles: la figure de la mère ed. by Murielle Lucie Clément and Sabine van Wesemael (Paris: L’Harmattan, 2008)

Ducas, Sylvie: ‘Fiction auctoriale, postures et impostures médiatiques: le cas de Chloé Delaume, "personnage de fiction"’ (Le Temps des médias 14, Spring 2010)

—: ‘Faire écouter la littérature avec les yeux. Variations de l’ethos de l’écrivain dans un environnement numérique: les sites d’Éric Chevillard, de Chloé Delaume et de Régine Detambel’ in Ethos numériques (Itinéraires: Littérature, textes, cultures [special issue] 2015.3)

Dumont, Isabelle: ‘Le sujet delaumien: une "incarnation virtuellement temporaire"?’ (Nouvelles Études Francophones 24.1, Spring 2009, pp.42-64)

Dusaillant-Fernandes, Valérie: ‘Dérouter le lecteur: Procédés stylistiques dans Le Cri du sablier de Chloé Delaume’ in Aventures et expériences littéraires: Écritures des femmes en France au début du vingt-et-unième siècle ed. by Amaleena Damlé and Gill Rye (Amsterdam/New York: Rodopi, 2014, pp. 39-56)

Gaensbauer, Deborah B.: ‘"Autofiction + x = ?’": Chloé Delaume’s Experimental Self-Representations’ in Women's Writing in 21st-Century France: Life as Literature ed. by Amaleena Damlé and Gill Rye (Cardiff: University of Wales Press, 2013)

—: ‘“Juste une petite mise en scène de la problématique”: Citational Construction of an Autofictional Voice in Chloé Delaume’s Eden matin midi et soir’ in Women and Theater ed. by Cecilia Beach and Joyce Carlton Johnston (Women in French Studies [special issue], 2014, pp. 48-61)

Gaudreau, Michèle: ‘Violence et identité dans Les Mouflettes d'Atropos et Le Cri du sablier de Chloé Delaume’ (Montréal: Cahiers de l'IREF 2, 2011)

Huglo, Marie-Pascale: ‘L’art d’enchaîner: la fluidité dans le récit contemporain’ (Protée 34.2-3, 2006, pp.127-137 [available at http://nelson.cen.umontreal.ca/revue/pr/2006/v34/n2-3/014271ar.pdf])

Jongy, Béatrice: ‘Les écorchées: Chloé Delaume et Filipa Melo’ in Actes du colloque international – Projections: des organes hors du corps (13-14 octobre 2006) ed. by Hugues Marchal and Anne Simon (Épistémocritique: Littérature et savoirs, 24 September 2008 [available at http://www.epistemocritique.org/IMG/pdf/ProjectionsJongy.pdf])

Ledoux-Beaugrand, Evelyne: ‘La revenance du père: le livre sépulture’ in Imaginaires de la filiation: héritage et mélancolie dans la littérature contemporaine des femmes (Montréal: éditions XYZ, 2013, pp.115-161)

—: ‘Littéralisation et lignée féministe: l’héritage du SCUM Manifesto dans Les Mouflettes d’Atropos de Chloé Delaume’ (Nottingham French Studies 52.3, 2013, pp.337–349)

—: ‘Filles du père? Le spectre paternel chez quelques auteures contemporaines’ in Relations familiales dans les littératures française et francophone des XXème et XXIème siècles: la figure du père ed. by Murielle Lucie Clément and Sabine Van Wesemael (Paris: L’Harmattan, 2008)

Pasquier, Renaud: ‘L’œuvre indistincte (Vasset, Volodine, Delaume, Bon)’ in La Caméra des mots, dans le spectacle du roman ed. by Matteo Majorano (Bari: Graphis, 2007)

Piva, Marika: Nimphaea in fabula: le bouquet d’histoires de Chloé Delaume (Perugia: Aguaplano [Biblioteca, Saggi] 4,  2012)

—: ‘Système binaire en fluctuation: la mise en fiction des sentiments chez Chloé Delaume’ in La giostra dei sentimenti ed. by Matteo Majorano (Macerata: Quodlibet, 2014)

Ponge, Myriam: ‘La mise en abyme ou le cas de l’auteur personnage d’autofiction de Chloé Delaume’ in Les Médiations de l’écrivain: les conditions de la création littéraire ed. by Audrey Alvès and Maria Pourchet (Paris: L’Harmattan, 2011)

Richard, Annie: ‘De l’intime à l’intimation: "l’autofixion" de Chloé Delaume’ in Annie Richard: L’Autofiction des femmes: un chemin vers l’altruisme? (Paris: L’Harmattan, 2013)

Sauzon, Virginie: ‘Le rire comme enjeu féministe: une lecture de l’humour dans Les Mouflettes d’Atropos de Chloé Delaume et Baise-moi de Virginie Despentes’ (Recherches Féministes 25.2, 2012, pp.65-81)

Thumerel, Fabrice: ‘Chloé Delaume ou l'alteregographie’ (Libr-critique, 25 June 2007 [http://archive.is/gYZ6d])

Troin-Guis, Anysia: ‘Une narrativisation singulière du féminisme: lecture de quelques oeuvres de Chloé Delaume’ (Postures 15, Spring 2012, pp.83-94)

Vray, Jean-Bertrand: ‘Chloé Delaume: la chanson revenante’ (Revue critique de fixxion contemporaine 5, 2012, pp.32-40)

Yousni, Dalia: ‘Le jeu littéraire: appropriation et transformation discursive et textuelle dans Certainement pas de Chloé Delaume; suivi de Jouer le je’ ([Master’s dissertation] University of Montreal, 2011)

Compiled by Evelyne Ledoux-Beaugrand

 

Interviews

Blanckeman, Bruno: ‘Chloé Delaume s'entretient avec Bruno Blanckeman’ (Les Cahiers du Ceracc, 17 December 2010, [audiofile] online at http://www.cahiers-ceracc.fr/entretiens.html)

Fellous, Colette: ‘24 heures dans la vie de… Chloé Delaume’ (France Culture, 9 August 2009, transcript available at http://www.fabriquedesens.net/24-h-dans-la-vie-de-Chloe-Delaume)

Havercroft, Barbara: ‘Le soi est une fiction’ (Revue critique de fixxion française contemporaine 4 [‘Fictions de soi’], 2012, online at http://www.revue-critique-de-fixxion-francaise-contemporaine.org/rcffc/article/view/fx04.12)

Léménager, Grégoire: ‘Castillon-Delaume: Ni prudes ni soumises’ (Le Nouvel Observateur, 29 January 2012, online at http://bibliobs.nouvelobs.com/romans/20120118.OBS9095/castillon-delaume-ni-prudes-ni-soumises.html)

Loret, Eric: ‘La haine s’étiole’ (Libération, 15 January 2009, online at http://www.liberation.fr/livres/2009/01/15/la-haine-s-etiole_302727)

Marcandier, Christine and Truffy, Vincent: ‘Chloé Delaume, peut-être une histoire d'amour’ (Médiapart, 5 February 2012, online at http://www.mediapart.fr/journal/culture-idees/040212/chloe-delaume-peut-etre-une-histoire-damour)

Tenneson, Camille: ‘Chloé Delaume: "Le numérique est une ouverture sur la littérature"’ (Le Nouvel Observateur, 24 April 2009, online at http://bibliobs.nouvelobs.com/actualites/20090424.BIB3298/chloe-delaume-le-numerique-est-une-ouverture-sur-la-litterature.html)

L’Équipe de Zone: ‘Entretien avec Chloé Delaume’ (Zone littéraire 8, November 2001, online at http://www.zone-litteraire.com/litterature/interviews/entretien-avec-chloe-delaume.html)

Compiled by Evelyne Ledoux-Beaugrand