Pierette Fleutiaux

Biography

Pierrette Fleutiaux was born in 1941 in Guéret, in the Creuse. Her mother was a teacher in the Natural Sciences; her father was Director of the École Normale d’Instituteurs. She recalls a childhood spent between the rural life and rhythms of her grandparents’ farm and voracious reading in the school library. Fleutiaux was influenced by her close proximity to the Normalien students, one of whom she later married. She studied English at the University of Poitiers and passed the Agrégation teaching exam at the Sorbonne. She also studied at Limoges, Bordeaux and London. In the 1960s, Fleutiaux lived for some time in New York with her first husband. She describes her time in the city as a ‘liberation’, noting in particular the daunting and freeing potential created by daily life in another language. It was in New York that Fleutiaux wrote her first book, while also working at the French lycée in the city and for the United Nations as well as in other small jobs. She also had a son in America. Eventually Fleutiaux and her family returned to France and she then taught at the Lycée Chaptal in Paris for the rest of her career until her retirement in the early 2000s.

Fleutiaux’s first novel, Histoire de la chauve-souris, was published in 1975. This text introduces the continual preoccupations of her work: with women’s lived experience, with moments of crisis and adventure which enable transformation, with the unknown, and with the ongoing need to engage in dialogue with both the inner and outer worlds in the act of co-creating the self. These themes were developed further in Histoire du tableau (1977) alongside a more intense focus on creativity. Fleutiaux’s 1985 collection of reworked fairy tales, Métamorphoses de la reine expands these themes beyond the individual in its direct engagement with the situation of women in male-dominated imaginary and de facto landscapes of power and control within romantic relationships (the relationship with parents is a significant sub-theme). Métamorphoses de la reine won the Prix Goncourt de la nouvelle. Fleutiaux also won the Prix Fémina for her 1990 novel Nous sommes éternels, which was also the forum in which she engaged explicitly with historical events for the first time. This novel is arguably also her most significant work of fiction, although it has received little academic attention and was widely misjudged in the contemporaneous reviews. Relationship questions, once again both lived and imagined, were foregrounded in a much more light-hearted context in Allons-nous être heureux? (1994).

In 1997 Fleutiaux published L’Expédition, her first foray into the arena of women’s leadership and pioneering, themes which continue into her later works, as her narrators mature. This novel, based on her own visit to Easter Island, depicts the adventures of a group of women (and one man) to explore the ‘mystery of the world’ and allows Fleutiaux to revisit and renew the historically male-dominated genre of adventure narratives through her woman narrator’s lived experience. In 2001, Fleutiaux referred to this as her ‘favourite’ novel, while noting that it was not so well received by everyone else. 

Published following the death of Fleutiaux’s own mother, Des Phrases courtes, ma chérie (2003) examines the narrator-daughter’s changing relationship with her ageing mother, and foregrounds the invisibility of older women, and the continual renegotiations required between daughter and mother in establishing a relationship that balances mutual affection, support and independence. The novel won the Prix pour la France du meilleur roman étranger 2001 from People’s Literature Publishing House, China.  Fleutiaux’s 2005 Les Amants imparfaits takes a radically different turn from her other works, highlighting the dangers of women’s failure to individuate, through the unreliable voice and flawed introspection of Raphael, a rare male narrator in Fleutiaux’s oeuvre. These underlying tensions persist in more subtle forms in La Saison de mon contentement (2008), published after the 2007 presidential campaign of Ségolène Royal, which details the narrator’s unexpected happiness at the sight of a woman in a place of high power, alongside her outrage at the relentless sexism directed towards the candidate. In Bonjour, Anne (2010) Fleutiaux returns to earlier questions of visibility and transmission at play in the narrator’s search for and rediscovery of the life and work of an older woman mentor. These themes linger in Loli le temps venu (2013), an account of a grandmother’s relationship with her young granddaughter, which includes reflections on the portrayal of older women and of childhood in art and literature. Fleutiaux’s most recent work is Destiny (2016), a novel about the older woman narrator’s interaction with a young Nigerian woman immigrant in difficult circumstances, and an exploration of the strength and precariousness of the younger woman.

Fleutiaux’s oeuvre extends beyond these more substantial fictional works to children’s literature, short story collections, a photo novel, an illustrated fiction, and some comment pieces for newspapers and magazines. She appears on French television and her work is translated into several languages. 

Bibliography

Histoire de la chauve-souris (Paris: Juillard, 1975; 2nd edn, Paris: Gallimard, 1990)

Histoire du tableau (Paris: Juillard, 1977; 2nd edn Paris: Gallimard, 1991)

La Forteresse (Paris: Juillard, 1979)

Métamorphoses de la reine (Paris: Gallimard, 1984)

Nous sommes éternels (Paris: Gallimard, 1990)

Sauvée (Paris: Gallimard, 1993)

Allons-nous être heureux? (Paris: Gallimard, 1994)

L’Expédition (Paris: Gallimard, 1999)

Des Phrases courtes, ma chérie (Arles: Actes Sud, 2001)

Les Amants imparfaits (Arles: Actes Sud, 2005)

Les Étoiles à l’envers (Paris: Actes Sud, 2006)

L’Os d'Aurochs, illustrated by Christine Guinamand (Paris: Éditions du Chemin de fer, 2007)

La Saison de mon contentement (Arles: Actes Sud, 2008)

Bonjour, Anne: Chronique d’une amitié (Arles: Actes Sud, 2010)

Loli le temps venu (Paris: Odile Jacob, 2013)

Destiny (Paris: Actes Sud, 2016)

Children’s Fiction

Mon frère au degré X (Paris: École des loisirs, 1995)

Trini fait des vagues (Paris: Gallimard, 1997)

La Maison des voyages, with Alain Wagneur (Paris: Gallimard, Page Blanche, 1997)

Le Cheval Flamme, illustrated by Lucien Chaminade (Paris: Calmann-Levy et RMN,1998)

Trini à l’île de Pâques (Paris: Gallimard, 1999)

Articles by Pierette Fleutiaux

 ‘L’Abstraite réalité’  (Les Nouvelles Littéraires, 20 October 1977, p. 7)

‘Ségolène remue nos eaux dormantes’ (Libération, 22 March 2007, available online at http://www.liberation.fr/tribune/2007/03/22/segolene-remue-nos-eaux-dormantes_88154

 ‘La dignité de l’homme exige qu’il porte la burqua’  (Le Monde, 4 July 2009,  available online at http://www.lemonde.fr/idees/article/2009/07/04/la-dignite-de-l-homme-exige-qu-il-porte-la-burqa-par-pierrette-fleutiaux_1215257_3232.html)

In English Translation

We Are Eternal  [Translated  by Jeremy Leggatt] (New York: Little, Brown & Co, 1994)

‘Little Red Pants’ [Translated by Sandra L. Beckett in Revisioning Red Riding Hood Around the World: An Anthology of International Retellings ] (Detroit: Wayne State University Press, 2014, pp. 310–28)

‘The Ogre’s Wife’ in The Year’s Best Fantasy and Horror: Fifth Annual Collection ed by Ellen Datlow and Terri Windling (New York: St Martins Press, 1992, pp. 488-505)

Criticism

Amhurst, A.J.: ‘A Critical Analysis of Charles Perrault’s “Le Petit Poucet” followed by a Comparative Analysis of Michel Tournier’s La Fugue du Petit Poucet and Pierrette Fleutiaux’s “La Femme de l’ogre”’ (unpublished MPhil thesis, University of Exeter, 1996)

Beckett, Sandra L.: ‘Taming the Wolf’ in Red Riding Hood for All Ages: A Fairy-Tale Icon in Cross Cultural Contexts (Detroit: Wayne State University Press, 2008, pp. 166–75)

Cortázar, Julio: ‘Message cloué à un arbre’, in Pierrette Fleutiaux, Histoire de la chauve-souris (Paris: Gallimard, 1975, pp. 13–16)

Chabot, Sandrine: ‘Lecture durandienne de l’Histoire d’une [sic] chauve-souris de Pierrette Fleutiaux’ (Recherches sur l’imaginaire, 24, 1993, pp. 363–81)

Grauby, Françoise: ‘Art, Or, Aura: L’Atelier de l’Artiste dans L’Homme au chapeau rouge d’Hervé Guibert et Histoire du tableau de Pierrette Fleutiaux’ (Romance Studies, 28, pp. 118–29)

Héritier, Françoise: ‘Préface’, Loli le temps venu (Paris: Odile Jacob, 2013, pp. 7–11)

Knapp, Bettina L.: Pierrette Fleutiaux (Amsterdam: Rodopi, 1997)

—: ‘Entretien avec Pierrette Fleutiaux’ (French Review: Journal of the American Association of Teachers of French, 71, 1998, pp. 436–41)

Montfort, Catherine: ‘Deuil et écriture: Des Phrases courtes, ma chérie de Pierrette Fleutiaux’ in 'Hybrid Voices, Hybrid Texts’: Women’s Writing at the Turn of the Millennium ed. by Gill Rye (Dalhousie French Studies, 68, 2004,  pp.123–40)

Munford, Rebecca: ‘Re-visioning the Gothic: A Comparative Reading of Angela Carter and Pierrette Fleutiaux’ (unpublished doctoral thesis, University of Exeter, 2003)

Orr, Mary: ‘Figuring the Mortal Coil: Claude Simon’s Le Tramway and Pierrette Fleutiaux’s Histoire du Tableau’ (Forum for Modern Language Studies, 41, 2005, pp. 386–95)

—: ‘The Metamorphoses of Forms in Tournier’s Roi des Aulnes and Pierrette Fleutiaux's Métamorphoses de la reine’ in Narratives of French Modernity: Themes, Forms and Metamorphosis ed. by Lorna Milne and Mary Orr (Oxford: Peter Lang, 2011, pp. 229–49)

Sercombe, Elizabeth Anne: Strange Adventures: Women’s Individuation in the Works of Pierrette Fleutiaux (Oxford: Peter Lang, 2016)

Interviews

Ahnne, Pierre: ‘Entretien avec Pierrette Fleutiaux’, 21 December 2013 available online at http://pierreahnne.eklablog.fr/entretien-avec-pierrette-fleutiaux-a105382080

Amanieux, Laureline: ‘Pierrette Fleutiaux: Apprécier la beauté’, Interview with Pierrette Fleutiaux, 2 January 2014 available online at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=m5seeZtRrD0

—: ‘De Pierrette Fleutiaux à Anne Philippe, changer la perception’, Interview with Laureline Amanieux, 2 January 2014 available online at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Bd7WawHQPEU

Anon: ‘Interview with Pierrette Fleutiaux’ available online at http://www.lire.fr/entretien.asp?idC=37677&idTC=4&idR=201&idG=

Anon: ‘Pierrette Fleutiaux, Loli, le temps venu’ (Librairie Moffat, available online at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oUVfddKv7wc)

Heurtault, Christelle: ‘Interview de Pierrette Fleutiaux: Rencontre autour des Amants Imparfaits’, evenelefigaro.fr, September 2005 available online at http://evene.lefigaro.fr/livres/actualite/interview-de-pierrette-fleutiaux-167.php

Compiled by Elizabeth Sercombe