Storytelling and Playing with History: The Ludic in French and Chinese Fiction


This paper explores how the device of storytelling can be used in fiction to construct a specifically ludic i.e. playful and gamelike literature. I compare two novels as a case-study: the 20C French writer Georges Perec's La Vie, mode d'emploi (Life: a User's Manual) and the 19C Chinese scholar Li Ruzhen's fantasy novel Flowers in the Mirror (Jing Hua Yuan). Both novels are modelled on the notion of game, and both use stories as fragmented episodes that piece together the whole narrative like a huge puzzle – the jigsaw in Perec's case, the palindrome in Li Ruzhen's. In this comparison, I address specific questions arising from the relation between storytelling and ludic writing, namely, how can storytelling become a device for creating a ludic style? Does playing with narrative structure entail re-arranging chronology and playing with history? Why do both French and Chinese novels suggest a rewriting and dissolution of history, for instance when Perec's protagonist Bartlebooth attempts to finally destroy all evidence of his paintings and the stories they carry, and when Li Ruzhen refers to a purely subjective view of history and to writing historical fiction as a literary game at the end of Flowers in the Mirror. Through discussing these questions, I aim to trace conceptual connections between the two French and Chinese novels, clarify the nature of ludic writing and what implications it has for the narrative structure of fiction.

Author Information
Xiaofan Amy Li, University of Kent, United Kingdom

Paper Information
Conference: LibrAsia2017
Stream: Literature - Comparative Literature

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Posted by James Alexander Gordon