Fuzzy Fiction examines the phenomenon of "fuzziness," both figurative and structural, in the contemporary French novel. Fuzziness, as originally conceived by Bertrand Russell a century ago, eventually led to the fuzzy set theory of mathematics, on which Jean-Louis Hippolyte bases his theory of literary criticism. In literature the use of fuzziness as a critical lens reveals how semantic ambiguity translates into ontological uncertainty, and why we should look past singularity and toward multiplicity. The paradoxical coincidence of order and disorder, the seemingly infinite exploration of narrative options, and the principle of undifferentiated identity all contribute to a general poetics of vagueness. It is this capital notion of vagueness that Hippolyte identifies as integral to contemporary French fiction and contemporary literature in general. In Fuzzy Fiction Hippolyte examines a set of avant-garde French writers-Jean-Philippe Toussaint, Marie Redonnet, Eric Chevillard, Francois Bon, and Antoine Volodine-whose aesthetic differences, he argues, exemplify the current uses of vagueness in contemporary French literature. Far from forsaking avant-gardism or pandering to the reactionary values of commercial publications, fuzzy fiction, Hippolyte suggestively argues, exceeds and subverts traditional boundaries between the avant-garde and mainstream fiction. A bold innovation in the domain of the contemporary novel, fuzzy fiction inaugurates a richly diverse discourse for the twenty-first century.
Jean-Louis Hippolyte is an assistant professor of French at Rutgers, the State University of New Jersey.
1. Etat des lieux (Introduction); 2: Jean-Philippe Toussaint: Reticent Narratives; 3: Eric Chevillard: Building Babel; 4: Marie Redonnet: The Mourning After; 5: Antoine Volodine: Inside Wars; 6: Francois Bon: Grueling Prognostications; 7. Vague Becomings: Strategies of Fuzziness in 21st Century Fiction (Conclusion)