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Volume 39, Number 2 (2014)

History’s Absent Hand: Lessons in Modes of (Textual) Production from Gaétan Soucy’s The Little Girl Who Was Too Fond of Matches

June 25, 2015


Following its initial publication in 1998, Gaétan Soucy’s third novel, La Petite fille qui aimait trop les allumettes, has been translated into several languages, including Sheila Fischman’s critically acclaimed English version, The Little Girl Who Was Too Fond of Matches (2000). While Soucy’s fictional autobiography is frequently read as a contemporary Gothic fairy tale and/or trauma memoir, this essay explores the text’s treatment of modes of material production as a lesson in re-visioning history as a process of “non-synchronous simultaneity” or ungleichzeitigkeit (in Ernst Bloch’s terms) that is ultimately based on an “absent cause” (Althusser, Jameson). Insofar as questions of material production in Soucy’s narrative include the central question of textual production, the essay considers how The Little Girl Who Was Too Fond of Matches anticipates problems of authenticity, authority, ownership, and literary estate that are necessarily raised by the novel’s own re-production as a text in translation. Finally, the essay examines the shift or translation from the technology of handwriting to that of print at the heart of Soucy’s complex, poetic novel as a potential parable for (in Marshall McLuhan’s term) a “post-literate” 21st century, one pointing to a present in which what may be disappearing -- or becoming history -- includes precisely the “old” technology of the cursive hand itself.