Darrieussecq’s “Truismes” : a Feminist “Elle-iade de notre temps”

  • Margaret E. Gray Indiana University

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While some critics of Marie Darrieussecq’s 1996 novel, Truismes, complain about the narrator’s naïveté, even her “stupidity,” the title itself cues us to look further.  The word  “truismes” evokes not only the English “truisms,” or obvious verities, but the French “truie”, or sow—anticipating the narrator’s porcine transformation, in one of the text’s many ironized echoes of the Iliad.  Critics have not noticed, however, that the word “truie” may derive from the low Latin, “porcus troianus”: Trojan or stuffed pork, in allusion to the surprise and deadly contents of the Trojan horse.  Indeed, the narrator alludes to the ancient Romans’ putatively favorite dish, “vulve de truie farcie” (58). This image of a sow’s stuffed vulva doubles (through “truie,” with its etymological trace of “Troy,” combined with the adjective “farcie”) the concealed, deceitful stuffing of a Trojan sow filled with far greater meaning than one might suspect.  We recall that after nine weary years of war, the deadly gift of the Trojan horse provided access to the besieged city, bringing victory to the Greek assailants.  Similarly, Darrieussecq’s Trojan sow is packed with contradiction and paradox, suggestive both of trap and threshold, of defeat and victory, of deceit and revelation.  Once we see through the ruse of the narrator’s naïveté, Truismes becomes a feminist “Elle-iade de notre temps”: the sophisticated literary, linguistic and cultural odyssey of a woman’s long and highly ironized return home amidst the perils of a dystopian patriarchy. 

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2017-06-13
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Etudes

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truisms; odyssey; feminist; patriarchy; critique