Annabel Kim's second book*, Cacaphonies: The Excremental Canon of French Literature (University of Minnesota Press, 2022) digs into fecal matter as a preoccupation of modern French literature. Inspired by the author's observations of a certain "fecal blindness" among student and other readers of French literature, Cacaphonies examines a series of canonical authors and texts through the twentieth and twenty-first centuries in which shit plays a powerful role as the work and waste of bodies and a figure of radical equality.
Throughout its five chapters, the book examines the writing of Louis-Ferdinand Céline, Samuel Beckett, Jean-Paul Sartre, Jean Genet, Marguerite Duras, Romain Gary, Anne Garréta, and Daniel Pennac. Reading the role that fecal matter plays in the works of these authors, Cacaphonies considers the materiality of shit in relationship to French identity, democracy, and universalism. It also explores the excrementalities of writing, literature, and literary studies more broadly. Provocative in the aesthetic and political projects it presents and interrogates, Cacaphonies is smart and engrossing, a wonderful and also really, really shitty book.
*I last spoke with Annabel Kim in 2019 about her book Unbecoming Language: Anti-Identitarian French Feminsit Fictions (The Ohio State University Press, 2018). You can listen to that interview here.
Roxanne Panchasi is an Associate Professor of History at Simon Fraser University in Vancouver, Canada who specializes in twentieth and twenty-first century France and empire. She is the founding host of New Books in French Studies, a channel launched in 2013.