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A Psychoanalytic Reading of Christos Tsiolkas’s Dead Europe

La république des lettres —
A Psychoanalytic Reading of Christos Tsiolkas’s Dead Europe

Toujours dans la lignée de mes travaux qui recoupent les champs psychanalytique, philosophique et littéraire, voici une lecture freudienne (Freud, Abraham, Klein, Fromm, etc) du troisième roman de Christos Tsiolkas, non traduit en français, alors que j'estime que c'est de loin son meilleur roman. Panorama du roman australien des origines à nos jours (Paris: Hermann / Collection Savoirs Lettres, 2009) fit la part belle à Christos Tsiolkas, bien avant qu'il ne connaisse la gloire avec THE SLAP (La gifle) dans le monde anglophone et francophone. Cet article universitaire est inspiré d'une communication pour le congrès ASAL, à Sydney. « From Incorporation to Ambivalence: The Politics of Desire in Christos Tsiolkas’s Dead Europe» , le 2-3 février 2007. Cette intervention fut remarquée par la journaliste Susan Wyndham dans “Undercover” in Spectrum, Sydney Morning Herald 10-11 Feb. 2007, p.30.

Bonne lecture!



Forthcoming article : “The Politics of Desire: A Psychoanalytic Reading of Christos Tsiolkas’s Dead Europe.”The Journal of the European Association of Studies on Australia (Barcelona), 2012. Online journal (see weblink below)

This challenging paper introduces the first thorough psychoanalytic reading of Christos Tsiolkas’s Dead Europe by analysing desire in relation to Melanie Klein’s oral sadistic stage which, in the author’s grim fairytale with Gothic-laden aesthetics, is metaphorically expressed through vampirism and cannibalism.

Keywords: Freudianism, ambivalence, desire, Christos Tsiolkas, Dead Europe, guilt, incorporation, cannibalism, vampirism, symbiotic union, homosexuality.

The Politics of Desire: A Freudian Reading of Christos Tsiolkas’s Dead Europe

With Dead Europe (2005) whose controversial subject-matter verges on the heretical, Christos Tsiolkas has lived up to his reputation of being the enfant terrible of Australian fiction. On the tail of Loaded (1995) and The Jesus Man (1999), his third novel reads like a Grimm/ grim fairytale with Gothic-laden aesthetics, and one of the worst kinds at that, featuring “graphic depictions of degradation and abjection, in sex, violence, drug-taking and taboo-breaking of the most extreme kinds” (Goldsworthy 61). Admittedly, the novelist’s dark thoughts and themes have a knack of casting a gloom over readers to the point of spoiling their appreciation of his novels. But far from being gratuitous, his bloodcurdling and repelling subject matter underpins a Freudian pattern which has been given a literary expression in Dead Europe (2005).

Tsiolkas uses what Gérard Genette terms “internal focalisation” by presenting Isaac Raftis’ story as seen through his own eyes. Isaac is depicted as a young and talented 36-year-old Australian photographer born of Greek parents, who has left his mother (Reveka) and gay ex-neo-Nazi partner (Colin) behind in Melbourne to open an exhibition in Athens. It has been a decade since Isaac has not been in Greece and things have changed dramatically in post-Cold War Europe: communism is over, the Wall has collapsed, religious hatred and anti-Semitism beget conflicts, while capitalism and globalisation have taken over. Europe is, as the title puts it, dead, if not quite, decaying or on the decline. It has become a haunted and decadent land, corrupted by vice and plagued with cancerous evils. Dead Europe, which focuses on the adventures of a male individual who gradually develops a taste for vampirism in the Old World steeped in tradition and superstitions, falls within the purview of the fantastic. Parallel to the main plotline is the story of Lucia and Michaelis Panagis who have been cursed. After visiting his mother’s home village, Isaac – who feels that he has inherited from this family curse – is morphing into a vampire, thus causing the likely and the unlikely to merge. As a result, readers in want of a rational explanation are left dumbfounded.


Autres travaux:

“An Interview with Christos Tsiolkas”, Antipodes: A North American Journal of Australian Literature 20: 1, juin 2006, 38-40.

“Only Disconnect – Canonizing Homonormative Values: Representation and the Paradox of Gayness in Christos Tsiolkas’s Loaded”, Antipodes: A North American Journal of Australian Literature 20 : 1 (New York), juin 2006, 7-11.

“The Secret Lives of Them. Christos Tsiolkas, The Slap", LINQ 36, (2009), 183-5.

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