Strange Encounters during Wartime

Bécassine chez les Turcs

in European Comic Art
Annabelle Cone Dartmouth College

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Too ideologically conservative to associate with contemporary bande dessinée, the Bécassine albums (1905-1939) nonetheless provide a rich historical and sociological archive of French behaviors, values and attitudes during the latter half of the Third Republic. A closer reading of the four albums set during the First World War, and the fourth one in particular, Bécassine chez les Turcs, helps to demystify the place in the world of France as superpower. The partnering of exotic 'Others' - a maid from Brittany with an Arab immigrant - further complicates a plot unable to end the war with patriotic unity and a return to the status quo. Bécassine the character puts a human face on displacement as she befriends colonised subjects. This study yields a vision of a smaller, more fragile France for readers who are not as much nostalgic for a glorious past as eager to decipher the complexity of a troubled time through the eyes of a subaltern observer.

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