Inventing a Vegetal Post-Exotic in the Work of Antoine Volodine
The physical environment plays a key role in the writing of Antoine Volodine, and in that of his “post-exotic” pen name authors. The ruins of human construction and the unwelcoming landscape of the post-apocalyptic world contribute to this literature’s bleak and menacing atmosphere. The ongoing catastrophe portrayed in Volodine’s work is equally environmental, human and political. This article will focus on the environment as agent and as a victim of violence, especially in the novels Terminus radieux [Radiant Terminus] and Herbes et golems [“Herbs and Golems”], and attend to what a specifically literary post-exotic engagement with the environment would look like. In addition to investing the floral with agency, the literary production itself acts as a form of political resistance that is dependent on one’s relationship with that world. Volodine applies his extensive power of invention as a linguist to naming herbs as a reparative and political act. The collective of post-exotic writers takes the side of the wild herbs they name and gives a voice to them by creating a place for them in literature. Questions driving my analysis of the vegetal post-exotic in Volodine’s work include: Can resistance take place without solidarity with the environment, and what would that solidarity look like? What communication can one have with the natural environment in the post-exotic mode that follows the cataclysm? Can one speak in the place of plants or other non-human agents? How must language change both what it is telling and how it tells it in a world in which disaster has already occurred and humans are only one of many agents who must contend with its aftermath?
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