Title

The Wave, the Wound and the Witness: Climate Trauma, Ethics and Listening in Les Mains Lâchées

Document Type

Article

Publication Date

2019

Abstract

On 8 November 2013, super typhoon Haiyan wreaked havoc in the Philippines, killing over 6,000 people thus making it one of the most powerful typhoons in recorded history. One of the literary works that have since tried to make sense of this climate trauma is the well-acclaimed novel Les mains lâchées by Anaïs Llobet published by Editions Plon, Paris, 2016. Les mains lâchées recounts the story of Madel, a reporter who realises she just survived a “triple tsunami.” She is plagued by survivor’s guilt, having let go of the hand of a child she was entrusted with and leaving the body of her lover, Jan. Forced by her editor to cover the catastrophe for the TV news, the persona finds herself listening to survivors, while dealing with issues on voyeurism, witnessing and ethics. I am interested in exploring the ethics of witnessing in Les mains lâchées. Thus, in this essay, I propose to first define trauma and witnessing, then theorise ethical listening and clarify why survivors resort to writing. After close-reading, I examine why the novel can be an appropriate medium in order to do justice to witnessing. Lastly, I explore translation as a form of “listening again” and interrogate the role of the reader, especially as receiver of trauma fiction. Ultimately, I argue that Les mains lâchées, as a literary form, allows for empathic, ethical listening, and postcolonial witnessing.

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