Why novelists like to fictionalize French philosophers

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Where it all happened: Lacan’s office in Paris. Credit: Alamy

Jacques Derrida. Jacques Lacan. Luce Irigaray. Roland Barthes. Michel Foucault. Julia Kristeva. Gilles Deleuze. The 1960s saw a generation of French thinkers mature in what was perhaps one of the greatest intellectual flowerings in history. Hélène Cixous, one of them, will describe this generation as “incorruptible” and their influence, for better or for worse, will extend from philosophy departments to literature, cinema, gender studies, postcolonial studies and popular culture.

Deeply serious and deeply playful, each of them put language and discourse at the center of their analyses, whether it was Derrida asserting that there is nothing…

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