Reading behind the Smile: gendered and national scripts for happiness in Faïza Guène’s Millénium Blues

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Is happiness always a good thing? In Faïza Guène’s 2018 novel Millénium blues, protagonist Zouzou’s efforts to be happy paradoxically infuse the text with its titular blues; while her smile sometimes appeases others, confirming an unjust status quo, it increasingly leads to a sense of alienation in herself. This article adopts a cultural-studies approach and analyzes the relation between a societal promise of happiness, as determined by gendered and national ideals in contemporary France, and individual feeling. With emotion as a critical lens, the disconnect between what Zouzou (as a millennial woman of French-Algerian origins in Paris) thinks she should feel and what she does feel at different times problematizes hegemonic scripts. This article presents the “blues” of Guène’s text not as pathological but as inevitable and productive: a mode of collective discontent that has the capacity to bring about change.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)88-104
Number of pages17
JournalAustralian Journal of French Studies
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2023

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