Les Guerilleres

University of Illinois Press
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One of the most widely read feminist texts of the twentieth century, and Monique Wittig’s most popular novel, Les Guérillères imagines the attack on the language and bodies of men by a tribe of warrior women. Among the women’s most powerful weapons in their assault is laughter, but they also threaten literary and linguistic customs of the patriarchal order with bullets. In this breathtakingly rapid novel first published in 1969, Wittig animates a lesbian society that invites all women to join their fight, their circle, and their community. A path-breaking novel about creating and sustaining freedom, the book derives much of its energy from its vaunting of the female body as a resource for literary invention.
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About the author

Monique Wittig (1935-2003) was a French avant-garde writer and feminist theorist. Her early novel L’Opoponax won the prix Médicis. David Le Vay has translated numerous books, including Wittig's The Lesbian Body.

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Additional Information

University of Illinois Press
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Published on
Aug 27, 2007
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Fiction / General
Fiction / Literary
Social Science / Women's Studies
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First published in 1984, Native Tongue earned wide critical praise, and cult status as well.

Set in the twenty-second century after the repeal of the Nineteenth Amendment, the novel reveals a world where women are once again property, denied civil rights, and banned from public life. In this world, Earth’s wealth relies on interplanetary commerce, for which the population depends on linguists, a small, clannish group of families whose women breed and become perfect translators of all the galaxies’ languages. The linguists wield power, but live in isolated compounds, hated by the population, and in fear of class warfare. But a group of women is destined to challenge the power of men and linguists.

Nazareth, the most talented linguist of her family, is exhausted by her constant work translating for the government, supervising the children’s language education in the Alien-in-Residence interface chambers, running the compound, and caring for the elderly men. She longs to retire to the Barren House, where women past childbearing age knit, chat, and wait to die. What Nazareth does not yet know is that a clandestine revolution is going on in the Barren Houses: there, word by word, women are creating a language of their own to free them of men’s domination. Their secret must, above all, be kept until the language is ready for use. The women’s language, Láadan, is only one of the brilliant creations found in this stunningly original novel, which combines a page-turning plot with challenging meditations on the tensions between freedom and control, individuals and communities, thought and action. A complete work in itself, it is also the first volume in Elgin’s acclaimed Native Tongue trilogy.
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