Louis-René des Forêts and Inner Autobiography

Ian Maclachlan

Research Monographs in French Studies 60


28 September 2020  •  132pp

ISBN: 978-1-781889-35-0 (hardback)  •  RRP £75, $99, €90

ISBN: 978-1-781889-36-7 (paperback, 18 January 2023)  •  RRP £10.99, $14.99, €13.49

ISBN: 978-1-781889-37-4 (JSTOR ebook)

Access online: Books@JSTOR


In addition to its original library hardback edition, this title is now on sale in the new student-priced Legenda paperback range.

Louis-René des Forêts (1916–2000) devoted the last twenty-five years of his writing life to an innovative practice of autobiography, spanning poetry and fragmentary prose, and culminating in the key works Poèmes de Samuel Wood (1987), Ostinato (1997) and the posthumously published Pas à pas jusqu’au dernier (2001). Ian Maclachlan’s study is the first to take this innovation in life-writing as its principal focus and to draw out the wider resonances of des Forêts’s distinctive project for the theory and practice of autobiography. Des Forêts’s unusual traversal of genres, formal experimentation, and sparseness of biographical detail give rise to a new mode of abstract, impersonal autobiographical writing. Echoing des Forêts’s own, earlier use of the term autobiographie intérieure in relation to his short-story collection La Chambre des enfants (1960), as well as his friend Georges Bataille’s idiosyncratic notion of expérience intérieure, this novel style of life-writing is explored here under the rubric of ‘inner autobiography’.

Ian Maclachlan is Professor of French Literature and Fellow of Merton College, University of Oxford.


  • ‘As well as providing an essential and indeed unique landmark in studies of des Forêts, Maclachlan’s volume succeeds in combining close attention to the power of the negative as it affects the task of writing and to the poignancies of a life lived in its orbit.’ — Patrick ffrench, French Studies 76.1, January 2022, 132 (full text online)
  • ‘In emphasizing the convergence between Des Forêts’s enterprise and the late work of Derrida... Maclachlan is able to demonstrate the singular excess of language over its own avowed deficiencies, and provide affirmative evidence, not of the possibility of autobiography, but of its far-reaching, never-ending impossibility.’ — Leslie Hill, Modern and Contemporary France 30.4, 2022, 539-40 (full text online)



Introduction: Towards Inner Autobiography
Ian Maclachlan


Chapter 1 A Voice Takes Form: the Sounds of Autobiography in the Poèmes De Samuel Wood
Ian Maclachlan


Chapter 2 A Shattered Self-Portrait: Ostinato and Fragmentary Autobiography
Ian Maclachlan


Chapter 3 the Thanatographical Animal: Pas À Pas Jusqu’au Dernier
Ian Maclachlan


Afterword: Autobiography at the End of the World
Ian Maclachlan


Ian Maclachlan


Ian Maclachlan


Bibliography entry:

Maclachlan, Ian, Louis-René des Forêts and Inner Autobiography, Research Monographs in French Studies, 60 (Legenda, 2020)

First footnote reference: 35 Ian Maclachlan, Louis-René des Forêts and Inner Autobiography, Research Monographs in French Studies, 60 (Legenda, 2020), p. 21.

Subsequent footnote reference: 37 Maclachlan, p. 47.

(To see how these citations were worked out, follow this link.)

Bibliography entry:

Maclachlan, Ian. 2020. Louis-René des Forêts and Inner Autobiography, Research Monographs in French Studies, 60 (Legenda)

Example citation: ‘A quotation occurring on page 21 of this work’ (Maclachlan 2020: 21).

Example footnote reference: 35 Maclachlan 2020: 21.

(To see how these citations were worked out, follow this link.)

This title is distributed on behalf of MHRA by Ingram’s. Booksellers and libraries can order direct from Ingram by setting up a free ipage® Account: click here for more.

Permanent link to this title: