Scenes in a Library: Alain Resnais and Toute la mémoire du monde


What interest might a 1956 documentary short about a library hold today for the historically-minded spectator? The pages that follow explore the place of Alain Resnais’s 1956 documentary, Toute la mémoire du monde (All the World’s Memory) among the eight short subjects he directed before completing his first feature-length fiction film, Hiroshima mon amour, in 1959. In particular, I consider Toute la mémoire du monde as a supplement to Nuit et brouillard, the 30-minute documentary on Nazi concentration and death camps that Resnais completed a year earlier.  Within a longer duration, I also situate Toute la mémoire du monde among a corpus of postwar documentaries that engage aspects of modernization in France during a period of decolonization coincidental with the emergence of an art and a universe in the aftermath of the concentration camp (Cayrol and Rousset). Much as Edward Dimendberg has argued recently concerning Le Chant du stryrène (The Song of Styrene), I contend that a reconsideration of Toute la mémoire du monde rewards “close reading with a veritable return of repressed geopolitical relations” in late Fourth-Republic France (Dimendberg, 65).

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