Overcoming Hodgkin’s lymphoma: Anne François’ Nu-tête

Activity: Talk or presentation typesOral presentation


The sick body has been the focus of narratives by quite a few contemporary francophone women writers, and several of them shared their experiences of breast cancer treatments and recovery – for instance, Annie Ernaux, L’usage de la photo (2005) or Lydia Flem’s La reine Alice (2011). There has, however, been less attention given to some other forms of cancer in literature written in French. This paper thus proposes to explore the work of a lesser-known Belgian writer, Anne François (1958-2006), who wrote about Hodgkin’s lymphoma, a form of cancer not as widely discussed as others in contemporary illness narratives. Anne François explores this cancer and its treatment in her 1991 novel Nu-tête (Prix Rossel), through the character of Cécile. Although Anne François claimed that the novel was a work of fiction, the narrative is clearly based on her own experience of the illness in 1980 and takes the reader through the various steps of the diagnosis and treatment from the perspective of three narrators: the patient and two doctors. This paper seeks to explore how this illness narrative, written before pathographies became a more popular genre in contemporary literature, was already addressing some of the key themes found in most cancer accounts, and highlighting the fundamental relationship between the patient and doctors throughout the journey. This will be achieved by notably drawing on the works of Anne Hunsaker-Hawkins, Rita Charon or Arthur W. Frank on the importance of giving a voice to the sick bodies.
Period29 Jul 202131 Jul 2021
Event titleContemporary Womxn’s Writing and the Medical Humanities
Event typeConference
LocationLondon, United Kingdom
Degree of RecognitionInternational


  • Medical Humanities
  • Belgian literature
  • Women writers
  • pathographies
  • illness narratives
  • cancer narratives