Themes, Forms and Metamorphoses- Essays in Honour of David Gascoigne
Edited By Lorna Milne and Mary Orr
Robin MacKenzie - The Rhetoric of the Border in Julien Gracq’s Le Rivage des Syrtes -107
Robin MacKenzie The Rhetoric of the Border in Julien Gracq’s Le Rivage des Syrtes [I]n an unknown space, we need an immediate ‘semantic sketch’ of our surroundings […] and only metaphors know how to do it. Only metaphors, I mean, can simulta- neously express the unknown we must face, and yet also contain it. […] This is why metaphors are so frequent near the border, then – and so infrequent, by contrast, once the latter is passed.1 Thus Franco Moretti, in his Atlas of the European Novel 1800–1900, discuss- ing the relationship between space and style in the historical novel. Looking at some of the major practitioners of the genre – Scott, Manzoni, Balzac, Pushkin – Moretti notes a correlation between what he calls ‘figurality’ of style and proximity to borders and frontiers. He makes the following comment on the passage in Scott’s Waverley that describes the eponymous hero’s approach to, and crossing of, the Highland line: The light appeared plainly to be a large fire … But then, plain style is quickly discarded: glaring orb, fiery vehicle, Evil Genius, demons, jaws … The impact with the border has generated a sudden figural leap (much like the ‘monsters’ of old mapmakers).2 As we approach the border, then, metaphors proliferate – or (in Moretti’s phrase) ‘figurality rises’.3 The question arises, of course, as to whether 1 Franco Moretti, Atlas of the European Novel 1800–1900 (London: Verso, 1998), p. 47. 2 Ibid., p. 44. 3 I think we can assume that for Moretti ‘metaphor’ and ‘figurality’...
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