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Narratives of French Modernity

Themes, Forms and Metamorphoses- Essays in Honour of David Gascoigne


Edited By Lorna Milne and Mary Orr

Inspired by the work of their colleague David Gascoigne, a group of scholars from the UK and France examine in this book the narrative strategies of some of the most interesting and important French writers of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. Stretching chronologically from 1905 to 2005, the volume examines a wide variety of prose genres, from pornography to Bildungsroman to magic realism, as well as poetry. Michel Tournier figures in several of the contributions, emerging as something of a touchstone for many of the thematic preoccupations that are common throughout the period: values and authority, self and other, identity, spirituality, migration and exile, sexuality, the body, violence and war, and language. The authors also examine the flourishing of intertextuality, as well as the use of traditional forms, such as mythical structures and the ‘robinsonade’, to undermine authoritative ‘métarécits’. Probing these themes and forms, and their metamorphoses across 100 years, the essays demonstrate a striking degree of continuity, linking writers as different as Apollinaire and Houellebecq or Valéry and Fleutiaux, and highlight the difficulty of dividing the period neatly into chronologically ordered categories labelled ‘modern’ or ‘postmodern’.


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Mairi Maclean - Tournier and his Intellectual Milieu: Narratives of Modernity -175


Mairi Maclean Tournier and his Intellectual Milieu: Narratives of Modernity The title of this essay, which focuses on Tournier’s intellectual milieu, and on narratives of modernity within that, refers to the fact that Tournier as a writer is something of a sponge, porous, absorbing the intellectual milieu, thoughts and currents around him, and incorporating this resource into his writing. As he himself puts it: ‘Éponge, pierre ponce, les milieux étrangers m’envahissent et me modifient massivement’ (VP 277).1 He resembles the dispaired twin Paul, separated from his identical twin Jean, who, at the end of Les Météores, understands meteorology from within: he is l’homme-baromètre, possessed of ‘[u]n corps poreux où la rose des vents viendra respirer’ (M 610). In this sense, Tournier very much ref lects the (changing) times in which he is writing. This concept of ‘porosity’ is clearly very important to Tournier in determining his relations and interactions with the outside world. He eschews the introspection more typical of some twentieth-century French authors (such as Proust or Sartre) in favour of a celebration of the outside world, of nature, akin to that of Jean Giono, whose writing he admires, presenting himself as ‘l’homme-jardin’, who ‘par vocation creuse la terre et interroge le ciel’ (VP 301). There is with Tournier 1 Abbreviations used are as follows: BA = Le Bonheur en Allemagne? (Maren Sell, 2004); C = Célébrations: essais, revised edition (Gallimard, coll. Folio, 2000); E = Eléazar ou la Source et le buisson (Gallimard,...

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