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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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Paul Gif ford - Footprint in the Sand: Tournier’s Re-Writing of Paul Valéry in 'Vendredi ou les limbes du Pacifique' -191


Paul Gif ford Footprint in the Sand: Tournier’s Re-Writing of Paul Valéry in Vendredi ou les limbes du Pacifique Genetically and textually speaking, it is true that ‘No man is an island.’ Michel Tournier provides a particularly rich illustration of this, as Jean- Bernard Vray admirably persuades us in his study of the baroque range of intertextual borrowings and hypertextual practices which he designates collectively as Tournier’s ‘écriture seconde’.1 Seminal hauntings, says Vray, derive both from Tournier’s childhood reading (Curwood, Anderson, Lagerlöf ) and from the texts of adolescent initiation and adult emulation – by, among others, Bloy, Giono, Flaubert, Thomas Mann, Sartre and Valéry. The latter group is most often character- ized by a ‘régime de l’allusion’: that is, a largely tacit form of appropriation (as distinct from the more overt acknowledgement declared in citation and parody); and the form of borrowing/rewriting involved bears wit- ness to an indubitable spell of inf luence, triggering a reactive Narcissan identity-struggle to possess, integrate and transcend, in each case, the presence-in-mind of the alter ego scriptor. Vray notes: ‘On pourrait tenter d’entre-apercevoir […] des sous-textes qui renvoient à Valéry, à Flaubert et à Thomas Mann, comme nous l’avons fait pour Curwood, Anderson ou Lagerlöf.’2 In the case of Valéry, this challenge is not easily taken up, given the frag- mented nature of the Valéryan source-corpus and the largely subterranean echoes it finds in Tournier. Yet none of the inf luences Vray encourages us to discover is more suggestive or rewarding....

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