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Narratives of French Modernity

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

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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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Mary Orr - The Metamorphoses of Forms in Tournier’s Roi des Aulnes and Pierrette Fleutiaux’s 'Métamorphoses de la reine' - 229

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Mary Orr The Metamorphoses of Forms in Tournier’s Roi des Aulnes and Pierrette Fleutiaux’s Métamorphoses de la reine If Michel Tournier has fulsomely acknowledged Flaubert as his main pre- cursor in interviews, he has also rather more arrogantly described himself as the ‘Flaubert’ of his own generation.1 As Flaubert’s critic in the pref- ace he wrote for the Trois contes, Tournier pinpoints three major distin- guishing features of his precursor’s late works by comparison with the big novels which precede them.2 Foremost for Tournier is the downplaying in the Trois contes of Flaubert’s trademark ‘realism’, whether in the form of the massive documentation and erudition underpinning works such as Salammbô or the bleak, pessimistic endings. Some lightness and hope are therefore restored by the more fantastical elements, even if happy ends are denied. Character is also drawn and defined dif ferently. In contradistinc- tion to the protagonists in Flaubert’s novels, those in the Trois contes oper- ate with a much more tangible sense of personal destiny. This is directly related to their third distinctive element for Tournier, the ‘real presence’ 1 See for example ‘Michel Tournier: “Je suis comme une pie voleuse”’ in Jean-Louis de Rambures, Comment travaillent les écrivains (Paris: Flammarion, 1978), pp. 163–7 (p. 164) and ‘Dix ans après’ in Serge Koster, Michel Tournier ou le choix du roman (Paris: Zulma, 2005), pp. 213–32, where Tournier states ‘Certaines phrases que j’ai écrites sont du super-Flaubert, du Flaubert de synthèse. C’est spontané. Je...

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