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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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Lorna Milne - Deep Space: A Sojourn in the Salt Mines with Michel Tournierand Marie Nimier -251


Lorna Milne Deep Space: A Sojourn in the Salt Mines with Michel Tournier and Marie Nimier At first glance, Marie Nimier and Michel Tournier share little apart from their rather brief but inf luential associations, as daughter and former class- mate respectively, with Roger Nimier.1 However, the two authors can also be brought into comparison thanks to two novels which feature the salt mine as a structural and thematic focal point: Tournier’s Gaspard, Melchior et Balthazar and Nimier’s Celui qui court derrière l’oiseau.2 Although Tournier’s mine is set two thousand years ago whereas Nimier’s is modern, both draw on common cultural imagery associated with salt and the salt mine: in both cases, for example, the mine is in the charge of a central authority, linked closely to state activities, notably imprisonment and penal servitude.3 Both authors also mobilize the rich symbolism of salt in its associations with that which, as Derek Denton puts it, is ‘pure, white, immaculate and incorruptible, […] irreducible into further compo- nents, […] indispensable to living creatures [and] [c]orrespondingly […] regarded as the essence of things in general, the quintessence of life, and 1 Marie Nimier, La Reine du silence (Paris: Gallimard, 2004); Michel Tournier, Le Vent Paraclet (Paris: Gallimard, 1977), pp. 154–5. Nimier quotes Tournier’s description of Roger in La Reine du silence, p. 147. 2 Michel Tournier, Gaspard, Melchior et Balthazar (Paris: Gallimard [1980], coll. Folio, 1982): page references will be given in the body of the text together with the abbreviation GMB. Marie...

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