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Places and Spaces in French War Fiction of the Twentieth and Twenty-First Centuries


Peter Tame

This monograph is the first book to examine places and spaces in French war fiction of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. These places and spaces are presented as literary isotopias, or fictional «worlds», and analysed in a selective corpus of thirty-three novelists and forty-two examples of war fiction. The book identifies and classifies the various types of isotopia that appear in fiction in the form of scenes, images or literary microcosms. The author establishes four isotopic modes – possession, dispossession or loss, alienation, and repossession – by which means the isotopias are expressed. The spaces considered include territorial demands, gains, possessions, losses and national spaces, as well as internal mental spaces.
The corpus of novels selected for this project covers a wide variety of examples of fictional worlds: the spiritual, the marginal, the regional, the ideological, the psychological, the erotic, the ecological and the political. The methods of analysis identify these worlds, demonstrate both how they function in relation to the characters in the novels and how they affect the reader, and provide further illumination on the intentions, achievements and ideologies of the characters and of the novelists concerned. One of the findings of the study is that the greater the stress of war and conflict the more authors and characters tend to seek refuge in their imaginary (isotopic) worlds.
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Chapter 3: Ecotopia in Romain Gary’s Les Racines du ciel (1956)



Ecotopia in Romain Gary’s Les Racines du ciel (1956)

N’as-tu pas vu comment Dieu propose en parabole une bonne parole pareille à un bel arbre dont la racine est ferme et la ramure s’élançant dans le ciel? Il donne à tout instant ses fruits, par la grâce de son Seigneur. Dieu propose ses paraboles à l’intention des gens afin qu’ils s’exhortent. (Le Coran, 14: 24–25)

[Seest thou not how God sets forth a parable? – A goodly Word like a goodly tree, whose root is firmly fixed, and its branches (reach) to the heavens – It brings forth its fruit at all times, by the leave of its Lord. So God sets forth parables for men, in order that they may receive admonition.1]

The innocence and freedom of fictional characters like the doomed Léopold Lajeunesse in Uranus are frequently represented in zoomorphic fashion by Marcel Aymé as ‘elephants’ (he often uses the adjective ‘bons’ [good] to describe them), probably since these creatures appear to symbolize benevolent spirits that roam free in open spaces. However, they also, unfortunately, manage to attract envious persecution and fall victim to cunning predators. Romain Gary’s sympathetic depiction and representation of elephants in Les Racines du ciel often resembles Aymé’s brief allusions to the goodness, innocence and freedom of these animals in Uranus.

Although it is never mentioned in Les Racines du ciel, one of the primary influences on Gary’s Goncourt-prize-winning novel is...

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