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115 Chapter Three The Eccentric’s Universe The Sunday of Life The quote from Hegel that Queneau uses as an epigraph for Le dimanche de la vie could also be used to describe the space the modern eccentric inhabits and appreciates: “C’est le dimanche de la vie qui nivelle tout et éloigne tout ce qui est mauvais; des hommes doués d’une aussi bonne humeur ne peuvent être foncièrement mauvais ou vils.” If what most distinguishes eccentrics from marginal outsiders, as defined by Colin Wilson in The Outsider, is their penchant for lightness and comedy as opposed to the radical divorce from society favored by outsiders , it is natural to assume that this “sunny” disposition would have an effect on their conception of their surrounding space. If one were to take an author such as Céline as an example, one could hardly describe his outlook as sunny in light of his grim view of humanity and the world, and yet, through the dizzying , almost cartoon-like energy of his style, he is able to convert macabre or banal situations, such as life aboard the Amiral Bragueton in Voyage au bout de la nuit, into darkly comical ones. The eccentric characters who populate Queneau’s novels , on the other hand, do not share Céline’s ambiguous relationship to humanity. Their lives are truly like Sundays because the heavy burdens of life do not seem to oppress them. Instead, they tend to see the poetry in everyday life and are able to transform daily occurrences into fun-filled events. For Queneau’s characters, in particular, as well as for certain characters in the works of Vian and Toussaint, life is viewed with a childlike innocence and playfulness. If their lives resemble Sundays, it is not because they seem to always have time to waste, but because they approach each day as though it were a holiday made for fun. Zazie’s youthful exuberance for the Paris metro 116 Chapter Three is similar to the enthusiasm more-adult characters demonstrate for the quotidian in other novels: Pierrot adores and works in an amusement park in Pierrot mon ami; the narrator of Toussaint’s La salle de bain extends his enjoyment in taking a bath into actually living in his bathtub; Rohel in Queneau’s Les derniers jours considers taking the subway to be a relaxing and cathartic experience. As De Certeau remarks in L’invention du quotidien: “Pratiquer l’espace, c’est donc répéter l’expérience jubilatoire et silencieuse de l’enfance. C’est, dans le lieu, être autre et passer à l’autre” (198). A vernal discovery of pleasures that are either buried within a collective childhood unconscious or simply not taken seriously enough in adulthood transforms these characters into eccentrics in relation to hackneyed protagonists who may distinguish themselves by more typical acts of prowess or heroism . In the nineteenth century, literary figures such as Des Esseintes or Captain Nemo are considered eccentric because they retreat from the active world in order to create alternative universes of their own. Balzac’s Rastignac or Flaubert’s Frédéric Moreau are not considered eccentric because they seek to penetrate high society by playing intricate social-climbing games. In the twentieth century, eccentrics, by definition, are again apart from a homogenous world, yet their differences are no longer marked as dramatically as those of their nineteenth -century counterparts. Indeed, although modern eccentrics seem to be living a perpetual Sunday because they are not constrained by the rigors of a normal nine-to-five schedule, they allow themselves to break these very chains of routine and modern dreariness not because they are wealthy and can afford to do so, but because they have the imagination and wisdom to find beauty in the ordinary. In the twentieth century there is in fact a major class shift within the eccentric paradigm, from the elite to the popular. It is this shift that dictates the chronotopes the modern eccentric lives in. These eccentrics both define and are defined by their chronotopes because their spaces, which are in the process of disappearing, are intrinsically linked not only to their personas but to the very sociological conditions that threaten them. 117 The Eccentric’s Universe The Amusement Park For Alexandre Kojève, Pierrot in Pierrot mon ami represents “le prolétaire désintéressé, d’allure et de goûts aristocratiques” (“Les romans de la sagesse” 387). For Kojève, the proletarian...


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