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Reviewed by:
  • Alphonse Daudet pluriel et singulier: rencontres de Cerisy-la-Salle (14–21 août 2002)
  • Geoff Hare
Alphonse Daudet pluriel et singulier: rencontres de Cerisy-la-Salle (14–21 août 2002). Textes réunis et présentés par Christian Chelebourg .( Écritures XIX, 1). Paris — Caen, Lettres Modernes Minard, 2003. 338 pp. Pb €26.00.

This collection of papers emerges from the activities of scholars clustered around Roger Ripoll and Anne-Simone Dufief within the Amis d'Alphonse Daudet. Annual colloquia usually take place in the shadow of Daudet's mill in Fontvieille, in the heart of the tourist Provence defined by Daudet's early writings. The [End Page 278] 2002 meeting at Cerisy self-consciously attempted a wider rehabilitation. Chelebourg's introduction sees the collection's coherence as an attempt to show the range of Daudet's œuvre, often considered merely as children's literature. The nineteen contributions cover his diversity of genre, his range of themes and his poetics. There is a useful index of works. Papers on genre include the novel and stage adaptations (A.-S. Dufief), operetta libretto (H. Rossi), poetry (S. Le Couëdic) and irony/satire (F. Court-Pérez), plus his reception in Catalonia via translations (A. Ribes). A missing genre, not confined to his early work, is the short story. Daudet's key themes emerge as illusion, self-delusion and the role of the imagination (R. Ripoll), pain and suffering (J. Solal), death (J.-P. Colin), family and divorce (N. White), the stage (H. Rossi), satire of modern tourism and terrorism in Tartarin sur les Alpes (M. Kissel) and the doomed politics of royalism (H. Guineret). Taken together, they suggest a uniformly pessimistic outlook on life, from someone who admittedly endured much illness and physical pain in the second half of his writing life. But there is the joie de vivre in many of his works. The section on aesthetics covers sentimentalism (P. Dufief), 'le style artiste' (S. Meitinger), naturalism (M. Petit), narrative and space in Sapho (B. Urbani), travel and thresholds in Le Petit Chose (A. Not), imagery of the senses (P. Ortel) and the poetics of truth (C. Chelebourg). While several papers deserve further comment, for instance, those by Ripoll and A.-S. Dufief, space permits only a few words on two, both of interest to those with interests wider than Daudet. Ortel challenges two common criticisms of Daudet: his style as petit-bourgeois taste for the 'bien écrit' and his world view as merely conventional realism. Bringing out Daudet's psychological insights as if through the lens of a photographer, Ortel sees him as closer in sensibility and technique to Proust than to Zola. Chelebourg's study also looks, in contrast to Zola's use of 'documents humains', at the quality of Daudet's imagination, his imagery, his perception as someone increasingly myopic, the combination of this on his particular sensibility and its expression in the written word. Taken together, the two papers suggest a line of enquiry that would examine Daudet's style and sensibility as a photographer manqué with a penchant for the close-up and the psychological drama, 'close up and personal'. Indeed, Daudet's work would appear to lend itself to more cinematographic adaptations than have been essayed so far.

Geoff Hare
University of Newcastle Upon Tyne


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pp. 278-279
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