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Reviewed by:
  • Cahiers Mérimée, 2009, nº 1
  • Peter Cogman
Cahiers Mérimée, 2009, nº 1. Edited by Antonia Fonyi. (Publication de la Société Mérimée). Paris: Éditions Classiques Garnier, 2009. 210 pp. €29.00.

Mérimée scholarship has always faced the problem of diversity: not only that of his output as a creative writer (of a historical novel and scènes historiques, of 'translations' of spurious Spanish plays and Illyrian ballads, of nouvelles and playlets), but also of his other activities, as a historian (of Rome, Spain, and Russia), as a translator from Russian, as inspecteur général des Monuments historiques, as a reviewer whose topics range from Romanian folksongs and Agrippa d'Aubigné to Samuel Pepys and Sir Thomas Lawrence, and as a letter writer who was a lucid, ironic, and sceptical witness to his times. Few can cover, let alone relate, these apparently disparate disciplines. Moreover, until recently he had no amis and there was no complete edition of his works (the Champion Œuvres complètes of 1927-33 foundered after eleven volumes, omitting many major works, and the selection in the 1978 Pléiade volume is arbitrary and limited (see FS, 34 (1980), 350-51)). However 2009 saw the appearance of the first of fifteen planned volumes of a new complete edition, and of the first number of the Cahiers Mérimée, the organ of the recently founded Société Mérimée. In addition to reviews of works on Mérimée as archaeologist and historian as well as nouvelliste, and a report on the society's visit to sites in Touraine with which he was professionally involved, it offers seven substantial articles, two from the now well-established Séminaire Mérimée. The focus remains predominantly on the familiar side of Mérimée's literary production. Paolo Tortonese explores the ambiguities of Mérimée's attitude to couleur locale and its paradoxical combination with mystification: Mérimée is able to forge local colour because (for him) the primitive, in its use of myth and metaphor, is universal. Thierry Santurenne reads the well-known nouvelles of Mosaïque [End Page 490] (excluding the other works in that volume) in the light of schemata drawn from René Girard. Jean Sentaurens outlines the paradoxes of Mérimée's reception in Spain, distorted by the success of Bizet's Carmen (not to mention its Spanish adaptations), stressing the universal aspects of the myths of love and woman in Mérimée's tale, localized fortuitously in Andalusia. Four contributions link Mérimée's fiction to wider concerns and other disciplines. Xavier Bourdenet's essay on Mérimée's historical and fictional works on the 'false Dmitri' links them to highlight the continuity of Mérimée's concern for the vraisemblable in two different fields and their disciplinary differences (fiction in Les Débuts d'un aventurier is a 'faux réglé', an interpretation of history; history in Les Faux Démétrius always leaves doubts in the quest for the truth). Pierre Glaudes uses Mérimée's ethnographic preoccupations to illuminate the use of stereotypes, notably the role of cliché and dishonesty in the Parisian tales. Antonia Fonyi's examination of Djoûmane as a 'récit de rêve' situates it in terms of nineteenth-century theories of dreams as well as offering a psychoanalytical reading. Bénédicte Coste offers a psychoanalytically informed and challenging reading of Walter Pater's neglected essay on Mérimée. Overall, the volume augurs well for the future of Mérimée studies.

Peter Cogman


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