- Nerval et l’Autre by Corinne Bayle
This collection of fifteen brief studies of various aspects of the writings of Gérard de Nerval, with an Introduction by its editor, Corinne Bayle, impressively documents and reveals how wide-ranging and all-encompassing were Nerval’s interests in different belief systems, social structures, literary forms, and languages. It also shows how diverse were the literary, historical, linguistic, and social influences upon his work. Nerval’s interest in the Ancient Greek Golden Verses, as mediated by the eighteenth-century French author Delisle de Sales, is explored by Hamidou Richer. Other influences examined by contributors to the volume include the poetry of Émile Debraux (the essay by Romain Benini), the Hypnerotomachia Poliphili of Francesco Colonna (Virginie Tellier), Shakespeare (Gaëlle Loisel), and Charles Dickens (Victoire Feuillebois). Examples of Nerval’s intense and consistent interest in multiple aspects of intertextuality are revealed in the Histoire de l’abbé de Bucquoy, in his prose work Les Faux Saulniers (Marine Le Bail), and in the cases of Swedenborg (Gabrielle Chamarat), Balzac (Vincent Bierce), the Arabian Nights (Feuillebois), Senancour (Fabienne Bercegol), the German popular poets G. A. Bürger (Jocelyn Vest) and Heinrich Heine (Capucine Echiffre), and the towering figure of Victor Hugo (Bayle). Somewhat disappointing is the contribution of Chamarat, an experienced Nerval scholar. Her ‘Intertexte et création poétique: l’exemple de Swedenborg dans Aurélia’ (previously published as Gabrielle Malandain, ‘Sources du lyrisme et lyrisme des sources: notes sur “Aurélia”’, Romantisme, 6 (1973), 19–28), does not assess clearly enough the precise influence that Swedenborg’s ideas and writings had on Nerval’s most famous text, a problem that is heightened by the obscurity of Chamarat’s style: ‘Chaque référence s’ouvre donc à d’autres possibles sans qu’aucune saturation soit envisageable, au profit d’une prolifération sémantique renvoyant à un inépuisable du sens’ (p. 52). Among the most valuable and interesting contributions is the final one, by Sarga Moussa: ‘Langues et cosmopolitisme dans le Voyage en Orient’, in which Moussa analyses Nerval’s fascination with the complexity and diversity of cultural, social, and religious identities that he encountered in Egypt, Lebanon, and Turkey, as these were reflected in the multiple languages in the region, and in the lingua franca, the now lost amalgam of oral languages that was still being used as a means of communication throughout the Mediterranean and [End Page 464] the Levant in the mid-nineteenth century. Moussa examines examples of Nerval’s sensitivity to the ironic and comic possibilities of miscommunication and misunderstanding caused by the linguistic diversity that he experienced on his journey through the Near and Middle East. This valuable collection of studies of Nerval’s work bears witness to the importance of a wide range of texts and authors admired, assimilated, and responded to by Nerval, as well as to the wide range of linguistic and cultural forms of expression that fascinated him throughout his life and contributed to the richness, ambition, and scope of his writings.