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Tournier, Michel

Entry updated 12 September 2022. Tagged: Author.

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(1924-2016) French screenwriter and author, active in French radio and television from 1949, whose first novel – Vendredi, ou les Limbes du Pacifique (1967; trans Norman Denny as Friday; Or, the Other Island 1969; children's version Vendredi, ou la Vie sauvage 1971; trans Ralph Manheim as Friday and Robinson: Life on Speranza Island 1972) – is a Robinsonade in which what would be a career-long focus on Doppelgangers and mirrored realities is articulated through the twinned relationship between Robinson and Friday. Though generally eschewing any literal sf storylines, most of Tournier's work is deeply conversant with (and replicates the patterns of) European mythology [for Myths and Twice-Told see The Encyclopedia of Fantasy under links below], and may best be understood as existing within the frame of twentieth-century Fantastika in general. This immersion in resonances may be clearest in his second and best-known novel, Le Roi des aulnes (1970; trans Barbara Bray as The Erl King 1972; vt The Ogre 1972), filmed as Der Unhold ["The Ogre"] (1996) directed by Volker Schlöndorff. The giant protagonist's perception of his role (he abducts children for a Nazi military school) and of World War Two in general is so intoxicated by Religious and heraldic emblems that the world itself becomes a sounding-board, specifically the vast East Prussian forest of Rominten, an imaginary domain owned by the real Hermann Goering (1893-1946), where aurochs – an extinct species recreated through Genetic Engineering – roam.

Les Météores (1975; trans Anne Carter as Gemini 1981) intensifies Tournier's focus on Doppelganger scenarios; the story, which takes off from the myth of Castor and Pollux, unpacks as an affectionate Parody of Jules Verne's Around the World in Eighty Days (1874). Le Médianoche amoureux (coll of linked stories 1989; trans Barbara Wright as The Midnight Love Feast 1991) mythicizes a partially-broken marriage through a series of exemplary tales in various genres told within a Club Story frame. The epigrammatic essays assembled as Le Miroir des idées (coll 1994; trans Jonathan F Krell as The Mirror of Ideas 1998) contain numerous speculations on Tournier's central preoccupation, which is the doubleness of the world: with "dream" and "reality" seen as twins. [JC]

Michel Tournier

born Paris: 19 December 1924

died Choisel, near Paris: 18 January 2016

works (selected)

collections (selected)

nonfiction (highly selected)

  • Le Miroir des idées (Paris: Mercure de France, 1994) [nonfiction: binding unknown/]
    • The Mirror of Ideas (Lincoln, Nebraska: University of Nebraska Press, 1998) [nonfiction: coll: trans by Jonathan F Krell of the above: hb/from Titian]


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