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By Tim Farrant

Everyone is aware whatever of nineteenth-century France - or do they? "Les Miserables", "The girl of the Camelias" and "The 3 Musketeers", "Balzac" and "Jules Verne" reside within the renowned realization as enduring human records and cultural icons. but, the French 19th century used to be much more dynamic than the stereotype indicates. This fascinating new creation takes the literature of the interval either as a window on previous and current mindsets and as an item of fascination in its personal correct. starting with heritage, the century's largest challenge and strength, it appears at narrative responses to old, political and social event, sooner than devoting significant chapters to poetry, drama and novels - all genres the century significantly reinvented. It then explores various modernities, methods nineteenth-century writing and mentalities stay up for our personal, earlier than turning to marginalities - topics and voices the canon characteristically forgot. No style used to be left unchanged by way of the 19th century. This booklet may also help to find them anew.

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Memoirs and autobiographies The nineteenth century, a period of turbulent history, was an age of great memoirs and autobiographies. Nearly all its major figures left memoirs, from Napoleon (Mémorial de Sainte-Hélène, 1822-3, dictated to his secretary, Las Cases) and Talleyrand, to the Revolution’s chief executioner, Sanson (whose memoirs were published, partly ghosted by Balzac, in 1830) or Vidocq, the archsupergrass of his time, or the condemned murderer Pierre-François Lacenaire (1836), to writers like Dumas.

In Le Horla (1887), perhaps Maupassant’s greatest story, the narrator’s mind is taken over by a mysterious being, the Horla, which has come off a ship at Rouen. Does it really exist, or has he just imagined it? Is the Horla au dehors, in external reality, or là-dedans, in his mind? It is for us to judge. Like poetry or drama, more than like the novel, short stories challenge us with events and their resonance, incident and symbol, to use our imagination to make sense of the real. Selected reading Richard A.

We are presented instead with problems with little hint on how to solve them, situations whose very extremity shocks and forces us to think. Maupassant is far from being the only writer with this skill: storytellers such as Alphonse Allais, or Villiers de l’Isle-Adam, can also challenge us in this way. Villiers’s L’Appareil pour l’analyse chimique du dernier soupir, or L’Affichage céleste, from his Contes cruels (1880), raise the literal to the pitch of the fantastic, sampling the dying man’s last breath to discover the composition of his soul, projecting advertisements and wanted notices for criminals in the sky to exploit every last inch of space – satirical fantasies now at risk of becoming fact.

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