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Ourika. Edouard. Olivier ou le Secret.

Madame de Duras. Ourika. Edouard. Olivier ou le Secret. Preface de Marc Fumaroli. Edition de Marie-Benedicte Diethelm. Paris: Galli-mard, 2007. 402 pp.

The Folio edition of Ourika, Edouard, and Olivier ou le secret (2007) is a welcome addition to the body of available texts by Claire de Duras. It assembles all three of the author's principal novels in one accessible book that permits a full appreciation of her as a writer. This edition is especially welcome because Olivier ou le secret, published in 1971 by Corti, is neither complete not widely available. Moreover, the inclusion of these works in the "Folio classiques" series promotes the importance of women writers in France, as the prestigious historian and essayist Marc Fumaroli points out in the preface.

The Folio volume is based on previously undiscovered manuscripts in Duras's hand that her descendants made available to the edi- tor, Marie-Benedicte Diethelm. The importance of having had access to these manuscripts varies in the case of the three works. It makes little difference for Edouard, which appears here in the same version published by Mercure de France in 1983; both are based on the original edition of 1825. Concerning Ourika, we learn that of the two versions (A and B) that Lucien Scheler discussed in "Un best-seller sous Louis XVIII: Ourika par Mme de Duras" (1988), Diethelm's manuscript adopts version B with some minor changes (323-24). However, the uncovering of a new manuscript is highly significant for Olivier. The "Note sur l'etablissement des texte" (324-26) explains that the new Folio edition of this text is a third longer than the Corti version and that a wide range of factors affecting plot, characters, names, chronology, and interpretation are different. As Diethelm explains, Duras's handwritten notes attest to her scrupulous preparation of this version of Olivier, which must now be considered definitive. Ourika, Edouard, and Olivier ou le secret begins with two introductory essays, the preface by Fumaroli and an introduction by Diethelm, each approximately twenty-five pages in length. (A note tells us that these two scholars are also collaborating on a forthcoming edition of Duras's correspondence). Fumaroli and Diethelm cover much the same ground in these two essays, and to a considerable extent they both rearticulate what most scholars of Duras probably already know about her and her works. The preface is the more general of the two essays. It reviews a variety of topics--the author's life, Duras's relation to literary history, the social and political milieu in which she wrote, the novels themselves--and it does so in a consistently lively and insightful way. In the final analysis, however, Fumaroli's perspective remains predictably traditional, despite his initial claims about the importance of woman writers and the French tradition of "narratrices sachant toucher les cordes les plus poignantes de la lyre romanesque" (7). Thus he spends a considerable amount of the time discussing Duras in relation to male authors such as Stendhal, Balzac, and especially Chateaubriand, as if Duras's relationship with him defined not only her affective life but her place in literary history as well.

Diethelm's introduction is also largely traditional in approach, dwelling to a considerable extent on identifying sources and providing psychological analyses of the author and her characters. In contrast with the preface, however, the introduction is scholarly, con- taining 86 literary, journalistic, historical, and critical references. Diethelm's research is thorough and provides a useful compendium of nineteenth-century sources. Although she too often ends up following Fumaroli in viewing Duras in relation to Balzac, Stendhal, and Chateaubriand, she also provides original analyses of the conditions of the works' publication, readership, and reception. Such analyses are especially welcome since far less attention is typically paid to literature of the Restoration than to works of the later nineteenth century, and Diethelm is an insightful literary critic of Duras's literary period. She provides illuminating analyses of the unifying themes, narrative structure, psychological features, and style of the three works.

The Folio edition ends with a six-part "Dossier." "Chronologie" provides basic biographical information. "Les Oeuvres de Mme de Duras en leur temps" follows the author from 1821 to 1839, identifying the key stops on her trajectory as a writer and providing documentation based on Duras's journal, her correspondence, and relevant primary source material. This part summarizes and develops in chronological form some of the highly useful information provided in the introduction. "Note sur l'etablissment des textes," as noted above, provides the information necessary to compare the versions presented in the Folio edition to other published versions of Duras's works. "Document" provides an important journal entry on Ourika. "Bibliographic selective" is indeed selective, especially in its list of secondary sources, which gives hardly a glimpse of the interesting current developments in Duras scholarship (the most recent critical work on Duras in this list dates from 1989). Finally, "Notes" (over 60 pages) provides a wealth of literary, historical, linguistic, cultural, and other sorts of information.

In short, scholars and students interested in Duras, women's writing, and the development of the nineteenth-century French novel need to get a copy of the Folio edition of Ourika, Edouard, and Olivier ou le secret, both for the vast array of information it provides and for the definitive version of Olivier it contains.

Doris Kadish

University of Georgia
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Author:Kadish, Doris
Publication:French Forum
Article Type:Book review
Date:Jan 1, 2008
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