Vendredi ou les limbes du Pacifique: Tournier, Seduction and Paternity

  • Emma Wilson


Robinson Crusoe survives as it is reread and also, more significantly perhaps, as it is rewritten. Michel Tournier, whose own rewriting of Robinson Crusoe is my subject here, comments on the dissemination of Defoe’s text, saying: ‘les exemplaires de ce livre – traduit ou non – agissaient comme autant de graines dispersées par le vent et produisant où elles tombaient des oeuvres nou-velles, profondément influencées par la mentalité et le climat du pays’.2 These lines are taken from the chapter ‘Vendredi’, which Tournier includes in his idiosyncratic autobiography, Le Vent Paraclet. In this chapter Tournier tells the tale of Alexander Selkirk, meditates briefly on the success of Defoe’s own text, and then moves quickly to a reckoning with the subsequent rewritings which, in Tournier’s terms, have served to precipitate Robinson’s transformation from the hero of a novel into ‘un personnage mythologique’ (VP, p. 214) (‘a mythical hero’, p. 183). Tournier also offers his reader some analysis of his retelling of the Robinson myth. This, he stresses, explores an individual’s loss of the structured identity formed in the context of the civilisation in which he has lived and been created. Tournier posits the creation of a new world on the island of Speranza, and the rebirth of a hero, Robinson, initiated into a new existence by his guide and (platonic) lover Vendredi. This vision of his novel leads Tournier to suggest that while Defoe’s novel is, for him, purely retrospective, his own novel, on the other hand, looks towards re-creation in entirely new terms. Tournier writes optimistically: ‘ainsi done mon roman se veut inventif et prospectif’ (VP, p. 223) (‘thus my novel was intended to be both inventive and forward-looking’, p. 191).


Gold Shine Mythical Hero Narrative Term Lavish System Intertextual Relationship 
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  1. Michel Tournier, Le Vent Paraclet (Paris: Gallimard, 1977) p. 212Google Scholar
  2. Michel Tournier, Journal de voyage au Canada, with photographs by Edouard Boubat (Paris: Robert Laffont, 1984) p. 15Google Scholar
  3. Colin Davis, Michel Tournier: Philosophy and Fiction (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1988) pp. 30–1.Google Scholar
  4. Michel Tournier, Vendredi ou les limbes du Pacifique (Paris: Gallimard, 1967) p. 202Google Scholar
  5. Michel Tournier, Le Roi des aulnes (Paris: Gallimard, 1970) p. 100Google Scholar
  6. Shoshana Felman and Dori Laub, Testimony: Crises of Witnessing in Literature, Psychoanalysis and History (New York and London: Routledge, 1992) p. 57.Google Scholar
  7. Gilles Deleuze, ‘Michel Tournier et le monde sans autrui’, postface to the Folio edition of Vendredi ou les limbes du Pacifique (Paris: Gallimard, 1972) pp. 257–83.Google Scholar
  8. Harold Bloom, The Anxiety of Influence: A Theory of Poetry (New York: Oxford University Press, 1973) p. 5.Google Scholar
  9. O. Coombs (ed.) Is Massa Day Done? (New York: Anchor/Doubleday, 1974) pp. 1–27.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Palgrave Macmillan, a division of Macmillan Publishers Limited 1996

Authors and Affiliations

  • Emma Wilson

There are no affiliations available

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