miércoles, 3 de mayo de 2017


Here's a little article I wrote on FutureLearn about Théophile Gautier's Roman de la momie:

Sandra Elena Dermark Bufi
For me, close reading and contextualisation allow for the best dialogue when put together, especially when it comes to spotting intertextual references. To put an example: Let us take two examples of the same story --a biblical episode and its French 19th-century retelling. 
...and the LORD brought an east wind upon the land all that day, and all that night; and when it was morning, the east wind brought the locusts. 
And the locusts went up over all the land of Egypt, and rested in all the coasts of Egypt: very grievous were they; before them there were no such locusts as they, neither after them shall be such. 
For they covered the face of the whole earth, so that the land was darkened; and they did eat every herb of the land, and all the fruit of the trees which the hail had left: and there remained not any green thing in the trees, or in the herbs of the field, through all the land of Egypt. 
Book of Exodus, King James Version
Now on to Théophile Gautier's version of the Eighth Plague:
 [···] elles se succédaient par tourbillons, comme la paille que disperse l’orage ; l’air en était obscurci, épaissi ; elles comblaient les fossés, les ravines, les cours d’eau, éteignaient sous leurs masses les feux allumés pour les détruire ; elles se heurtaient aux obstacles et s’y amoncelaient, puis les débordaient. Ouvrait-on la bouche, on en respirait une; elles se logeaient dans les plis des vêtements, dans les cheveux, dans les narines; leurs épaisses colonnes faisaient rebrousser les chars, renversaient le passant isolé et le recouvraient bientôt...
They followed each other in swarms like the straw blown about by the storm; the air was darkened; they filled up the ditches, the ravines, the streams; they put out by their mere mass the fires lighted to destroy them; they struck against obstacles and then heaped up and overcame them. If a man opened his mouth, he breathed one in; they found their way into the folds of the clothing, into the hair, into the nostrils; their dense columns made chariots turn back; they overthrew the solitary passer-by and soon covered him.

The second version, in which Gautier elaborates upon the biblical context, is even more vivid... Ouvrait-on la bouche, on en respirait une/If a man opened his mouth, he breathed one in... that is not in Exodus, that simply details that there was not a single plant --neither blade of grass nor fruit in treetop-- left after the plague. "Ouvrait-on la bouche, on en respirait une/If a man opened his mouth, he breathed one in" is truly nightmare fuel, with locusts getting inside mouths and nostrils--- the trope of orifice invasion at its finest, brought to make the description more vivid and explain how the plague would affect the animal kingdom in general and its sapiens province in particular. The sole thought of letting foreign things, especially bugs, inside our system --whether guts, lungs, or hearts-- has always induced an intensely horrifying feeling...!

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