Prosper Mérimée

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Mérimée, Prosper

 

Born Sept. 27, 1803, in Paris; died Sept. 23, 1870, in Cannes. French writer. Elected to the Academic Franchise in 1844.

Mérimée was the son of an artist. He graduated from the faculty of law at the Sorbonne in 1823. A romantic interest in exotic countries is reflected in his first work, the collection of plays The Theater of Clara Gazul (1825), which he ascribed to a fictitious Spanish comedienne. The plays contain a number of references to the contemporary French scene and are a subtle parody of the reactionary romantic theater and its melodramatic conventions.

In the collection La Guzla (1827), a pseudonymous hoax inspired by Illyrian folk songs, Merimee imitated folk art so accurately that he deceived A. Mickiewicz, as well as A. S. Pushkin, who translated the collection as Songs of the West Slavs. La Guzla is noteworthy for the author’s use of realistic techniques to reveal the personalities of heroes in conflict with society.

Mérimée was fascinated by turbulent periods in history. He wrote about French history in the chronicle-drama. The Jacquerie (1828) and in the novel Chronicle of the Reign of Charles IX (1829). In short stories written during the late 1820’s (the collection Mosaic, 1833), Mérimée depicted strong, straightforward characters who had not yet been touched by the “corrupting”influence of civilization (“Mateo Falcone”and “Tamango”) . The contemporary scene was reflected in the short stories “The Etruscan Vase”and “The Backgammon Game” (both 1830).

The emptiness and hypocrisy of bourgeois society and the power of money were depicted with irony and sarcasm in short stories and novellas written by Mérimée in the 1830’s and 1840’s, including The Double Misunderstanding,“Arsene Guillot,”and “The Abbé Aubain.”In the short stories “The Venus of Ille,”“Colomba,”and “Carmen” (1845) the author focuses on the clash between bourgeois morality and primitive but more just moral norms.

Mérimée’s prose reached its peak in the 1830’s and 1840’s. Using the techniques of the “story within a story”and introducing into the text alleged old letters or unexpected historical and philological digressions, Mérimée created a superficially calm, detached narrative style.

Mérimée’s scholarly works are distinguished by a superior literary mastery. Among them are books of essays (for example, Notes on a Journey Through the South of France, 1835), critical articles, and research on medieval architecture and on the history of ancient Rome, Spain, the Ukraine, and Russia.

After 1848, Mérimée’s creative activity declined. During his later years his interest in Russian culture increased. He became friendly with A. I. Turgenev, I. S. Turgenev, and S. A. Sobolevskii. An impassioned propagandist of Russian literature, he wrote a series of articles on Gogol, Turgenev, and Pushkin and translated many of their works. His interest in Slavic themes was reflected in the late novella, Lokis (1869). Mérimée’s works have been the basis for plays, musical comedies, and operas (for example, Bizet’s Carmen, 1875), as well as many films.

WORKS

Oeuvres completes, vols. 1-12. Paris, 1927-33. (Publication not completed.)
Romans et nouvelles, vols. 1-2, Paris [1967].
Histoire du régne de Pierre le Grand. Paris, 1947.
Correspondance générate, vols. 1-17. Paris-Toulouse, 1941-64.
In Russian translation:
Sobr. soch. , vols. 1-3. Moscow-Leningrad, 1933-34.
Sobr. soch. , vols. 1-6. Moscow, 1963.

REFERENCES

Vinogradov, A. K. Merime v pis’makh k Sobolevskomu. Moscow, 1928.
Istoriia frantsuzskoi literatury, vol. 2. Moscow, 1956.
Trahard, P. [Mérimée], vols. 1-4. 1925-30.
Baschet, R. Mérimée. Paris, 1958.
Leon, P. Mérimée et son temps. Paris, 1962.
BIBLIOGRAPHICAL PUBLICATIONS
Paevskaia, A. V., and V. T. Danchenko. Prosper Merime: Bibliografiia russkikh perevodov i kriticheskoi literatury na russkom iazyke: 1828-1967. Moscow, 1968.
Raitt, A. W. P. Mérimée. London [1970].
Trahard, P., and P. Josserand. Bibliographic des oeuvres de P. Mérimée. Paris, 1929.

A. D. MIKHAILOV

References in periodicals archive ?
Al igual que Hugo y Merimee, ViolletLeduc es un amante incondicional de la arquitectura medieval, tema que domina muy bien.
Carmen Ramirez Gomez trata la figura de Alfredo Opisso y Vinas, un escritor catalan, y destacado academico en los campos de la medicina, historia, arte y literatura, ademas de traductor y critico literario que fue uno de los primeros traductores espanoles de la obra Carmen de Merimee.
Eliot, Rob Donn, Edith Sitwell, Stephen Spender, Chateaubriand, Corneille, de Vigny, Maritain, Merimee, Racine, Villon, Bakunin, Chekov, Dostoevsky, Gogol, Gorky, Koestler, Pushkin, Toller, Cervantes, Dickens, Charles Reade, Franz von Rintelen, Shol Lesage, Swedenborg, Flaubert, Tolstoy and Turgenev.
Cinco anos despues, en 1928, ingresa a la Facultad de Letras de la Sorbonne, optando al grado de licenciada en literatura, con una tesis sobre Merimee.
It uses the sociological theories of Norbert Elias and Pierre Bourdieu to examine the work of six writers from the 19th century that illustrate the French nationalization of feelings, thoughts, and habits: Olympe de Gouges' pre-revolutionary pamphlets and her quasi-autobiographical novel Madame de Valmont's Memoirs; Francois Rene de Chateaubriand's Historical Essay on Revolutions and The Genius of Christianity; Germaine de Stail's On Literature, On Germany, Delphine, and Corinne; Stendhal's Chronicles for England and Memoirs of a Tourist; Prosper Merimee's A Chronicle of the Reign of Charles IX, Corsican novellas, and essay on the Mormons; and George Sand's novels, including Nanon and Franca.
They may not have directly challenged the patriarchal order, but their sentimental literature offers a counter-discourse to such colonial representations as those found in Victor Hugo's Bug-Jagal or Prosper Merimee's Tamango.
French literary history considers the short story a minor genre and anthologies rarely go beyond Maupassant, Marcel Ayme, a bit of Merimee and a dash of Balzac.
Prosper Merimee's novel Colomba (1840) was one of the nineteenth century's first and most influential literary depictions of the Mediterranean island of Corsica and its inhabitants.
As part of the trial, Michel de Bourges brought up a letter where Casimir confessed, “I am going to Paris; I will not stay with you, because I do not wish to inconvenience you any more than I wish to be further inconvenienced by you.” (Sand 1070) One of the more frank accounts of an intimate encounter with Sand is one where Sand tells Merimee in response to his advances, “Very well, I am disposed.
Featuring music by Georges Bizet and Rodion Shchedrin, the ballet is a poignant retelling of Prosper Merimee's classic novella about an ambitious and manipulative woman whose lust for life, love and luxury ends in bitter heartbreak and misfortune.
GIVEN that Prosper Merimee worked for many years as France's inspector of historical monuments, it is not surprising that his fictional narrators manifest what may be considered an unhealthy obsession with ancient practices and beliefs, particularly with their unknowable origins.
The horrors of the French revolutionary wars inspired the works of writers such as Prosper Merimee with his opera Carmen and Alexandre Dumas who were inherently drawn to the violence and death that bullfighting represented.