The Opposing Shore

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Columbia University Press, 1986 - Literary Criticism - 292 pages
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With four elegant and beautifully crafted novels Julien Gracq has established himself as one of France's premier postwar novelists. A mysterious and retiring figure, Gracq characteristically refused the Goncourt, France's most distinguished literary prize, when it was awarded to him in 1951 for this book. As the latest work in the Twentieth-Century Continental Fiction Series, Gracq'a masterpiece is now available for the first time in English.

Set in a fictitious Mediterranean port city, The Opposing Shore is the first-person account of a young aristocrat sent to observe the activities of a naval base. The fort lies at the country's border; at its feet is the bay of Syrtes. Across the bay is territory of the enemy who has, for three hundred years, been at war with the narrator's countrymen; the battle has become a complex, tacit game in which no actions are taken and no peace declared. As the narrator comes to understand, everything depends upon a boundary, unseen but certain, separating the two sides. Besides the narrator there are two other main characters, the dark and laconic captain of the base and a woman whose compex relations to both sides of the war brings the narator deeper into the story's web.

For many French readers The Opposing Shore (published as Le rivage des Syrtes ), with its theme of transgressions and boundaries, spoke to the issue of defeat and the desire to fail: a paticularly sensitive motif in postwar French literature. But there is nothing about the novel tying it either to France or to the 1950s; in fact, Gracq's novel, with its elaborate, richly detailed prose, will be of greater interest now than at any point in the last twenty years.


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The opposing shore

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The "opposing shore'' is uncivilized Farghestan, which faces decadent Orsenna across the desolate and marshy Bay of Syrtes. Gracq's most famous novel, published in France in 1951, posits a somnolent ... Read full review


A Commitment
The Map Room
A Conversation
The Ruins of Sagra
A Visit
A Bout of Fever
The Island of Vezzano
An Expedition
The Envoy
Final Inspection
The Secret Powers of the City

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About the author (1986)

Julien Gracq (the pseudonym of Louis Poirier) was born in 1910 in Saint-le-Vieil. His three other novels have appeared in English as A Dark Stranger, The Castle of Argol, and Balcony in the Forest.

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