With Salammbo, Flaubert turned to the old Orient and Carthage's civil war with its mercenaries to relive his travels in the Levant and indulge in erotic and heroic reveries. Yet his alluring heroine gives way to political and military matters that take up two-thirds of the text and makes the Orient, conceived as the other, the same: an allegory of Flaubert's France. Political chaos and desperate military situations produce the charismatic leader who, abetted by the bourgeoisie, defrauds the rebels to realize his imperial and dynastic goals (Barca and the two Napoleons). By analogy, Flaubert patterns the emergence of the shofet Barca after the politics of ancient Israel, where the charismatic king supersedes rule by councils of elders and the judges (shofets). He wants to make himself king, his rival Han shouts. Barca's triumph constitutes a twofold revolution: the overthrow of the existing order and return to royalty, which governed Carthage until 480 B.C. In France, the rise of Napoleon III signified revolution, a coup d'etat, and repetition: a farce. Flaubert draws for his similes on Punic mythology and the Afro-Oriental setting. Salammbo is also a vel about time.
The Author: Volker Durr is Associate Professor of German and Comparative Literary Studies at Northwestern University. He earned his Ph.D. in comparative literature at Princeton University in 1973. Former Chair of the German Department of Northwestern (1975-81 and 1990-96), he was Director of Undergraduate Studies in Comparative Literature (1989-90). He has published widely on literature from the eighteenth to the twentieth centuries, including the interaction between literature, art, history, and philosophy. He is the editor of Versuche zu Goethe (1976), Imperial Germany (1985), Nietzsche: Literature and Values (1988), and coeditor of Coping with the Past (1990).
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General & Literary Fiction
Currents in Comparative Romance Languages & Literatures