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The Opposing Shore (1951)

by Julien Gracq

Other authors: See the other authors section.

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
425942,486 (4.12)36
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.… (more)
  1. 30
    The Tartar Steppe by Dino Buzzati (iijjaallkkaa)
  2. 20
    Gagner la guerre by Jean-Philippe Jaworski (greuh)
    greuh: Jaworski avait Le Rivage des Syrtes en tête en écrivant Gagner la guerre, tout en réussissant à s'en détacher pour écrire un superbe ouvrage qui lui est propre. Quelques "passerelles" existent entre les deux livres et la lecture de l'un ne peut que recommander la lecture de l'autre.… (more)
  3. 21
    Waiting for the Barbarians by J. M. Coetzee (Mouseear)
  4. 11
    Les jardins statuaires by Jacques Abeille (greuh)
    greuh: Gracq a beaucoup aimé le livre d'Abeille et les raisons s'en ressentent dans la plume. La phrase d'Abeille est ciselée comme un mouvement d'horlogerie, l'écume douce d'une vague puissante. Ses jardins statuaires sont un carnet d'explorateur superbe et un récit magique. Ainsi, aimer l'un, c'est au minimum apprécier l'autre !… (more)
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» See also 36 mentions

French (6)  English (3)  All languages (9)
Showing 3 of 3
Ce que j’ai cherché à faire, entre autres choses, dans Le Rivage des Syrtes, plutôt qu’à raconter une histoire intemporelle, c’est à libérer par distillation un élément volatil, « l’esprit-de-l’Histoire », au sens où on parle d’esprit-de-vin, et à le raffiner suffisamment pour qu’il pût s’enflammer au contact de l’imagination. Il y a dans l’Histoire un sortilège embusqué, un élément qui, quoique mêlé à une masse considérable d’excipient interne, a la vertu de griser. […]
Quand l’Histoire bande ses ressorts, comme elle fit, pratiquement sans un moment de répit, de 1929 à 1939, elle dispose sur l’ouïe intérieure de la même agressivité monitrice qu’a sur l’oreille, au bord de la mer, la marée montante […]. C’est cette remise en route de l’Histoire, aussi imperceptible, aussi saisissante dans ses commencements que le premier tressaillement d’une coque qui glisse à la mer, qui m’occupait quand j’ai projeté le livre.
(Julien Gracq, En lisant en écrivant)
( )
  Manua | Apr 10, 2014 |
The world, including its human inhabitants, as rich geography: mornings without wrinkles, cities honeyed in their night, white dresses extinguished like flames in the night, roads you lean into because you get the feeling they lead to the ocean. This text is densely beautiful, unexpectedly tender in places that are imbued with magic, sensitivity and overwhelming physicality. This is a slow, rewarding read with an author who should be much more widely known. If you enjoy the pleasure of the text for itself, this challenging text is worth every trembling letter. ( )
4 vote jeaaron | Jul 12, 2008 |
Showing 3 of 3
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» Add other authors (10 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Gracq, Julienprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
元雄, 安藤翻訳secondary authorsome editionsconfirmed

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Le rassurant de l'équilibre, c'est que rien ne bouge. le vrai de l'équilibre, c'est qu'il suffit d'un souffle pour tout faire bouger
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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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