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Le voyage de Théophile Gautier en Égypte ou les leçons d’un ‘accident de parcours’

Abstract : Invited by the Egyptian Minister for Foreign Affairs, Théophile Gautier embarks in Marseille on 9 October 1869 with a large French delegation to attend the solemn inauguration of the Suez Canal in the presence of Empress Eugénie and Khedive Ismail. The readers of the Journal officiel are looking forward to a detailed account of the ceremony – scheduled on 17 November – from their preferred traveller and writer. Nevertheless, an unforeseen event will question both the travel and its account : on the first sailing night, Gautier slips in a staircase and dislocates his shoulder… The project is going bad, and the tours in Cairo and Upper Egypt must be abandoned. Gautier’s last travel will thus end in a forced and prolonged rest in Shepheard’s Hotel, Cairo, but the constraints it provokes are very interesting for who is looking for unfinished travels. He will have to compensate the main reason of a trip : movement, which is forbidden to an injured man in a country with yet very poor infrastructures. He will therefore ensure that Egypt comes to him, as he cannot go toward it: he changes his hotel room into a kind of “window open to the world”, which, in any event, allows him to enjoy the Oriental show. Another Gautier’s strategy: to change a trivial scene into an unrecorded painting, whose strangeness may exceed the local realities, already shown by the Orientalist painters, so to be the finest way of demonstrating his ability for a writer at the height of his artistic powers. A last point may deserve our attention: Gautier will dare to offer an unfinished travelogue to his readers, since only six papers will published in the Journal officiel. Even the report of the inauguration is missing, whereas he could attend it after having built up his strength. Has he been casual? Did he refuse to commit to promoting the declining Second Empire? We must consider the meaning of this gap and, largely, of this unwittingly unfinished travel as of its paradoxical account, whose non-completion is, by contrast, due to its author.
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https://hal.univ-lorraine.fr/hal-02974652
Contributor : Alain Guyot <>
Submitted on : Wednesday, October 21, 2020 - 11:32:59 PM
Last modification on : Monday, June 21, 2021 - 2:37:52 PM

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Alain Guyot. Le voyage de Théophile Gautier en Égypte ou les leçons d’un ‘accident de parcours’. Viatica, Université Clermont Auvergne, A paraître, pp.15. ⟨hal-02974652⟩

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