While last June 28 was celebrated the tercentenary of the birth of Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Éditions Télémaque invites us to discover the new historical novel by Olivier Marchal dedicated to the famous Swiss philosopher. Following The comedy of masks which exposed its beginnings and its development within the Enlightenment movement, The torn veil is interested in the last years of a Rousseau then rejected from this movement and in full drafting of his Confessions.
The Enlightenment of the 1770s
The framework of the story originates in the early 1770s. Olivier Marchal with a simple and fluid pen draws us into a Paris in turmoil. Young arriving in the tumultuous capital, the knight Bernardin de Saint-Pierre, great admirer of a then aging and embittered Rousseau, does not take long to make his acquaintance noticing him alone and miserable, rejected and hated by all his peers. Indeed, Bernardin also penetrated enlightened circles where, under the aegis of famous salt workers, he met philosophers and encyclopedists: Diderot, d'Alembert, Grimm and others all united against Rousseau. Not understanding the reasons for this ostracism, he sets out to find the truth.
An ambiguous portrait of Rousseau
Jean-Jacques Rousseau has generally been considered an ambiguous character, and Olivier Marchal was smart enough to maintain this ambiguity throughout his story. The author ofEmile and Social contract Was he a paranoid, hypocritical eccentric lunatic? a monster of selfishness and misanthropy abandoning his children? or on the contrary the victim a plot hatched by his closest friends to stifle his voice, he who denounces a corrupt society in which the philosophers participate? It is for the reader to decide. The general opprobrium cast on the Genevan, on his customs and on his personality is thus made explicit as much through his opinion as that of those close to him who have turned away from him. The reader is then revealed many little-known details immersing him in this agitated Paris of the Enlightenment and in the psychology of the writer.
Two historical novels to better discover Rousseau
This book by Olivier Marchal is to be compared with his first novel: Rousseau, the comedy of masks taking place some twenty years earlier when the Swiss philosopher on the advice of his friends such as Diderot abandons music for writing and then becomes this austere character, the defender of an oppressive society and arbitrary institutions. Through these two well-documented books, drawing on the very writings of the protagonists, we enter the heart of the social life of the second half of the 18th century.e century to discover or rediscover with simplicity the life of one of the most famous figures of that time. A most interesting trip.
Olivier Marchal, Rousseau, the torn veil, Éditions Télémaque, Paris, 2012.
Olivier Marchal, Rousseau, the comedy of masks, Éditions Télémaque, Paris, 2011.