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Travel and Fiction: The Case of the French Explorer, Geographer, Astronomer and Encyclopaedist Charles Marie de La Condamine (1701-1774)

Dimitri Dolapsakis - Researcher, Hellenic Open University

 

Abstract

Charles Marie de La Condamine was an active member of the Académie Royale des Sciences in Paris with a special interest in chemistry and astronomy. In September 1731 he arrived in Cyprus, where he remained for only 18 days. The narration of his journey to the Levant exists in two different texts: in an unpublished manuscript by La Condamine; and in the book Nouveau voyage fait au Levant, ès années 1731 & 1732 (Paris 1742), edited by his travelling companion, Nicolas Tollot. They travelled on board a warship, part of a small fleet led by René Duguay-Trouin, the renowned French corsair and hero of the War of the Spanish Succession (1701- 1714), which hunted Barbary pirates.

La Condamine’s travel account surprises the reader with regard to its author–protagonist and the information relating to Cyprus. It is basically a kind of folk narration with Ottoman Cyprus as a background, with perhaps an anti-bourgeois character, and it was a publishing and commercial success. This style led to the creation of innumerable folk action novels in the 19th century; it is thus the predecessor of the rocambolesque novel.

Moving between travel and fiction, this paper will investigate the boundaries between reality and literary production.

 

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