L’allemand comme langue imaginaire chez Victor Hugo et Balzac
Writers such as Victor Hugo and Balzac not only considered the German language as typical of « otherness », but by intertwining German and French, they were able to produce a language beyond limits. To attain this outre-langue is the dream of any poet. The first literary example analyzed in this article is an excerpt from Hugo’s Le Rhin. In letter XXXVII, a ludicrous dialog occurs in French between the traveler and the waiter in a restaurant in Schaffhouse. In this dialog, some kind of fancy German language lurking in the textual background helps Hugo to distort the French language, thus confronting the reader with a puzzling yet creative mother tongue. The writer has made use of another linguistic discrepancy, which is that the oral stuff never coincides with the written stuff. This transgression is even more visible in Balzac’s work. The article focuses on one of his characters who appears in several novels of his Comédie humaine: the banker Nucingen. Nucingen’s identity itself is questionable. Is he an Alsatian, a German, a Pole, a Jew? We can rely on one thing only: his existence is based entirely upon his speech. In a novel however, speech can only be written. Nucingen’s speech is written but hardly readable. Only through writing could Balzac achieve such a creation. And interestingly enough, he invented Nucingen’s impossible language at a late stage, in the process of checking the proofs for press.
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ISSN : 1916-8470