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History, culture, and religion converge in a literary expression of a stereotyped image of Christ in Jean-Marie-Mathias-Philippe-Auguste, Comte de Villiers de l'Isle-Adam's "Les Amants de Tolede," one of sixteen stories compiled in the volume Histoires insolites published between 1886 and 1888. Son of an aristocratic family of limited means, Villiers conducted a Bohemian life in Paris, a poete maudit. Villiers's writings are marked by a personal touch where his voice shapes his personal aesthetics in an euphoric tone. In this manner, his texts represent a sort of legend or myth involving his life. In his story Isis, written at twenty-four of age, he expresses his thoughts through the character of Prince Forsiani: "Ah! If you knew that a word, apparently ordinary, contains mighty power and spreads hastily! You realize what a word can do. Somebody opens the mouth and articulates any idea that could be applied to a general fact; this idea breaks down, it is absorbed and assimilated in a million different ways by millions of different ways of listening and comprehending them. ... Consequently by mutual agreement, man and his idea become miraculous, simply because to open the mouth, beginning of the general fact, is already a miracle. ... Do not end by despising humanity but despise the power of the human word" (unless indicated otherwise, all translations are mine) ("Ah! Si vous saviez comme une parole; en apparence banale; contient de puissances terribles et marche vite! ... Vous voyez ce qu'un mot peut produire. Un tel ouvre de la bouche et articule une idee quelconque pouvant s'appliquer a un fait general; cette idee se decompose; s'absorbe et s'assimile d'un milliard de differentes fagons par le milliard de differentes manieres d'entendre les mots et de voir les choses. ... Bref d'un commun accord, l'homme et son idee finissent par devenir miraculeux, simplement parce qu'ouvrir la bouche, principe de l'evenement general, est deja un miracle. ... N'en concluez pas au mepris de l'humanite, mais a la puissance de la parole humaine. [116-18]). It is this parole humaine that transforms itself and starts a dialogue between cultures, histories, and literary expressions. The title of the 1888 collection, Histoires insolites (Extraordinary Stories), is associated with the nature of many contemporary cultures where it is not so coincidental that the image of Christ and the context of terror remain predominant. In "Les Amants de Tolede," the subject of religion is presented from a different perspective, with the institution of the Inquisition as a theme. The stories "La Torture par l'Esperance," "Les Amants de Tolede," and "Axel" have the Inquisition as a background scenario, which is both troubling and worrying. This hesitation, mixed with some Machiavellian perspectives, sets the stage of the story based on a controversial time in history. Villiers, a writer who had cultivated "horror," presents it as associated with a subject that appears innocuous: love. From this connection originates the subversive cruelty of the plot: a spectacular punishment for carnal love. Villiers's target was not to create a world of dreams robust enough to disguise reality. Instead, he pretended that imagination was so compelling that it imposed itself upon reality.

Professional & Technical
September 1
Purdue University Press
The Gale Group, Inc., a Delaware corporation and an affiliate of Cengage Learning, Inc.

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