Prosper Merimee, the Janus of the short story

Lindsay Duncan Petersen, Fordham University


This study concentrates on the six stories by Prosper Merimee which he included with his other published works of 1829 and 1830 under the title, Mosaique. An entire chapter is devoted to each of the stories: Mateo Falcone, La Vision de Charles XI, L'Enlevement de la redoute, Tamango, Le Vase etrusque, and La Partie de trictrac. All the stories appear radically different, with varying themes, covering several geographic locations throughout Europe and Africa, and with settings in diverse social milieux; but an overview of the stories reveals a recurring pattern. What enables this emerging design to be more fully understood is the utilization of a particular modus operandi, a fresh analysis involving the concept of the Janus, a Roman deity of Antiquity portrayed variously as the god of the doorway, of the threshold, of new beginnings, and even of waterways. It seems to preside over the stories as a force which maintains a strict control over the destiny of the main characters. These characters tend to exhibit a flaw which appears to leads to the disapproval of the god who controls their future, who denies their erstwhile vision of happiness, and allows them to be annihilated. This study provides new insight to the analysis of these stories which were so well received in the first half of the nineteenth century, many of which are still read today. Merimee's position in the development of the nouvelle is a significant one, and he is therefore himself the Janus of the short story.

Subject Area

Romance literature

Recommended Citation

Petersen, Lindsay Duncan, "Prosper Merimee, the Janus of the short story" (1995). ETD Collection for Fordham University. AAI9530036.