The flight of the angels : intertextuality in four novels by Boris Vian
The following thesis is an investigation of the textual strategies functioning in four novels by Boris Vian: L'Ecume des jours (1947), L'Automne a Pekin (1947), L'Herbe rouge (1950) and L'Arrache-creur (1953). It examines the novels' usage of intertextuality (references, direct and indirect, to other works of literature), and analyses the potentiality for producing meaning that is contained within this usage. By conjoining the four novels in this common textual strategy, it also examines how the novels refer to each other (intratextuality), and how they may, therefore, be considered as a unified and coherent tetralogy. Within this threefold strategy, the thesis yields a new reading of the four novels: Chapters One and Two deal with caricature and 'clins d'reil' in L 'Ecume des jours, exposing an association with Surrealism and the beginnings of a novelistic mythology; Chapters Three and Four follow the surface structure of L 'Automne a Pekin, at each stage revealing the veiled intertextual structure, the importance both of Parisian novels and the genre of detective fiction; Chapters Five and Six question the status of L 'Herbe rouge as a novel of Science Fiction, exposing its oneiric qualities and the role of death; finally, Chapters Seven and Eight show how the tetralogy can be seen to reach its climax in a final novel which closes the circle, bringing the narrative back to the beginning of the first. This thesis, therefore, through the use of a critical tool (intertextuality) not before fully exploited in the context of Boris Vian's reuvre, discloses new readings of each of the four 'romans signes Vian', as well as offering a comprehensive view of a tetralogy of texts considered as one self-referential unit.