Balzac’s Disorienting Orientalism: “Une Passion dans le désert”

Balzac’s “Une Passion dans le désert” at first appears to represent the Egyptian desert and its inhabitants in images gleaned from received ideas of his time. However an underlying ambiguity between strong and weak, tamer and tamed, French and other develops, an ambiguity strengthened by the tale’s transport from Napoleon’s Egypt to Paris. A comparison of this story with La Fille aux yeux d’or and Splendeurs et misères des courtisanes shows that, through the fantasy of taming the wild other (great cat, woman, or Egyptian), Balzac uses exploitative images, while at the same time revealing their violent, delusional nature.

Kelly, Dorothy
Volume 2011-12 Fall-Winter; 40.(1-2): 1-17