The Stylistic Debate of Charles Nodier's Histoire du roi de Bohème

Nodier's fullest discussion of style, L'Histoire du Roi de Bohème et de ses sept château (1830), is an open-ended debate between the characters Breloque (Reason) and Théodore (Imagination). Breloque plays eiron, deflating Théodore's fancies. Within the longer work he offers a spare two-page anecdote concerning Brisquet's proverbial dog as a corrective to Théodore's ornately sentimental style in "Les Aveugles de Chamouny." Critics claim Breloque has the last word, and that his tale provided a model of simplicity for Nodier's later Contes. But the full text of L'Histoire du Roi de Bohème and Nodier's later career prove otherwise. L'Histoire du Roi de Bohème exalts Théodore and undermines Breloque's authority, showing him to be boorish and insensitive even when he is right. And Théodore's reply to Breloque's tale, an extended onomatopoeia, shows that the literal-minded "imitation of nature" that Breloque recommends can have the same effect as excessive rhetorical ornament: it reduces prose to a "vain cliquetis sonore." Nodier's other writings show that Breloque and Théodore correspond, respectively, to what he saw as primordial imaginative and positive principles in language and society. His longest description of his own style reveals their continual warfare in his mind. But L'Histoire du Roi de Bohème's ending resolves their discussion into a word game and surrealistic laughter. (LMP)

Porter, Laurence M.
Volume 1972 Fall; 1(1): 21-32.