CEEH Centro de Estudios Europa Hispánica

Les Espagnes de Mérimée


Jean Canavaggio


392 pages; 212 color illustrations; flexbinder; 21 x 25 cm


French; in collaboration with the Biblioteca Nacional de EspañaMuseo del Romanticismo and Museo de Historia; 2016





The expression “Mérimée’s Spain” has negative connotations south of the Pyrenees, as it encompasses all the Spanish stereotypes that were disseminated by the French Romantics (mayors, bullfighters, gypsies, cigarette girls…). But the fact is that Spain occupied an essential place in the life of the author of Carmen on account of the constant attraction it held for him and the number and variety of works it inspired him to write.

Therefore, we find not just one but several Spains in Mérimée’s oeuvre: the fanciful Spain he imagined before 1830 in Le Théâtre de Clara Gazul; the Spain he discovered for himself and explored during his first trip; the Spain recreated in Les Âmes du Purgatoire and Carmen; the Spain whose past he studied in his scholarly works and whose paintings he copied during his visits to the Prado; and the Spain of Isabel II, whose vicissitudes he reported in his Letters. Each has its own flavour and particular interest, but none is a mere compendium of the clichés he was held to have coined. This is what this lavishly illustrated book sets out to demonstrate.

Jean Canavaggio (1936–2023) was professor emeritus at the Université Paris Ouest Nanterre, was director of the Casa de Velázquez from 1996 to 2001. Prominent among the books he authored are Cervantes (1986, latest ed. 2015), Cervantes, entre vida y creación (2000), Don Quijote, del libro al mito (2006) and Retornos a Cervantes (2014). In addition to serving as editor of Historia de la Literatura española (Barcelona, 1994–95) and contributing to the Don Quixote edited by Francisco Rico, he edited French translations of Cervantes’s works in prose (2001), a selection of works by Saint Teresa and Saint John of the Cross, and Don Quixote, all published as part of the Bibliothèque de la Pléiade collection. During his last years he collaborated on an edition of Mérimée’s complete works.

Presentation at the Biblioteca Nacional de España, Madrid
Presentation at the Instituto Cervantes, Paris