Encyclopedia of Fantasy (1997)
Nerval, Gérard de

Pseudonym of Gérard Labrunie (1808-1855), French poet and journalist. He wrote in the waning days of French Romanticism, but his work anticipates the Symbolism that dominated the middle of the century. Neglected for nearly a century after his death (although Proust considered him a seminal figure), he has since the end of WWII become one of the most-studied French figures of the 19th century. His early collection, Le main de gloire (1832), consists of tales in the manner of E T A Hoffmann. The much later Les Filles du Feu (1854; trans James Whitall as Daughters of Fire 1922 US), his most famous volume of imaginative prose, contains "Sylvie" (trans anon 1887 chap US), widely regarded as his masterpiece: a semi-autobiographical romance of lost loves, it makes extremely sophisticated use of the Doppelgänger theme. Aurelia, ou le rêve et la vie (1855) is concerned with the "second life" of the Dream state; it describes GN's late mental afflictions in terms of a descent into Hell. Les Chimères (omni with Les Filles du Feu 1854; individual poems trans Andrew Lang 1872 and John Payne 1906) comprises a short sonnet sequence employing images from the Tarot, Alchemy and Egyptian and Greek Mythology in an extremely dense verse. This last has in recent decades been translated in whole or in part many times. [GF]

other works: L'Alchimiste (1839) with Alexandre Dumas; Scènes de la vie orientale (1851; trans as The Women of Cairo: Scenes of Life in the Orient 1929), travel book containing some fantastic tales; "Fantaisie" (1832 Annales romantiques).

Gérard Labrunie

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This entry is taken from the Encyclopedia of Fantasy (1997) edited by John Clute and John Grant. It is provided as a reference and resource for users of the SF Encyclopedia, but apart from possible small corrections has not been updated.