Critical Evaluation

(Essentials of European Literature)

The great popularity of Pierre Loti’s exotic works at the close of the nineteenth century and in the early years of the twentieth was in part the result of a reaction to the literary naturalism of Emile Zola, Edmund and Jules Goncourt, and other novelists in France and elsewhere. Loti had himself, in his wide-ranging voyages as a French naval officer, seen the people and places he described in his fiction. Various works by him are set in Turkey, Tahiti, Africa, Japan, and Persia.

The number of translations and editions of AN ICELAND FISHERMAN are indicative of the warmth created by the reading of this beautiful story. Loti, of the French Academy, exemplified in this unadorned tale the virtues of French literature: clarity, simplicity, power. The exotic always appealed to Loti, and AN ICELAND FISHERMAN reflects this appeal in the descriptions of the fishing fleet in Iceland waters. The love interest is well presented and well within bounds. The characters of little Sylvester, big Yann, and serious Gaud are those of real people, whose fortunes are of genuine concern to the reader.

In the novel, Loti combines realism and impressionism in a simple tale of primitive people living in an elemental world filled with occasional beauty and many natural dangers. The story’s theme of love and separation is one frequently repeated by Loti who, in his years at sea, had learned how often a sailor’s farewell to his loved ones is final...

(The entire section is 436 words.)