*Andalusia. Southern province of Spain that is the story’s principal setting. Don José’s narrative to the scholar from his jail cell forms the main body of the tale; he dwells on his recent life as a smuggler and thief for a gang in which his lover, Carmen, acted as a lookout. His story moves from location to location in a wild landscape made up of hills and gorges where he and his fellow brigands pursued a criminal existence.
As he had done in his first experiment with the novella genre in his acclaimed Colomba (1841) set in Corsica, so now Prosper Mérimée again uses an exotic and colorful setting, not faraway places but rather those with sharply different cultures. Indeed, the Spanish landscape becomes part of the very fabric of Carmen. For all that, to avoid offending Spanish friends and sensitivities, Mérimée makes Don José Navarro a Basque and Carmen a gypsy. His 1847 revision of his novella concludes with a chapter on gypsy customs and dialects, but not before identifying the locations in southern Spain (and elsewhere) where gypsies are to be found.
The archaeologist-narrator meets Don José for the first time at a grassy, watery ravine that stands in contrast to the wildness of most other sites mentioned in the story; it is symbolic of the tempo of the novella, which speeds up as its denouement approaches. Eventually, locations in this action-packed drama barely flash by. Thus,...
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