*Corsica. Mountainous French island in the Mediterranean Sea. Smaller than Sicily, Sardinia, or Cyprus, Corsica is just over one hundred miles south of mainland France. The novel opens with the Parisian narrator, a fictionalized Alexandre Dumas, arriving in Corsica after a visit to Elba, a much smaller French island northeast of Corsica. From Corte and Ajaccio, Corsica’s capital, he travels south to Sartène. Whereas the itinerary the narrator recommends to fellow French travelers emphasizes Corsica’s geographical proximity to Toulon, on the French mainland, the rest of the novel dwells on the gulf between life and customs in France and in its island department, Corsica. The narrator remarks that Corsica is a French department but is far from being France.
While extolling the island’s picturesqueness, its marvelous horses, its famous bandits, and its old-fashioned hospitality, the narrator notes its two supreme differences from the French mainland: its people’s constant use of the Italian language and their belief in the vendetta, a blood feud between families or clans, which originated in Sicily and other parts of Italy.
Corsica is also famous as the birthplace of French emperor Napoleon Bonaparte, and nearby Elba was the island of his first exile. Clearly some of the narrator’s admiration for Corsica comes from Dumas’s Bonapartist sympathies. Writing twenty-three years after Napoleon’s death, Dumas brings Napoleon into the story indirectly by making Lucien de Franchi the owner of a saber given by Napoleon to his grandfather at a 1798 battle in Egypt. Fittingly, Lucien associates his and Napoleon’s former island home with space and liberty, refusing to leave it for any city.
*Sartène (sahr-TEN). Southern...
(The entire section is 743 words.)