(Masterpieces of World Literature, Critical Edition)

Friday: Or, The Other Island was Tournier’s first published novel and dramatizes the differences between Robinson’s Eurocentric values and those of a native of the archipelago in which he is marooned. Tournier assumed that his readers would be familiar with Daniel Defoe’s classic novel Robinson Crusoe, and he fashioned his work around it. He follows Defoe’s book closely at first but slowly departs from its outline, eventually arriving at a strikingly different conclusion.

As Friday opens, Robinson is having his fortune told by his ship’s captain. Robinson, the captain announces, is an organizer. Organizers are not skeptical and therefore do not realize that their attempts at creating order are illusory. The captain further predicts that after many travails Robinson will be saved by a child. As the captain enlarges upon these comments, their ship runs violently aground. When Robinson awakens, he finds himself alone on an island, and (it is clear to the reader) begins living out in detail the fortune the captain has told to him.

After a period of gloom in which he names his new home the Island of Desolation, Robinson manages to build a rational, even overorganized, life for himself. He has periodic bouts of depression in which he immerses himself in a kind of bog, but he always manages to pull himself out, literally and figuratively. He rechristens the island Speranza (hope).

Perhaps most...

(The entire section is 543 words.)


(Literary Essentials: World Fiction)

Michel Tournier’s Friday adapts Daniel Defoe’s original masterpiece Robinson Crusoe (1719) and re-creates the whole myth of Robinson Crusoe as it also appears in Johann Wyss’s Der schweizerische Robinson (1812-1827; The Swiss Family Robinson, 1814, 1818, 1820) and Jules Verne’s L’Ile mysterieuse (1874-1875; Mysterious Island, 1875). Tournier retains the adventure story of his predecessors but alters their system of values and makes significant additions of an ethnological and psychological nature. Where his sources focused on environmental conquest and social conformity, Tournier emphasizes Robinson’s personal experience of solitude, his dejection, and the rediscovery of his youthful virility through exposure to the alien perceptions of Friday.

The novel opens with a prologue at sea. Robinson is aboard the brig Virginia, en route from Lima. He has abandoned his wife and children in England to seek his fortune in the New World. In the midst of a formidable tempest, the ship’s captain, Van Deyssel, reads his passenger’s future from the tarot: “Crusoe,...take heed of what I say. Beware of purity. It is the vitriol of the soul.”

The storm wrecks the ship two hundred miles off the South American coast. Save for the ship’s dog, Tenn, Robinson is the sole survivor. He surveys his new home and labels it “Desolation.” Later, he rechristens the island “Speranza,” naming...

(The entire section is 532 words.)