Critical Context

(Literary Essentials: World Fiction)

Critics often conceive of Gemini as the third installment of a three-part series including Friday and Le Roi des aulnes (1970; The Ogre, 1972). Certainly, Gemini is the product of many readings, but the list should also include “Le Nain rouge” (1975), Gilles et Jeanne (1983), Dante, the Bible, the life and works of Pierre Loti, and Tournier’s autobiographical essay Le Vent Paraclet (1977). Thus, Gemini is one part of a vast “parallel edition” in which each character, twinned within the novel, is also twinned without it. Jean is joined to Paul, but Jean-Paul reflects Friday-Robinson; Edouard loves Angelica, his Flemish mistress, but Edouard-Angelica mirrors Francois Jaubert and Marthe Grangier of Raymond Radiguet’s Le Diable au corps (1923; Devil in the Flesh, 1932). Many of these couples are socially interdicted: the teenage youth and the older married woman, the female soldier and the male valet, the single parent and the adopted child. To condone or not to condone is the reader’s decision, but the overall Tournier enterprise clearly seems to be a form of social engineering in which the elementary unit, the pair, is examined through disassembly and reassembly, and affinity groups are created where impossible matings once existed. The ultimate couple is Heredity plus Environment. For Tournier, the confines of this dual prison, though not escapable, can be expanded.