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Friday Paperback – March 18, 1997
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"A fascinating, unusual novel... a remarkably heady French wine in the old English bottle... Tournier has attempted nothing less than an exploration of the soul of modern man."(New York Times Book Review)
" Friday is the latest and one of the best examples of the French genius for revisionism―for ringing original variations on a traditional theme. It is also unique in that enterprise because it is so moving, so touching in its elegance, so simple in its art."(Richard Howard)
"Like [Crusoe's island], Tournier's novel is unique, self-sufficient, imaginative, well worth exploring, and with a number of minor miracles to reveal."(Time)
"M. Tournier is a cultivated and disciplined writer, and his Robinson, the son of a Yorkshire draper, is most likable... [T]he castaway has that quaint and peculiarly English stolidity that seems to exist only in the imagination of the French."(New Yorker)
"Defoe's book is distinguished by an unawareness of the psychology of solitude; nothing happens. Michel Tournier, however, has placed his man in precisely the same situation of static impotence, and then proceeds to illustrate a personal development as passionate and variegated as anyone could wish."(New Statesman)
Text: English (translation)
Original Language: French
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These terms are my constructs and are used to more easily convey the concept entailed then otherwise would be possible. Tournier was more concerned with Colonialism but Colonialism and justification are tied closely together. Justification if merely the rational the individual uses in order to create and or react to the social constructs around him or her.
There are five stages in Tournier's examination of the two competing models of justification. The first stage is the period when Robinson is first on the island and he is lost and desolate. During this period Robinson is spiraling emotionally and has not direction or reason for any action of thought. The second stage is Robinson's discovery and usage of the environmental justification model. Robinson uses a set of strict rules to give himself justification. The third stage is the introduction of Friday and his self-justification model. In this stage Robinson and we are introduced to a person who subscribes to a diametrically opposed view of life then does Robinson. The fourth stage is the conflict of two ideas and Robinson's gradual migration to Friday's mode of thinking. This is begun with the catalyst of the explosion of Robinson's storage depot in the cave. The fifth and last stage is the reflection on the end result of the choices made on the island. Little is said or shown of this stage. We are merely shown Friday running off with the visiting sailors and Robinson's adoption and reaction of the ships boy Sunday.
The two models of justification clash in the persona of Robinson and Friday. Neither individual understands why the other does what he does. Robinson thinks that Friday is a savage who needs to be taught and reformed. Ironically Robinson's idea of reform is a form of servitude to him by Friday.
This novel shows us the benefits of self-justification versus environmental justification. I do not believe that the novel makes a definitive case for one method of thinking or the either. I do believe that the novel shows conclusively that the extremes of environmental justification are less desirable then the extremes of self-justification. This is true at least when a small number of individuals are involved. The novel does not address, nor is it capable of addressing, the best mixture of the two modes of thought. A balance between the two is inevitable for successful coexistence but the answer does not lie in Tournier's Friday.
This is a very witty and original novel, with many things to enjoy for those who are familiar with Defoe's book. At long last we find out that Crusoe did have some kind of sexuality after all...
When Crusoe tries to use agriculture to provide for his food, he is accused of "avarice" by the author. How much better to do it Friday's way, just lying on a hammock under a tree and getting fruit by throwing stones to the branches! No work to get food, just living with nature. As though this method of providing for our needs could be used by all but a few privileged! If this were done by everyone, millions would starve. It is the typical ecologist mistake, wanting to get back to a mythical past that never happened except in their imaginations.
Defoe's original Robinson Crusoe was much better than this unnecessary remake.