Toute femme est amère comme le fiel ; mais elle a deux bonnes heures, une au lit, l’autre à sa mort.

It’s with this quote by Pallada the Meteoro, 4th-
century BC epigrammist, that Mérimée starts in

his book; hidden under the classic misogynist tòpos
the two main themes of his work are born: “love
and death”, “eros and thanatos”.
There is no more abused poetic subject, there is no
more discussed couple; yet, Mérimée manages to
give new life to the subject, shaping characters with
archetypal contours and, therefore, immortal.
It talks about two lovers and two enemies: Don
José and Carmen, the gypsy.
He is a soldier, or a naive, who, guided by his
passion, leaves his life of duties for following her in
the ambiguous world of Gypsies, where the only
rule is the desire.
Often, however, desire is volatile, it follows the
wind and it has no abode.
Then the furious jealousy arises, the anger that
makes people blind, obscures the senses and
prefers femicide to the abandonment.

Carmen is a story of passions, dramas, and even
of picaresque adventures and expedients that are
rooted in literary culture, recalling Cervantes and
Lope de Vega, both in the same Iberian land.
Between its pages you can breathe the dryness of
the Spanish sierra, the smell of the Andalusian
flora, the gypsy spices, the sweat, the blood; you
may listen to forgotten songs, forgotten guitars,
shouts of joy and terror. Mérimée’s eruditism is
never pedantic but it gives shape to a living and
terrible, all-too-human universe.
There is a fire that animates this world, a focal
point around which everything seems to come
alive, and it is Carmen precisely, a woman whose
name is already poetry.

If the military defeats of 1808 suffered by
Napoleon in the Iberian peninsula had already
brought the fashion of Spanish exoticism into
French literature it is only in this work that, for the
first time, a gypsy plays the main role.

As the critic Jean Balsamo writes , and the force
with which he peeps in literary history is so
explosive as to make her an emblematic figure that
influences the tastes of the next generation. In
fact, the figure of Carmencita is in all the aspects
recognizable as the “femme fatale”, so dear to the
but European decadentism, not only French.

Carmen bewitches, seduces, corrupts; her dark
fascination is linked to esotericism, to magic, and
it feeds on a taste for the grotesque, for what is
She reads the cards, predicts the future or, rather,
guides the destiny.
The whole narrative could in fact be read as a path
of corruption of the naive Don José, until the final
It is difficult to judge her, to crush her under a
univocal judgment.
She doesn’t even seem human, but another
creature, wild and independent, natural, halfway
between a sorceress and a nymph.
She is called “beauté étrange et sauvage”, she
is compared to a chameleon, accompanied by
jasmine, by cassia flowers,
as if her place were not among humans but among
the scented bushes of Andalusia instead.



Léa Geoffroy

Passerini Andrea


Design @Davide Colella

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