Narratives of the Literary Island: European Poetics of the Social System after 1945

Author: Ioana Andreescu, School for High Studies in Social Sciences, France
Published: November 2015

Citation: Andreescu, I. (2015). Narratives of the Literary Island: European Poetics of the Social System after 1945. IAFOR Journal of Literature & Librarianship, 4(1).


In European post-war literature, the topos of the island takes centre stage, as the insular space often narrates a micro-scale society and the reconstruction of its social system. Isolation, semantically derived from "island", characterises a European society radically transformed by the traumatic violence of the twentieth century. In this context, Robinson Crusoe — the "rational adult white man" — is recreated and reinvented in a multitude of new meanings, newly significant for understanding a transformed (and in-transformation) European society: he is cruel, he is afraid, he is a child, he is a woman, he is alone among others. The hypothesis of this paper is that the interest in and updating of Robinson Crusoe’s story transform this narrative into a literary myth, invested via intertextual and palimpsestic approaches with “a programme of truth” (Veyne 1983) that reveals a continuous interest in an alternative social system, which is in-the-making, historically, socially, psychologically, geopolitically, and so on. The literary post-war island narratives considered here, The Magus (1965) by John Fowles and Friday, or, the Other Island (1967) by Michel Tournier, highlight the process of the rewriting and rescaling of European history, as well as the essential need for human values in the creation of a society that has economics at its core.


Robinson Crusoe, myth, power, ideology, capitalism, individualism, palimpsest, postmodernism, postcolonialism