Some types of research you simply cannot quantify, such as a chance text message to a friend in Brussels about my search for novels set in Nantes. The results: he sent me a link to the WordPress site of the Novelists of Nantes or in French, Les Romanciers Nantais. From over 120 books by about 30 contemporary authors from in and around Nantes my first selection is a set of three. Only deciding by the publicity on their web-site, my first selection are novels that use named streets or places that can be found in Nantes today, or at least say they are set in contemporary Nantes.
Via their WordPress Comments box I am attempting to make contact with the novelists to see if any would like to tell me about the places they use in their narratives. In my doctoral research I identify key moments in the detective novel, The Yellow Dog, when Maigret, the character, is in the exact same spot that Simenon, the author, would have known (Mansfield 2015, 189-190):
In The Yellow Dog, Le Chien jaune, the White Sands area is used as the setting for the home of Concarneau’s mayor, which, the novel says, is three kilometres from Concarneau (Simenon 1931). From a linguistic point of view the moment in the story when Maigret arrives at this place, where the author rented a villa, a complex form of writing style has been detected and classified as a category of verbless phrase, ‘une événementielle’ (an event phrase) by Combettes & Kuyumcuyan (2010, 31):
Au sommet de la falaise, un hôtel, ou plutôt un futur hôtel, inachevé, aux murs d’un blanc cru, aux fenêtres closes à l’aide de planches et de carton. (Simenon 1931, 35)
A literal translation of this yields an ungrammatical sentence since it lacks verbs, and would read as a list. It also lacks an observer; no one is identified as seeing the hotel:
‘At the top of the cliff, a hotel, or rather a future hotel, unfinished, with walls of a raw white, with windows sealed by planks and by cardboard.’ (translation mine)
This événementielle (event phrase) is very exciting as a point where the lives of both the author and their character collide, and this place in the city has a strong potential as the site for a toureme for future visitors who know the writing of that author.
Combettes, B. & Kuyumcuyan, A. (2010) ‘Les enjeux interprétatifs de la prédication averbale dans un corpus narratif : énoncés nominaux et représentation fictionnelle de processus énonciatifs et cognitifs’, Discours (6).
Mansfield, C. (2015) Researching Literary Tourism, Plymouth: Shadows.
Simenon, G. (1931) Le Chien jaune, Paris, Fayard.
Simenon, G. trans. Asher, L. rev. Penguin (2003) The Yellow Dog, London, Penguin.