Volume 21, 2019
Merleau-Ponty, Literature, and Literary Language
Le premier livre de Merleau-Ponty, un roman
In his late writings, Merleau-Ponty stressed the convergences between philosophy and literature, highlighting their “common task” of describing the world. His early philosophical texts though – both Simone de Beauvoir and Jean-Paul Sartre pointed this out – insist on demarcating themselves from literature. However, well before publishing his first monographs (The Structure of Behaviour in 1942 and Phenomenology of Perception in 1945), Merleau-Ponty had already written a book on someone else’s behalf: Nord. Récit de l’arctique, published in 1928 by French publisher Grasset. The novel, which deals with the life of an explorer in Canada’s far north, between fur trade and encounters with the Inuit, is the result of ghostwriting, carried out for a friend (Jacques Heller). Merleau-Ponty later never stood to that book. There are nonetheless some interesting motifs in this early piece of writing that prefigure his future thinking.