This is a retelling of Robinson Crusoe by the French writer Michel Tournier, who I read earlier in the year for his anti-Nazi novel, The Ogre. This novel also won various French literary prizes. This retelling does a few things that I found really interesting and satisfying. It is NOT a retelling of the novel from Friday’s point of view. Those kinds of novels are out there by now, and Michel Tournier just isn’t that kind of post-colonial writer. Instead, this novel switches from the narrow first person point of view of the original and gives us a third person narrator who can observe Robinson, not just reflect his journals. Robinson Crusoe is a Pangloss kind of figure in his novel, seeing Europe as the best of all worlds and needing to recreate that in his island. It’s true here as well, until he meets Friday.
Friday is not European, and instead sees life not as the kind of Enlightenment ideal of social progress moving toward a future providence (predating but anticipating capitalism and especially the mythos of capitalism) and instead focuses on living the life at hand.
As an American in the early part of the 21st century, I, too, have a problem living the life dealt to me, rather than focusing on the American and capitalistic ideals. This is a curious novel too in which Robinson’s affection for Friday has a kind of homosocial element, which is to be expected, and we see what would happen if Robinson simply gave up the structures and ideals of modern society, and focused more on his actual life.