Le retour du « paradoxe du mandarin » dans la construction de l’arriviste littéraire au XIXe siècle
The Return of the “Mandarin Paradox” in the Construction of the Literary Arriviste in the XIX Century
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The “mandarin paradox” is a famous philosophical problem, mentioned in Balzac’s Père Goriot. It takes the form of a question: “what [would you] do if [you] could make a fortune by killing an old mandarin somewhere in China by mere force of wishing it, and without stirring from Paris ?” This paradox examines our conscience and the moral ability to bear an un‐ punished crime. Balzac, and other writers a9er him, wrongfully attributed this problem to Jean‐Jacques Rousseau. In our paper, we present the history of the “mandarin paradox”, showing the way Balzac reused and recreated this moral question to construct a new literary character: the arriviste. This young man, searching for a place in high society, dares to “kill the mandarin” and to build his career on this murder. Hence, his arrivisme relates to the “mandarin paradox”, notably in the Félicien Champsaur’s novel, L’Arriviste.
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