Moon Palace (Paul Auster)

Savinien Cyrano de Bergerac

“The real one”
Savinien Cyrano de Bergerac did really exist. He was born in Paris in 1619. First he was a soldier – known as expert swordsman, great duellist and Bohemian. Later on in his life he started studying (his teacher was the philosopher Pierre Gassendi) and writing, most of all fiction and political satire. He made up stories about people travelling to the moon and sun and therefore had an impact on later science-fiction authors like Jules Verne (!) and H.G. Wells. On his “journey to the moon” Cyrano meets the demon of Socrates who tells him: “If there is something you men cannot understand, you either imagine that it is spiritual or that it does not exists. Both conclusions are quite false. The proof of this is the fact that there are perhaps a million things in the universe, which you would need a million quite different organs to know. Myself, for example, I know from my senses what attracts the lodestone to the pole, how the tides pull the sea, what becomes of an animal after its death.” His nearly philosophic ideas influenced people like Voltaire and Jonathan Swift.

He died in 1655 when a beam hit is head –whether this was an accident or somebody trying to kill him is not quite clear. Arthur C. Clarke thought the stories of Cyrano to be very important for the development of space travelling since he is the first author ever mentioning this topic. Cyrano wrote for example:
“I foresaw very well, that the vacuity that would happen in the icosahedron, by reason of the sunbeams, united by the concave glasses, would, to fill up the space, attract a great abundance of air, whereby my box would be carried up; and that proportionable as I mounted, the rushing wind that should force it through the hole, could not rise to the roof, but that furiously penetrating the machine, it must needs force it upon high.”

He seems to have been very individualistic – he thought very progressively (being against death penalty and war) – this character brought problems with it, for example in the army when he had problems adjusting discipline. His works were often described as blasphemous because he dared criticizing society and describing political situations and people of his time satirically. But this humanitarian, progressive, individualistic way of thinking and living made him an idol for following generations. Descriptions of him show a sceptically smiling man, with thin moustaches – and in fact he seemed to have had a large nose.

“The literate one”
The historical figure of Cyrano de Bergerac was chosen by many writers as protagonist for their romantic plays and novels. In 1897 Edmond Rostand wrote the most famous play about him: Cyrano is described as a “charming soldier” who loves a beauty called Roxane, but because of his large nose this love is very unhappy. Cyrano who is a very talented writer helps his handsome friend Christian to woo Roxane by love letters he writes in Christian’s name. Roxane marries him, but he dies before he can reveal the true story about the letters. Roxane joins a convent where she lives for 14 years. Cyrano visits her every week to tell her news from town. One day he is attacked by his enemies and strongly injured visits her a last time. Roxane does not recognise he’s dying and reads the letter to him, that Christian last sent her and that she always carries with her. When Cyrano – dying – speaks the last words of the letter by heart, Roxane knows the truth: she recognises she has loved Cyrano all the time for he has written all the letters – but he dies.
There are also a couple of films about Cyrano de Bergerac (played by Jose Ferrer (who won an Oscar for this movie) and Gerard Depardieu.

Marco and Cyrano?
Like the literate Cyrano, Marco has problems with his identity – Cyrano because of his node that makes him an outsider, Marco because of all of his problems.
Marco admires the historical figure of Cyrano de Bergerac, who wrote very early about travels to the moon and was like Marco very interested in philosophical questions. He made up theories and fantastic stories – and of course literature played a big role in his life.
He thought progressive and had strange ideas – he was different than other people and in his time his thinking was not accepted by everybody.
Moreover, he influenced Jules Verne, who is important for Marcos quest for identity (Phileas Fogg is a character created by Jukes Verne).