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Front Neurol Neurosci. 2013;31:1-9. doi: 10.1159/000343238. Epub 2013 Mar 5.

Madness in blaise cendrars' novels: moravagine and company.

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Department of Neuromuscular Diseases CHU Jean-Minjoz, University of Franche-Comté, Besançon, France.


The literary work of Blaise Cendrars (1887-1961), né Frédéric Sauser, one of the major French-speaking authors of the 20th century, is imbued with references to neuropsychiatry. This theme is a constant presence in his writing as a result of his involvement of the First World War and his personal experiences, which were punctuated with neurologic and psychiatric events. Cendrars' own particular ideas on the genesis of mental disorders went against the more traditional views on psychiatry. He remained skeptical about hysteria and did not subscribe to psychoanalysis. His ideas were enriched by his experience with the war-related neuropsychiatric problems developed by soldiers. He thus proposed the notion of 'pathological fear' surrounding these disorders. There are a number of characters suffering from 'borderline' mental disorders in Cendrars' work, including two shocking, mad murderers, Moravagine and Fébronio. The character Moravagine, a neurology patient suffering from a brain tumor, enabled Cendrars to delve into the grey areas that can exist between neurologic and psychiatric diseases. Fébronio, a real psychotic, enabled Cendrars to explore ethnopsychiatry.

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