Journal of Romance Studies

A question of scale? Lázló Almásy’s desert mapping and its postcolonial rewriting

Journal of Romance Studies (2011), 11, (1), 63–77.

Abstract

In the wake of postcolonial studies, questions of power and space have gained pivotal significance and geography has become a powerful tool in cultural analysis. However, the simple and metaphorical use of spatial metaphors, such as the cultural appropriation of mapping and cartography, is problematic in so far as it presumes that space is not complex. The understanding of scale in this article thus does not pretend to be either simple or metaphorical, but rather it signifies a ‘circulatory site’, both a ratio used in cartographic practice and a useful tool to discuss the circulation of meaning among imperial and postcolonial discursive practices. Lázló Almásy was romanticized in Michael Ondaatje’s The English Patient as a love-driven idealist against the backdrop of the somewhat blurred movement of imperial cartographic practice. By looking at Almásy’s 1930s narratives of desert cartography (Schwimmer in der Wüste [Swimmer in the Desert] and Mit Rommels Armee in Libyen [With Rommel’s Army in Libya]), particularly the quest for the Oasis Zarzura, as well as at the articles published by the Geographical Journal of the Royal Geographical Society from 1933 to 1952, a clear-cut image of a power-driven imperial cartography arises that clashes with Ondaatje’s naive depiction. The article draws on the contradictory constellations of desert cartography to discuss the following themes: 1. the very notion of fluidity in the literary and cultural appropriation of cartography, that allows for a problematic blur between hegemony and emergence; and 2. ‘scale’ as a possible and useful analytical tool for the mediation between these two seemingly incompatible positions.

Access Token
£25.00
If you have private access to this content, please log in with your username and password here

Almásy, Ladislaus Eduard von (1936) Récentes explorations dans le désert libyque (1932–1934) (Cairo: E. and R. Schindler). Récentes explorations dans le désert libyque (1932–1934) Google Scholar

Almásy, Ladislaus Eduard von (1940) Unbekannte Sahara, ed. Hansjoachim von der Esch (Leipzig: Brockhaus). Unbekannte Sahara Google Scholar

Almásy, Ladislaus Eduard von (1998) Schwimmer in der Wüste, ed. Raoul Schrott and Michael Farin (Munich: dtv). Schwimmer in der Wüste Google Scholar

Almásy, Ladislaus Eduard von (2001) With Rommel’s Army in Libya, introd. Janós Kubassek, trans. from Hungarian Gabriel Francis Horchler (Bloomington: 1st Books Library). With Rommel’s Army in Libya Google Scholar

Appadurai, Arjun (1996) Modernity at Large: Cultural Dimensions of Globalization (Minneapolis: Minnesota University Press). Modernity at Large: Cultural Dimensions of Globalization Google Scholar

Ashcroft, Bill; Gareth Griffiths and Helen Tiffin (eds) (2002) The Empire Writes Back (London: Routledge). The Empire Writes Back Google Scholar

Bagnold, Ralph Alger (1937) ‘The last of the Zerzura legend: review’, The Geographical Journal 89.3, 265–8. The last of the Zerzura legend: review The Geographical Journal 89.3 265 8 Google Scholar

Bagnold, Ralph Alger (1990) Sand, Wind and War: Memoirs of a Desert Explorer (Tucson: University of Arizona Press). Sand, Wind and War: Memoirs of a Desert Explorer Google Scholar

Bal, Mieke (2002) Travelling Concepts in the Humanities: A Rough Guide (Toronto: University of Toronto Press). Travelling Concepts in the Humanities: A Rough Guide Google Scholar

Barthes, Roland (1982) Fragments d’un discours amoureux (Paris: Seuil). Fragments d’un discours amoureux Google Scholar

Bauman, Zygmunt (2000) Liquid Modernity (London: Verso). Liquid Modernity Google Scholar

Baudrillard, Jean (1988) America (New York: Verso). America Google Scholar

Bermann, Richard alias Arnold Höllriegel (2003) Zarzura: Die Oase der kleinen Vögel (Munich: Belleville) (published in instalments, Neue Freie Presse, August-October 1933). Zarzura: Die Oase der kleinen Vögel Google Scholar

Bermann, Richard alias Arnold Höllriegel (1934) ‘Historic problems of the Libyan Desert’, The Geographical Journal 83.6, 456–63. Historic problems of the Libyan Desert The Geographical Journal 83.6 456 63 Google Scholar

Braudel, Fernand (1949) La Mediterranée et le monde mediterranéen à l’époque de Philippe II (Paris: Armand Colin). La Mediterranée et le monde mediterranéen à l’époque de Philippe II Google Scholar

Certeau, Michel de (1990) L’Invention du quotidien: 1. Les arts de faire (Paris: Gallimard). L’Invention du quotidien: 1. Les arts de faire Google Scholar

Clayton-East-Clayton, Dorothy (1933) ‘The lost oasis across the Sand Sea: a posthumous narrative’, Times of London (September 16), 11. The lost oasis across the Sand Sea: a posthumous narrative Times of London 11 Google Scholar

Doyle, Laura and Laura Winkler (eds) (2005) Geomodernisms: Race, Modernism, Modernity (Bloomington: Indiana University Press). Geomodernisms: Race, Modernism, Modernity Google Scholar

Genette, Gerard (1982) Palimpsestes. La littérature au second degré (Paris: Éditions du Seuil). Palimpsestes. La littérature au second degré Google Scholar

Gerhard Rohlfs, Gerhard (1875) Drei Monate in der Libyschen Wüste (Kassel: Fischer). Drei Monate in der Libyschen Wüste Google Scholar

Gilroy, Paul (1993) The Black Atlantic: Modernity and Double Consciousness (Cambridge MA: Harvard University Press). The Black Atlantic: Modernity and Double Consciousness Google Scholar

Grond, Walter (2002) Almásy (Innsbruck: Haymon). Almásy Google Scholar

Huyssen, Andreas (2005) ‘Geographies of Modernism in a globalizing world’, in Geographies of Modernism. Literatures, Cultures, Spaces, ed. Peter Brooker and Andrew Thacker (London: Routledge), 6–18. Geographies of Modernism in a globalizing world Geographies of Modernism. Literatures, Cultures, Spaces 6 18 Google Scholar

Katz, Cindy and Neil Smith (1993) ‘Grounding metaphor: towards a spatialized politics’, in Place and the Politics of Identity, ed. Michael Keith and Steve Pile (New York: Routledge), 65–82. Grounding metaphor: towards a spatialized politics Place and the Politics of Identity 65 82 Google Scholar

Lefebvre, Henri (1991) The Production of Space (Oxford: Blackwell). The Production of Space Google Scholar

Lejeune, Philippe (1986) Moi aussi (Paris: Seuil). Moi aussi Google Scholar

Madany, Osama (2008) ‘The sea and the desert in modern Egyptian writing’, in Fleeting, Floating, Flowing: Water Writing and Modernity, ed. Isabel Capeloa Gil (Würzburg: Königshausen & Neumann), 135–60. The sea and the desert in modern Egyptian writing Fleeting, Floating, Flowing: Water Writing and Modernity 135 60 Google Scholar

Massey, Doreen (2005) For Space (London: Sage). For Space Google Scholar

Mignolo, Walter (2000) Local Histories/Global Designs: Coloniality, Subaltern Knowledges and Border Thinking (Princeton: Princeton University Press). Local Histories/Global Designs: Coloniality, Subaltern Knowledges and Border Thinking Google Scholar

Mignolo, Walter (1997) The Darker Side of the Renaissance: Literacy, Territoriality and Colonization (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press). The Darker Side of the Renaissance: Literacy, Territoriality and Colonization Google Scholar

Murray, George William (1951) ‘Obituary: Ladislas Almásy’, The Geographical Journal 117.2, 253–54. Obituary: Ladislas Almásy The Geographical Journal 117.2 253 54 Google Scholar

Ondaatje, Michael (1992) The English Patient (London: Bloomsbury). The English Patient Google Scholar

Penderel, Hubert (1934) ‘The Gilf Kebir’, The Geographical Journal 83–6, 449–56. The Gilf Kebir The Geographical Journal 83–6 449 56 Google Scholar

Piper, Karen (2002) Cartographic Fictions: Maps, Race and Identity (New Brunswick: Rutgers University Press). Cartographic Fictions: Maps, Race and Identity Google Scholar

Rich, Adrienne (1986) Blood, Bread and Poetry: Selected Prose (New York: W.W. Norton). Blood, Bread and Poetry: Selected Prose Google Scholar

Said, Edward (1978) Orientalism: Western Conceptions of the Orient (Harmondsworth: Penguin). Orientalism: Western Conceptions of the Orient Google Scholar

Schmitz-Emans, Monika and Uwe Lindemann (2000) Was ist eine Wüste? Interdisziplinäre Annäherungen an einen interkulturellen Topos (Würzburg: Königshausen & Neumann). Was ist eine Wüste? Interdisziplinäre Annäherungen an einen interkulturellen Topos Google Scholar

Soja, Edward (1989) Postmodern Geographies: The Reassertion of Space in Critical Social Theory (London: Verso). Postmodern Geographies: The Reassertion of Space in Critical Social Theory Google Scholar

Sool, Reet (1999) ‘K for Katherine: the notion of nationality in Ondaatje’s The English Patient’, in Re-Constructing the Fragments of Michael Ondaatje’s Works, ed. Jean-Michel Lacroix (Paris: Presses Universitaires de La Sorbonne Nouvelle), 169–79. K for Katherine: the notion of nationality in Ondaatje’s The English Patient Re-Constructing the Fragments of Michael Ondaatje’s Works 169 79 Google Scholar

Spivak, Gayatri (1990) ‘Postcoloniality and value’, in Literary Theory Today, ed. Peter Collier and Helga Geyer-Ryan (Cambridge: Polity Press), 220–35. Postcoloniality and value Literary Theory Today 220 35 Google Scholar

Wilkinson, John Gardner (1835) Topography of Thebes and General View of Egypt (London: Murray). Topography of Thebes and General View of Egypt Google Scholar

Zepetnek, Steven Tötösy de (1999) ‘Michael Ondaatje’s The English Patient, “ History” and the “Other”’, CLCWeb, Comparative Literature and Culture 1.4, http://docs.lib.purdue.edu/clcweb/vol1/iss4/8/ [accessed 27 July 2007]. Google Scholar

Almásy, Ladislaus Eduard von (1936) Récentes explorations dans le désert libyque (1932–1934) (Cairo: E. and R. Schindler). Récentes explorations dans le désert libyque (1932–1934) Google Scholar

Almásy, Ladislaus Eduard von (1940) Unbekannte Sahara, ed. Hansjoachim von der Esch (Leipzig: Brockhaus). Unbekannte Sahara Google Scholar

Almásy, Ladislaus Eduard von (1998) Schwimmer in der Wüste, ed. Raoul Schrott and Michael Farin (Munich: dtv). Schwimmer in der Wüste Google Scholar

Almásy, Ladislaus Eduard von (2001) With Rommel’s Army in Libya, introd. Janós Kubassek, trans. from Hungarian Gabriel Francis Horchler (Bloomington: 1st Books Library). With Rommel’s Army in Libya Google Scholar

Appadurai, Arjun (1996) Modernity at Large: Cultural Dimensions of Globalization (Minneapolis: Minnesota University Press). Modernity at Large: Cultural Dimensions of Globalization Google Scholar

Ashcroft, Bill; Gareth Griffiths and Helen Tiffin (eds) (2002) The Empire Writes Back (London: Routledge). The Empire Writes Back Google Scholar

Bagnold, Ralph Alger (1937) ‘The last of the Zerzura legend: review’, The Geographical Journal 89.3, 265–8. The last of the Zerzura legend: review The Geographical Journal 89.3 265 8 Google Scholar

Bagnold, Ralph Alger (1990) Sand, Wind and War: Memoirs of a Desert Explorer (Tucson: University of Arizona Press). Sand, Wind and War: Memoirs of a Desert Explorer Google Scholar

Bal, Mieke (2002) Travelling Concepts in the Humanities: A Rough Guide (Toronto: University of Toronto Press). Travelling Concepts in the Humanities: A Rough Guide Google Scholar

Barthes, Roland (1982) Fragments d’un discours amoureux (Paris: Seuil). Fragments d’un discours amoureux Google Scholar

Bauman, Zygmunt (2000) Liquid Modernity (London: Verso). Liquid Modernity Google Scholar

Baudrillard, Jean (1988) America (New York: Verso). America Google Scholar

Bermann, Richard alias Arnold Höllriegel (2003) Zarzura: Die Oase der kleinen Vögel (Munich: Belleville) (published in instalments, Neue Freie Presse, August-October 1933). Zarzura: Die Oase der kleinen Vögel Google Scholar

Bermann, Richard alias Arnold Höllriegel (1934) ‘Historic problems of the Libyan Desert’, The Geographical Journal 83.6, 456–63. Historic problems of the Libyan Desert The Geographical Journal 83.6 456 63 Google Scholar

Braudel, Fernand (1949) La Mediterranée et le monde mediterranéen à l’époque de Philippe II (Paris: Armand Colin). La Mediterranée et le monde mediterranéen à l’époque de Philippe II Google Scholar

Certeau, Michel de (1990) L’Invention du quotidien: 1. Les arts de faire (Paris: Gallimard). L’Invention du quotidien: 1. Les arts de faire Google Scholar

Clayton-East-Clayton, Dorothy (1933) ‘The lost oasis across the Sand Sea: a posthumous narrative’, Times of London (September 16), 11. The lost oasis across the Sand Sea: a posthumous narrative Times of London 11 Google Scholar

Doyle, Laura and Laura Winkler (eds) (2005) Geomodernisms: Race, Modernism, Modernity (Bloomington: Indiana University Press). Geomodernisms: Race, Modernism, Modernity Google Scholar

Genette, Gerard (1982) Palimpsestes. La littérature au second degré (Paris: Éditions du Seuil). Palimpsestes. La littérature au second degré Google Scholar

Gerhard Rohlfs, Gerhard (1875) Drei Monate in der Libyschen Wüste (Kassel: Fischer). Drei Monate in der Libyschen Wüste Google Scholar

Gilroy, Paul (1993) The Black Atlantic: Modernity and Double Consciousness (Cambridge MA: Harvard University Press). The Black Atlantic: Modernity and Double Consciousness Google Scholar

Grond, Walter (2002) Almásy (Innsbruck: Haymon). Almásy Google Scholar

Huyssen, Andreas (2005) ‘Geographies of Modernism in a globalizing world’, in Geographies of Modernism. Literatures, Cultures, Spaces, ed. Peter Brooker and Andrew Thacker (London: Routledge), 6–18. Geographies of Modernism in a globalizing world Geographies of Modernism. Literatures, Cultures, Spaces 6 18 Google Scholar

Katz, Cindy and Neil Smith (1993) ‘Grounding metaphor: towards a spatialized politics’, in Place and the Politics of Identity, ed. Michael Keith and Steve Pile (New York: Routledge), 65–82. Grounding metaphor: towards a spatialized politics Place and the Politics of Identity 65 82 Google Scholar

Lefebvre, Henri (1991) The Production of Space (Oxford: Blackwell). The Production of Space Google Scholar

Lejeune, Philippe (1986) Moi aussi (Paris: Seuil). Moi aussi Google Scholar

Madany, Osama (2008) ‘The sea and the desert in modern Egyptian writing’, in Fleeting, Floating, Flowing: Water Writing and Modernity, ed. Isabel Capeloa Gil (Würzburg: Königshausen & Neumann), 135–60. The sea and the desert in modern Egyptian writing Fleeting, Floating, Flowing: Water Writing and Modernity 135 60 Google Scholar

Massey, Doreen (2005) For Space (London: Sage). For Space Google Scholar

Mignolo, Walter (2000) Local Histories/Global Designs: Coloniality, Subaltern Knowledges and Border Thinking (Princeton: Princeton University Press). Local Histories/Global Designs: Coloniality, Subaltern Knowledges and Border Thinking Google Scholar

Mignolo, Walter (1997) The Darker Side of the Renaissance: Literacy, Territoriality and Colonization (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press). The Darker Side of the Renaissance: Literacy, Territoriality and Colonization Google Scholar

Murray, George William (1951) ‘Obituary: Ladislas Almásy’, The Geographical Journal 117.2, 253–54. Obituary: Ladislas Almásy The Geographical Journal 117.2 253 54 Google Scholar

Ondaatje, Michael (1992) The English Patient (London: Bloomsbury). The English Patient Google Scholar

Penderel, Hubert (1934) ‘The Gilf Kebir’, The Geographical Journal 83–6, 449–56. The Gilf Kebir The Geographical Journal 83–6 449 56 Google Scholar

Piper, Karen (2002) Cartographic Fictions: Maps, Race and Identity (New Brunswick: Rutgers University Press). Cartographic Fictions: Maps, Race and Identity Google Scholar

Rich, Adrienne (1986) Blood, Bread and Poetry: Selected Prose (New York: W.W. Norton). Blood, Bread and Poetry: Selected Prose Google Scholar

Said, Edward (1978) Orientalism: Western Conceptions of the Orient (Harmondsworth: Penguin). Orientalism: Western Conceptions of the Orient Google Scholar

Schmitz-Emans, Monika and Uwe Lindemann (2000) Was ist eine Wüste? Interdisziplinäre Annäherungen an einen interkulturellen Topos (Würzburg: Königshausen & Neumann). Was ist eine Wüste? Interdisziplinäre Annäherungen an einen interkulturellen Topos Google Scholar

Soja, Edward (1989) Postmodern Geographies: The Reassertion of Space in Critical Social Theory (London: Verso). Postmodern Geographies: The Reassertion of Space in Critical Social Theory Google Scholar

Sool, Reet (1999) ‘K for Katherine: the notion of nationality in Ondaatje’s The English Patient’, in Re-Constructing the Fragments of Michael Ondaatje’s Works, ed. Jean-Michel Lacroix (Paris: Presses Universitaires de La Sorbonne Nouvelle), 169–79. K for Katherine: the notion of nationality in Ondaatje’s The English Patient Re-Constructing the Fragments of Michael Ondaatje’s Works 169 79 Google Scholar

Spivak, Gayatri (1990) ‘Postcoloniality and value’, in Literary Theory Today, ed. Peter Collier and Helga Geyer-Ryan (Cambridge: Polity Press), 220–35. Postcoloniality and value Literary Theory Today 220 35 Google Scholar

Wilkinson, John Gardner (1835) Topography of Thebes and General View of Egypt (London: Murray). Topography of Thebes and General View of Egypt Google Scholar

Zepetnek, Steven Tötösy de (1999) ‘Michael Ondaatje’s The English Patient, “ History” and the “Other”’, CLCWeb, Comparative Literature and Culture 1.4, http://docs.lib.purdue.edu/clcweb/vol1/iss4/8/ [accessed 27 July 2007]. Google Scholar

If you have private access to this content, please log in with your username and password here

Details

Author details

Gil, Isabel Capeloa