L’Atlas des géographes d’Orbae by François Place : The cartographic eye as poetics of the discovery of geography

Abstract : Whatever form the map takes, a special geographic image in so far as it lets us see what cannot be seen from anywhere, it is in and of itself an iconic narrative of space. It is the transcription of an eye that would be, according to Christine Buci-Glucksmann, icarian, allegorical, tautological, or entropic 1 .For François Place, author and illustrator of children's books, the profound project of his Atlas des géographesd'Orbae, published in three volumes between 1996 and 2000, is, in his own terms, a reflection on time and space, on the grand notions tied to the perception of the world and its history, on the relationship of man with his immediate environment. The Atlas functions as a collection of stories gathered into a single album which hopes to comprise a finite world: the world of Orbae. The 26 maps of the Atlas form an alphabet book, an historical account of cartography from the post-Columbian codices to the ordinance survey map of the nineteenth century. They use a same cartographic vocabulary. What I would like to propose in my intervention is a morphological and functional analysis of the maps of this book which contribute to make it " poetics of the discovery of geography, " according to the expression of geographer Eric Dardel. 2 Keywords : Map – Spatiality – Territory – Ideology – Transfert. In December 2012, while I had invited Francois Place to present his work in public, I asked him what had motivated his interest for maps and journeys, so present in all his work of children's book'sas author and illustrator. He responded: Actually, when I began to write for a collection called " Découverte Cadet " , I spent a lot of time in libraries taking notes about atlases and travel diaries. I noticed anevolution of the map and that illustrations which accompanied travel logs changed according to mentalities and time. I became interested in knowing how people perceived each other. That reveals a lot about the way we meet and understand each other. In the three picturebooks constituting L'Atlas des géographesd'Orbae, published in France between 1996 and 2000, and only the first volume of which has been translated in English in 1999, Map occupies a special place. It even forms the driving element of the dynamics of the narrative. But what is this reallyabout ? * The Atlas des geographesd'Orbae is a collection of stories, each story taking place in a fictitious land. The collection of the 26 maps which accompany each narrative constitutes an alphabet primer. In 2012, in a continuation of this trilogy, Francois Place creates a presentation box containing two novels, a map of Orbae's lands and a collection of 18 pictures. Each of these novels relates the journey of a character of the Atlas:Cornelius Van Horn, a character who appears in The Isles Indigo ; and Ziyara, who appears in Candâa Bay. Both narratives end with the characters meeting each other. In this short presentation, I would like to show how Francois Place's work is of interest to both spatial theory and the geographer that I am. The aesthetic, plastic, literary and socio-spatial analysis to which I wish to submit myself could characterize the shape, the functions and the use of Map in these picturebooks. So I will begin by questioning the choice of the title and the form of the Atlas. I will then go on to demonstrate that Francois Place reminds us with this work that there are two possible readings for an Atlas, two different but
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Contributor : Christophe Meunier <>
Submitted on : Wednesday, July 29, 2015 - 12:14:33 AM
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Christophe Meunier. L’Atlas des géographes d’Orbae by François Place : The cartographic eye as poetics of the discovery of geography. Map’s in Children’s Literature, Bergen University College, Mar 2015, Bergen, Norway. ⟨halshs-01181076⟩

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