Pour la plupart, Cyrano est aujourd'hui connu comme le héros fictif d'une pièce de théâtre : on le reconnait seulement en mal aimé au nez prodigieux. C'est inattendu, mais le vrai Cyrano est plus vif, plus drôle et plus moderne encore que cette image romantique et grotesque à la fois qu'Edmond Rostand aurait fait de lui. Paradoxalement, le vrai reste à l'ombre de sa propre gloire et on l'oublie malgré sa renommée.
"Avant la légende il y avait une vie, avant le héros il y avait un homme."
Savinien Cyrano fut un soldat-poète à l'âge des mousquetaires, et ses talents de duelliste étaient aussi dangereux que son don pour la satire. Ce fut l'un des premiers écrivains au monde à écrire une oeuvre de science fiction, un envol dans l'espace plein de fantaisie et d'invention. Le vrai Cyrano risqua sa vie non seulement dans ses duels ou à la guerre, mais également en critiquant âprement l'Eglise et l'Etat. Bisexuel ou homosexuel lui-même, il a surtout essayé d'enseigner la tolérance et la compréhension. Fait remarquable, il a toujours refusé de croire que l'amour (sous n'importe quelle forme) pourrait jamais être immoral. Plus étonnant encore, il se fit le héraut d'un message environnementaliste qu'on aurait toujours besoin d'écouter, même aujourd'hui. Il dénonça l'arrogance de l'être humain qui se considère comme au-dessus des lois de la nature.
Comment alors est-ce qu'un écrivain de talent, un vrai aventurier intellectuel finit-il par être connu seulement en caricature? Le vrai Cyrano a inspiré la jalousie, la peur et la haine mais aussi et d'autant plus, l'admiration, la fidélité et l'amour. Son histoire tient à la fois d'une intrigue littéraire et d'un meurtre mystérieux. Avant tout, c'est l'histoire d'un homme qui mérite d'être loué pour son indépendance d'esprit, son courage héroïque, son humeur étincelante, sa générosité et sa créativité foisonnante.
Ishbel Addyman est née en 1976 à York, elle a étudié à l'université d'Oxford et à l'Unversité Paul Valery de Montpellier. Cyrano est son premier livre.
CYRANO The Life and Legend of Cyrano de Bergerac by Ishbel Addyman, Published by Simon & Schuster in hardback on 4 February 2008, priced £16.99
"In truth, it is a very great consolation to me to be hated because I am loved; to find enemies everywhere because I have friends everywhere and to see that my unhappiness stems from my good fortune". Cyrano de Bergerac.
In 1897, Edmund Rostand premiered a play in Paris that took the city by storm. A huge overnight success, the story of Cyrano de Bergerac has since been retold in poems, novels and plays, as an opera and even a ballet and, in films such as Roxanne in 1987, starring Steve Martin. However, even after all this, many people still don't realise that Cyrano actually existed nearly 400 years ago. Instead, he is only thought of as a fictional character, a lovelorn eccentric with a big nose.
Now Ishbel Addyman has written the first ever biography (in English) of "the man behind the nose" and reveals that the real Cyrano was sharper, funnier and, ironically, more modern than the romantic hero he inspired. The real Cyrano was a paradoxical figure, a poet and master swordsman. He let it be believed that he was descended from an aristocratic family and in his own lifetime he polarised opinion - he was much loved and much hated. Many myths have grown up around him which if not entirely false, certainly contain embellishments. However, he did begin his career as a soldier and fought alongside the original D'Artagnan (made famous in Alexander Dumas's tale The Three Musketeers). It was reputed that Cyrano single-handedly vanquished a crowd of hired assassins said to be as many as 100-strong. This incident was typical of the man whose insane daring made him a legend in French history.
What is less known today is that Cyrano was a respected writer of his time and an important inspiration to other, perhaps more illustrious figures such as Molière, Voltaire, Jonathan Swift, Jules Verne and H.G. Wells. He wrote stage plays in verse, letters and a prose masterpiece that is one of the earliest examples of science-fiction. He employed his sharp tongue and satirical pen in daring criticism of both church and state. His harrowing personal experiences had made him a staunch opponent of France's bloody foreign policy. He even coined the phrase "Make Love not War". Cyrano was also, more than likely, a homosexual. He refused to regard this as a sin and his independent thinking was years ahead of his time. This meant his life was under constant threat and his legendary duelling skills were certainly put to good use. Tragically, he died in mysterious circumstances, and the truth about his death has only recently come to light.
Paradoxically, his own self-promotion was so successful that his legend eventually eclipsed the original. Part murder mystery, part literary detective story, Ishbel Addyman presents a fascinating insight into the heroically courageous, sparklingly witty and unfailingly good-humoured man behind the legend.
Ishbel Addyman was born in North Yorkshire in 1976. She was educated at Oxford University and Paul Valéry University in Montpellier. She took fencing lessons in preparation for writing about the legendary duellist Cyrano de Bergerac but is not yet up to fighting off one hundred assailants single-handedly. This is her first book and she is available for interview or to write features. Please contact Sue Stephens on 020 7316 1961 to discuss.