Cirano de Bergerac (Savinien)

Cirano de Bergerac (Savinien)

French writer
Date of Birth: 06.03.1619
Country: France

Biography of Cyrano de Bergerac (Savinien)

Cyrano de Bergerac, a French writer and playwright, achieved immortality not through his own works, but thanks to another playwright, Edmond Rostand, who wrote a play about his life that is now performed in theaters worldwide. Cyrano de Bergerac passed away on July 28, 1655. His life was full of remarkable events, resembling the pages of Alexandre Dumas' novel about the audacious musketeers and their beautiful ladies.

Cyrano de Bergerac was born in 1619, six years after the real-life d'Artagnan. Dumas' fictional character came into being seven years before his historical prototype, perhaps to allow him to grow up in time for the dramatic climax of the story. However, contrary to popular belief, Cyrano was not a Gascon. Despite his name, fiery temperament, and a rather prominent nose, he did not hail from Gascony. Interestingly, Cyrano believed that his nose, which he considered disfiguring, contributed to his brash and dueling nature – he was willing to draw his sword against anyone who looked at that part of his face askew. Sometimes, he did not even wait for any disapproving glances, preemptively unsheathing his sword just in case. This was reminiscent of d'Artagnan's story involving a palomino horse.

In fact, Cyrano was not a Gascon and was not even the owner of the Bergerac estate in Gascony. He was born in Paris and belonged to the respectable bourgeois class. His grandfather had once purchased the Bergerac estate, but it was sold by his father shortly after Cyrano's birth. By the way, his father's name was Abel Cyrano, so it is Cyrano's surname that should be considered the playwright's true family name. As for his given names, he later came up with many, mostly heroic ones, such as Alexandre (after Alexander the Great) and Hercule (Hercules in the French manner). However, his actual name was Savinien. Savinien Cyrano.

Despite his somewhat bourgeois background, Cyrano displayed an unrelenting belligerence from childhood, a characteristic necessary for any self-respecting musketeer during that time. Many of the episodes involving duels, fights, and other martial encounters described in Cyrano's works were taken from his own life. It is no wonder that the only life path he envisioned for himself was warfare, culminating in a marshal's baton as a worthy compensation for all the inconveniences it entailed.

Unfortunately, this destiny was not meant to come true. Otherwise, we would have had another romantic hero no less worthy than d'Artagnan. In his very first war, the Thirty Years' War, Cyrano received two wounds in quick succession, the second of which was nearly fatal. During the siege of Arras in 1640, he was impaled on the neck by a rapier. That marked the end of his military career, and our hero embarked on a civilian life, living out his days aimlessly – such was the fate of most soldiers who, for some reason, returned alive and tried to find their place in peacetime. According to the conventions of the genre, this would be the end of Cyrano's biography. But the most interesting part was just beginning.

With nothing else to occupy his time, Cyrano de Bergerac turned to writing, and his works were quite amusing. His friend, Henri Le Bret, published his creations after his death, but had to heavily edit them to avoid angering the church and accusations of heresy. The descriptions left by Cyrano in many of his works and diaries are considered by some as pure science fiction, while others take them more seriously. Cyrano tells us about eternal lamps, the construction of a three-stage rocket for space travel, and describes weightlessness and his personal sensations during it. His descriptions are so close to the real experiences of astronauts that it is hard to believe that he dreamed it all up during a bumpy carriage ride. Cyrano also mentions his flight from the suburbs of Paris to Canada, near the St. Lawrence River, on some kind of flying machine. This journey took him 5-6 hours, meaning the machine was flying at a speed comparable to modern supersonic liners. Cyrano also mentions enormous luminescent cities moving across the lunar surface and devices for recording and reproducing sounds. In his descriptions, they are presented as "books that can be read without using sight – one just needs to listen. The machine speaks as if with a human mouth or like a musical instrument, producing a variety of sounds." One can only wonder where Cyrano de Bergerac found anything in 17th century France that would inspire such strange fantasies. Or perhaps it was not the product of his imagination at all?