First published in 1928, A Voyage to the Island of the Articoles is a novella chronicling the adventure at sea of one Pierre Chambrelan and his companion Anne de Sauves.
Though they intend to cross the Pacific, a storm causes them to land on the privately owned island of Maïana, where life is devoted to the arts. The island has two castes of inhabitants: the Articoles, who spend all their time creating artworks; and the Béos, who use wealth from the island’s copious natural resources to support the Articoles. Pierre and Anne are kept on Maïana for several weeks, to see if the Articoles can draw on the pair’s experiences and personalities for material.
As well as a tale of seafaring, Maurois’s novella is a study of the dangers of insularity. The Articoles have become drawn into art so much that they have disengaged with the world and lost their empathy – their idea of madness is to think about life rather than art. Pierre starts off in his own (less extreme) state of disengagement: metaphorically adrift in life, living only for the romance of the voyage (Anne wanted to accompany him for similar reasons). His experiences on Maïana lead him to take stock, and find new connections with the world and other people. Yet here Pierre is, writing a journal of his voyage, just as the Articoles would – so perhaps he hasn’t left the past behind entirely after all. A Voyage to the Island of the Articoles is entertaining and thought-provoking in equal measure.