Michel Tournier is possibly France's most widely acclaimed modern novelist, a writer who explores complex philosophical questions in the guise of concrete, imagistic narratives. His texts demand academic scrutiny, but Tournier also actively encourages a different form of reception. His habit of performing abridged versions of his stories before a "live" (frequently young) audience explicitly links his work to the oral tradition of the storyteller. This solicits an holistic rather than deconstructive approach on the part of the reader. This study of Tournier's fiction privileges the notion of literary reference, by which the world of the text is understood or experienced in metaphorical relation to the world outside of it. Metaphor, viewed as a linguistic entity and principle cognition, opens the door to the writer's imagination and, in the context of Tournier's fiction, shows how the fantastic merges with the real to provide new perspectives on many diverse aspects of the modern world: the Crusoe myth, Nazism, the value to society of art and religion, and the nature of education.