Christiane Rochefort and the dialogic


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Christiane Rochefort and the dialogic voices of tension and intention
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Paine, Pamela Fries
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Romance Languages and Literatures thesis, Ph.D   ( lcsh )
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Thesis (Ph.D.)--University of Florida, 2000.
Includes bibliographical references (leaves 233-242).
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by Pamela Fries Paine.
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Copyright 2000


Pamela Fries Paine

Dedicated in loving appreciation to my husband, James Robert Paine, for all the
many months of patience, encouragement, determined optimism, and financial
support, that permitted the successful completion of this ambitious project.


I extend my sincere thanks to Carol Murphy, who chaired my committee and who

provided vision, guidance, professional expertise, and gentle encouragement

throughout the research and writing process. My appreciation extends to the entire,

distinguished committee whose many hours of careful reading and insightful

suggestions contributed to the successful completion of this project. I am grateful to

the University of Florida's Department of Romance Languages and Literatures for

providing a stimulating academic environment that nurtured my intellectual

development and for offering financial support through teaching assistantships and

tuition waivers. I also wish to express my appreciation for the Dissertation

Fellowship provided to me through generous funding from Gary and Niety Gerson to

the University of Florida's College of Liberal Arts and Sciences.



A CKN O W LED G M EN TS ....................................................... .............................iv

A B ST R A C T ....................................


N otes ................... .......................................... .......................... ................... 29

2 OVERVIEW OF ROCHEFORT'S WRITING CAREER ................................... 31
N otes ......................................................... ................... ............. .. .. 56

3 ROCHEFORT'S EARLY NOVELS ............................................................. 57
N o tes ................................................................... .............. .... ..... ..........10 6

4 ROCHEFORT'S MIDDLE PERIOD ............................. .....................109
N otes .......................................................................... ................... ... ..15 8

5 ROCHEFORT'S MATURE FICTION ..........................................................161
N o te s ........................................... ..... ..................................................... 2 2 2

C ON C LU SIO N S ............................................... ..........................................226

R E FE R E N C E S ...................................................................... ............................233

BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH ................................................. .....................243

Abstract of Dissertation Presented to the Graduate School
of the University of Florida in Partial Fulfillment of the
Requirements for the Degree of Doctor of Philosophy



Pamela Fries Paine

December 2000

Chair: Dr. Carol J. Murphy
Major Department: Romance Languages and Literatures

This dissertation examines the novelistic fiction of 20th-century French

writer Christiane Rochefort. Its thesis is that an understanding of the presence and

functioning of voice in Rochefort's narrative is essential to discerning meaning in her

texts and to appreciating the complexity and subtlety of her art. Although Rochefort

has not yet been deemed a major writer, one as important as Sarraute or Duras, for

example, this analysis originates in a conviction that her work merits more study and

recognition. While literary prizes distinguish her early fiction as thematically

significant, a relative paucity of published scholarly analysis referencing her later

work further motivated the present research.

This dissertation extends the existing body of critical analysis surrounding

Rochefort's fiction and points out that, in addition to the thematic interest of her

work, the complexity of her narrative technique brings important contributions to the

artistic development of the novel as a genre. In particular, by close examination of

voice in her novels one can deconstruct verbal masks and subtle manifestations of

multiple consciousness among diverse social speech types and heterogeneous


Voice is an essential structural element that Rochefort applied in her

writing. The introduction provides an overview of the critical question of voice by

defining terms and outlining major contributions to its theory. Noting that

Rochefort's fiction is compatible with Mikhail Bakhtin's definition of the novel as the

artistic organization of diverse individual voices and social speech types, this study

draws particular support from Bakhtinian theory and terminology. Both novelist and

theorist envision the novel as a dialogic and polyphonic complex of voices within a

social, historical, and cultural context. This analysis demonstrates that, in fact,

Rochefort's personal vision and individual artistry reside in the refined, transformed

and reconstituted fictional representation of the language, attitudes, tensions, and

intentions discernable within the dialogic interaction of her fictional narrators and


This study divides Rochefort's fictional work into three periods in order to

differentiate her novels both thematically and stylistically. Close reading of the

novels in each group, with particular focus on the functioning of voice, offers a new

approach to the writer's fiction. This study also provides scholarly analysis of several

texts that have, until now, remained obscure, misunderstood, and unappreciated.


"Et 1'6criture n'est-ce pas une conversation?
(Christiane Rochefort, Conversations sans paroles, 25)

Voices of all kinds resonate in both prose and poetry: voices of characters,

narrators, and authors; voices of history, society and other literature; voices quoted,

mimicked, parodied and paraphrased. Voice has long been an important

consideration in the appreciation and analysis of literature. As a critical concept, the

notion of voice has had varied and inconsistent usage. The term has been used to

differentiate among characters speaking, narrators recounting, and even authors'

styles. Generally speaking, voice has been used as a metonym for the human

presence evoked through the reading of a poem or story. Often representing a

consciousness asserting itself into that of others, voice can figure importantly in the

formulation of identity or, in modem theoretical terms, of subjectivity.

The desire to have a voice, to claim the dominant position of speaking subject

has been not only a prominent theme in much of twentieth-century literature, but a

motivation for many of the century's numerous writers. To gain a voice is to become

empowered symbolically. The centrality of voice in literature is evidenced by the

number of questions appurtenant to narratology in general that the issue of voice

inevitably raises (such as intention, point of view, rhetoric, reception, time, place,

truth, reliability, and authority, for example). Christiane Rochefort's novelistic

fiction foregrounds the interplay of multiple voices whose dialogic interaction forms

the basis for the creation of narrative tension and interest in her novels. Her work,

then, is ideally suited for analysis through a study of the presence and function of

those fictional voices.

Recognizing voice as an essential structural element that Christiane

Rochefort has highlighted in her writing, the following chapters explore its different

manifestations in her work and attempt to determine its nature and functioning. The

objective of the study is to identify categories of voice present in Rochefort's writing

and to discover the tensions and intentionalities inherent in those voices that, through

their dialogic interfacing, contribute to levels of meaning immanent in her narrative.

Literature, often the site of a discourse of opposition, can function to increase

awareness of those minor forces and voices operating paradoxically within the

dominant. Rochefort's keen interest in the subversive potential of language,

combined with her attention to marginalized individuals and groups, makes her

narrative fiction especially appropriate for an in-depth study of some of those

insistent voices which, by their tenacious determination to be heard, may spark

future social, political, and artistic change. The challenge for the reader then lies in

careful reading and analysis of the discourse that is being used. As Michel Foucault

aptly stated, "the question is ultimately: what was said in what was being

said?"(Archaeology of Knowledge, 40).

Figuring prominently and controversially among the considerable number of

women writing and publishing in the latter half of the twentieth century, Christiane

Rochefort has left a legacy of complex and challenging texts that merit attention both

for her stylistics and for her treatment of theme. Despite prizes of distinction

awarded to her work by various French literary agencies, and despite growing

interest in her early books as a point of departure for French cultural studies,

Rochefort's artistic contribution remains largely unappreciated. The examination of

her work in this study focuses on narrative technique with particular attention to the

treatment and significance of voice in her writing project and, in turn, the

contribution of her work to the French literary canon.

Although theories of voice may be studied from a psychological perspective,

I chose to focus my analysis on narratological issues, particularly the notion of voice

as conceived by Mikhail Bakhtin. Specifically, attention is given to the plurality or

layering of voice, its socially-coded nature, and its dialogic functioning within the


Because of the numerous scholars who have contributed to explaining the

complexities of narratology in fictional writing, a highly specialized lexicon has

evolved. Before beginning the examination of voice in Christiane Rochefort's

fiction, it would be useful, then, to review the development of the concept of voice as

a narratological device in order to clarify and position terms to be used in the course

of the discussion.

As a category in poetics, the concept of voice has its roots in classical Greek

aesthetics. In The Republic, Socrates uses the terms diegesis and mimesis to

distinguish whether the poet is speaking in his own voice, is imitating the voice of

another, or is mixing the two modes. Mimesis refers to the imitation or quoting of

speech, whereas diegesis refers to direct recounting or telling of the narrative.

Discourse, then, that can be attributed to the writer is diegetic discourse, and that

which s/he attributes to someone else is mimetic. Mimetic discourse is, in a sense, a

blend of voices. Although the speaker is assumed to be another, the writer is still at

the origin of that voice as its scriptor. In other words, the writer takes on a pose as

the origin of the voice and transcribes it.

Later, Aristotle expanded the notion of mimesis to include both simple

narration and imitation. For him, all narrative was imitation; the distinction was

merely a matter of degree. Most important in Aristotle's argument was not the

illusion of speech or whether the author spoke in his own voice or that of another,

but rather the degree of imitation (Poetics 1448). Whether a voice discernable in

poetry or other narrative can be recognized as that of the poet/narrator talking to

himself (or to nobody in particular), as that of the poet/narrator addressing an

intended audience, or as that of a dramatic character he has created, speech is

presumed to be the originating discourse of which the written version is essentially a

script or recording. The point, then, is the success of the written mimicry in creating

the illusion of that speaking voice.

As a term in literary theory, voice touches on a whole range of questions

concerning human presence in written narrative. The range includes questions of

intent; of origin; of relationships; of personalities; of point of view; of cultural,

historical and political influences; of reality and fantasy; and, ultimately, of meaning.

For many critics, voice has meant authorial distinctiveness or personality. The long

evolution in critical analysis of literature was concerned with determining the

author's private opinions and nature, which would tend to individualize or

characterize his writing. Some have felt that an author's voice, like his fingerprints,

can be discerned as an identifying mechanism, even through the static of fictional

events and characters. For others, an analysis of voice is a means of perceiving

possible verbal masks the author may don for his dramatic textual performance.

For structuralists, the word "voice" and its personal implications often are

avoided in favor of definitions or notions of text and intertextuality. These critics

seek to disengage voice from the expressive individual consciousness. Structuralist

theories do not situate the human presence within a work in the figure of the author,

real or implied, nor do they see voice as a disembodied authorial mask. For them,

every individual text is traversed by other, prior texts as fields of discourse that criss-

cross within it. Julia Kristeva suggests, for example, that "the novel, seen as a text, is

a semiotic practice in which the synthesized patterns of several utterances can be

read"(Desire in Language, 37). Roland Barthes sees the notion of voice as linguistic,

defining the grammatical relationship between the subject of an utterance and the

action indicated by the verb (S/Z, 20-21).

For G6rard Genette, a structuralist whose particular influence was in the area

of narratology, voice does not define a medium of utterance, but rather a set of

relationships. These relationships exist among implied or actual narrators and among

diegetic levels of the fiction's discourse that are distributed along a continuum: that

of the time of narration. From these relationships, Genette derived subtle and

elaborate configurations of narrative that do not necessitate identifying an author's

(or implied author's) assumed presence behind voice. He also expanded the

distinction between diegesis and mimesis to define a series of narrative levels such

as: extradidgetique (in which the narrator of the story does not figure in the diegesis),

intradidgdtique (in which the narrator also figures as a character in the diegesis),

metadigedtique (in which there is a narrator whose story is embodied within another

narrative), and autodidgdtique (a first person narrative the narrator of which is also

the protagonist or the hero). Because of the complex possibilities regarding the

relation of the narrateur to the text that he is recounting, for Genette, the narrating

voice is determined :-. .. i jll by two criteria: its relation to the diegesis (absent or

present) as well as by its level or distance (expressed as first-person, homo, or as

third person, hetjro). Genette further distinguishes what he refers to as the narrataire

or the one who listens to or receives the narrating voice. Generally speaking, he

insists that both narrateur and narrataire are at the same level of the narration. That

is to say, "le narrateur extradi6egtique ne peut viser qu'un narrataire

extradi6g6tique"(Figures III, 266), or the external narrator necessarily addresses his

voice to an external listener. For Genette, no voice can be isolated but must be

considered in its interaction with others to whom it is addressed, whether or not those

others are given the occasion to respond verbally within the text of the narration.

Like structuralist concepts, poststructuralist thought also disengages voice

from person, but offers no formal structure as substitute. Jacques Derrida, for

example, in Positions, sees voice as part of the logocentrism of Western philosophy

that must be challenged. He argues that voice no more equals or expresses an origin

than does any other manifest sign. For him, all discourse, and all signs, are traces

deposited in the play of diffJrance. In Derridean poetics, any author or speaker

discerned in a work is a construction. Contrary to Plato's conception of fictional

discourse imitating a prior and truer reality, there is no "reality" to be imitated.

Representation is its own reality. Both voice and speaker derive from the play of

language, therefore, both are traces rather than sources or origins. Language takes on

a life of its own and becomes just another participant in the text; it is not simply a

tool used by a voice to express the reality of a thought or event. Because her texts

confront the issue of language and represent its controlling function and embedded

ideologies, the scope of this study :1.1 1 I. includes a discussion of Rochefort's

use of language in character depiction and of the voices of the characters themselves

as they Ilruglte jLjini rhi power of language to influence their lives.

Since the 1970s, writings of theorists such as Luce Irigaray and H161ne

Cixous have attempted to recognize and valorize the feminine voice in written

narrative. Their arguments, aided by new psychoanalytic theories, focused on

determining the positions from which women have been allowed to speak as well as

the nature of representations of the feminine in literature. For these theorists, the

question of femininity merges with other important questions of language, power and

subjectivity, as well as those of gender. Irigaray for example, in Speculum de I 'autre

femme, argues that subjectivity is always positioned in the male, leaving the female

as merely a mirror image or object of the masculine gaze. For Irigaray, masculine or

phallic ideology underpins all Western discourse. She writes that,

man has been the subject of discourse: theological, moral, political.
And the gender of God, guarantor of every subject and of all
discourse, is always masculine-paternal in the West. (L 'Ethique, 14)

As for woman, Irigaray insists that: "If the woman traditionally, and as mother,

represents place for man, the limit signifies that she becomes a thing, with some

possible mutations from one epoch to another. She finds herself hemmed off as a

thing"(17). As this study points out, although Rochefort distanced herself from the

feminist movement in later years, her early novels, Le Repos du guerrier, Les Petits

Enfants du siecle, and Les Stances a Sophie, all clearly articulate feminist concerns.

Feminist ideology gains a voice in her early fiction, particularly Irigaray's notion of

phallocentric discourse.

The insistence of these theoreticians on the value of "feminine" traits further

led them to theorize a mode of female writing characterized by a focus on the mother

and the maternal voice. Their work led to a widespread movement in the latter half

of the twentieth century to subvert phallogocentric discourse by valorizing the

maternal and exploring feminine difference. In Cixous' writings, the theme of the

maternal breast and voice dominates. The maternal voice is the langelait, a metaphor

for the mother who writes with the milk of her breast. Cixous, with her theories on

the primarily feminine nature of the voice, contributed to privileging its role within

the realm of narrative technique. Debate continues among critics, however,

particularly among American feminists and gender theorists, who see Cixous'

concept of ecriture feminine as normative and essentialist.

Rochefort personally denied the concept of icriture fminine and did not

hesitate to speak out publicly against it. Although Rochefort's texts undeniably give

voice to female concerns and offer a view of society from a woman's perspective,

her texts do not focus on the female body nor do they use it as a point of departure

for linguistic expression, novelistic structure, character development, or

psychological exploration. In her novels, the issue of gender is secondary to the issue

of individuality. As a human, a woman, and an activist, Rochefort spoke out

personally on many occasions to protest what she perceived as inequities and

injustices in France and in the world, particularly as they affected the lives of

individuals. Any form of oppression, suppression or marginalization drew her

attention and inspired her pen. Mention of the female voice or feminist issues then is

certainly appropriate in any discussion of voice in Rochefort's texts. In my analysis,

the discussion centering on the female voice will be limited to a recognition within

Rochefort's narrative of ideological issues specific to the feminist movement that

interface with existing patriarchal paradigms, and to an examination of the language

and/or discourse of female characters and narrators whose textual voices articulate

those issues.

As already suggested, the concept of voice in literature extends beyond that

of a single individual. From a broader, cultural perspective, "voice" can signal the

collection of ideologically derived identities that manifest themselves in fictional

discourse, gathering all the historical, cultural, and discursive currents that flow

through the author, the narrator or the character. It is, in fact, because of accessibility

to those currents provided by Rochefort's texts that her novels have found their way

onto reading lists for many Cultural Studies courses in American colleges and

universities. Perhaps most useful in understanding the role of voice in this regard is

Mikhail Bakhtin's theory of the novel as a complex web of many voices.

Mikhail Bakhtin's (1895-1975) work, devoted to Dostoevsky, Rabelais, and

the novel form in particular, inspired investigations into problems of language in

narrative and had a I'n,.i impact on a range of disciplines in the humanities.

Tzvetan Todorov declared him "the most important Soviet thinker in the human

sciences and the greatest theoretician of literature in the twentieth century"(Mikhail

Bakhtin, ix).1

For Bakhtin. the concept of voice in prose fiction is inherently a culturally

contingent mix within the fiction's discourse and constitutive of that discourse. Each

voice has its own will, point of view, and consciousness, though its singularity is not

so much personal as ideological. In other words, speech exists within historical,

social, and cultural context: it belongs to the social order and not merely to the


In "Discourse in the Novel," Bakhtin defines the novel as a "heteroglossic"

genre; that is, a mode of discourse composed of many voices or languages in

dialogical relationship to each other. (The Dialogic Imagination, 265-7) The term

"heteroglossia" refers broadly to the existence of multiple languages or voices that

come together, in different ways, for different purposes and with different results

within the context of written narrative. As Bakhtin explains,

the decisive and distinctive importance of the novel as a genre [is
that] the human being in the novel is first, foremost and always a
speaking human being; the novel requires speaking persons bringing
with them their own unique ideological discourse, their own language.

The conflict resulting from this interplay of differing individual voices creates

tension, interest, and meaning in the novel.

Heteroglossia, according to Bakhtin, manifests itself at several levels: at the

level of the text as it relates to other texts; at the level of the multiple voices in

dialogue with one another within the text; and at the level of the various voices that

may be present simultaneously in the speech of a single character within the text.

The first instance refers to Bakhtin's concept of the chronotope. This may be noted,

for example, in the homogeneous style of the work and the other dominant styles of

the period, or in its affinity to the style and/or content of any other period. At the

second level, Bakhtin outlines five basic types of compositional and stylistic unities

into which the novelistic whole usually breaks down: direct authorial narration,

stylization of the various forms of oral everyday narration, stylization of the various

forms of semi-literary narration, various forms of literary authorial speech (moral,

philosophic, scientific, oratory, memoranda), and the stylistically individualized

speech of the characters. ("Discourse in the Novel," DI, 261) The stylistic uniqueness

of the novel consists in the combination of these. It is at the third level, involving the

speech of the various characters within the novel, that the movement of the themes

takes place. As Bakhtin explains,

the novel orchestrates all its themes, the totality of the world of
objects and ideas depicted and expressed in it, by means of the social
diversity of speech types and by the differing individual voices that
flourish under such conditions. (263)

For him, the novel can be defined as "a diversity of social speech types and a

diversity of individual voices, artistically organized." (262)

Another aspect of heteroglossia that can be useful in understanding narrative

is its functioning within the authorial or narrative voice. The prose writer uses and

accents words, taking advantage of their heteroglot nature. Words function for the

writer as objects, "speech-things" that he arranges and exhibits as narrative. As he

goes through the process of creating the speech utterances of the various characters,

including that of his narrator, often one voice becomes inflected by another. As

mentioned earlier during the discussion of mimetic discourse, although the speaking

character is assumed to be an individual apart from the writer of the fiction, the

author is still at the origin of that voice as its creator. Bakhtin explains that the result

is one person's speech,

in another's language serving to express authorial intentions but in a
refracted way. Such speech constitutes a special type of double-
voiced discourse. It serves two speakers at the same time and
expresses simultaneously two different intentions: the direct intention
of the character who is speaking, and the refracted intention of the
author. ("Discourse in the Novel," DI 324)

In his Discourse Typology in Prose, Bakhtin attempts to furnish, at length

and in detail, a differentiation of the effects of this phenomenon of double voicing as

it occurs in stylization, parody and dialogue. He states that

the ultimate conceptual authority (the author's intention) is brought
out, not in the author's direct speech, but by manipulating the
utterances of another addresser, utterances intentionally created and
deployed as belonging to someone other than the author. (as cited in
Lambropoulos, 288)

He further points out that an author may use the speech act of another

in pursuit of his own aims and in such a way as to impose a new
intention on the utterance, which nevertheless retains its own proper
referential intention. Thus, within a single utterance there may
occur two intentions, two voices. (289)

Hugh Kenner noticed this phenomenon of double-voicedness taking place in

James Joyce's A Portrait of the Artist, a phenomenon he referred to as the "Uncle

Charles Principle." He points to a passage in which Joyce writes that,

every morning, therefore, Uncle Charles repaired to his outhouse but
not before he had greased and brushed scrupulously his back hair and
brushed and put on his tall hat. (Joyce's Voices, 17)

The narrator's use of the word "repaired" is the site of inflection of his own voice by

that of the character. It would be Uncle Charles's own word should he chance to say

what he was doing. Some of his own characterizing vocabulary creeps in and gives

the reader a sense of his personality.

This phenomenon also can occur around a character of the novel, in his

speech utterances. Bakhtin refers to these sites as "character zones." Speaking of the

character zones, he explains:

the zones are formed from the characters' semi-discourses, from
various forms of hidden transmission for the discourse of the other, by
the words and expressions scattered in this discourse, and from the
irruption of alien expressive elements into authorial discourse
(ellipsis, questions, exclamations). Such a zone is the range of action
of the character's voice, intermingling in one way or another with the
author's voice. ("Forms of Time and of the Chronotope in the Novel,"
DI 129)

Thus, heteroglossia enters the novel through speaking characters. In real life,

people talk most of all about what others talk about. They transmit, recall, weigh,

pass judgement, agree, disagree, refer to, and so on. As mentioned earlier, according

to Bakhtin, "the decisive and distinctive importance of the novel as a genre [is that]

the human being in the novel is first, foremost and always a speaking human being;

the novel requires speaking persons bringing with them their own unique ideological

discourse, their own language."(332) What this means is that novels tend to have

several centers of authority, typically in conflict with one another. The different

voices in the novel represent and disseminate different points of view, different

perspectives. Or, when isolated in a single character's speech, they may seem like a

dialogue in miniature of conventions, taboos, prescriptions, repressions, and

authorities coming from some exterior source.

Although much of the discussion in this study centers attention on the

discourse of speaking characters within the diegesis, the analysis is not limited to the

concept of voice as it pertains to that of speaking characters only. Other, more

abstract entities also can function as a voice within the text. Abstractions that seem

particularly pertinent to Rochefort's novelistic fiction could include, for example,

ideological voices (such as feminist, chauvinist, marxist, or capitalist, for example).

In Bakhtinian terms, because the novel is, in a sense, a "system of languages," the

action that takes place on the surface is only one level of the total action to be found

within its pages. Below the surface level of events, or even of explicit statements, is

the level of ideological action. Other impersonal voices entering the cacophony arise

out of cultural contexts (such as intertextual allusions and citations, metatextual

commentary, and instruments or influences of popular culture). Even language itself,

through selective vocabulary, evidences of tone, ellipses, and even constructions of

syntax, can "speak" about the person or the aesthetic from which it issues.

Bakhtin compared the study of the novel to the study of modem languages.

His idea was that both are in the process of continual development. Like languages,

the novel as a genre has always and will always adapt to what Bakhtin calls its

chronotope. By that he means its particular configuration of time and place.

Speaking of the chronotope, Bakhtin remarks, "We will understand the chronotope

as a literary category of form-and-content." (235) Just as the character is understood

in relation to the work of literature, the work must be understood in relation to the

whole of literature. For Bakhtin, chronotope can be understood as genre which, for

him, can be determined only by consideration of the two fundamental categories of

every imaginable universe: space and time. He asserts that,

in literature, the chronotope has an essential generic signification. It
can be stated categorically that genre and generic species are precisely
determined by the chronotope (235).

In his definition, the novel is not to be seen as a single, specific genre, but as a

dynamic meta-genre that is, in fact, transformed by these coordinates of time and

space. Thus, Bakhtin's theory includes an enumeration of novelistic subgenres

determined in large measure by these two factors. He lists as chronotopes, for

example, the novels of antiquity, sophistic novels, chivalric romances, baroque

novels, pastoral novels, the Prufingsroman, the Bildungsroman, the

autobiographical novel, the gothic novel, the sentimental novel, the picaresque novel,

the parodic novel, and so on. From this list, Bakhtin's conception of literary studies

as historically pertinent becomes apparent.

Christiane Rochefort's novels, like those of most modem writers, can often

be seen as a blend of some of these earlier chronotopes. Contemporary coordinates

and the inevitable incorporation of current social issues and narratological trends

combine with already-identified chronotopes to blur former distinctions and

contribute to the development of possible new sub-genres and a valorization of

hybridity that may be associated with the transformation of the novelistic genre in

the twentieth century.

Another important concept that bears directly on an analysis of Rochefort's

stylistics and narrative use of voice is the Bakhtinian phenomenon of carnival and

the voice of laughter arising from the voice of the populace. Bakhtin's discussion of

this voice of the people, in the introduction to Rabelais and His World, notes that it

serves momentarily to appropriate the forbidden and to abolish hierarchies,

privileges, rules, and taboos. Its ambivalent nature, blending voices that express at

once light-hearted gaiety and sarcastic mockery, both confirms and denies the world

from which it issues. These voices are characterized by a series of phenomena in

language: vulgar or obscene words and expressions; blasphemy; insults; images of

the body and of bodily functions; and reference to explicit sexual acts, fertility,

eating, drinking, defecation, birth, death, and excess in general. What Bakhtin

stresses, in his discussion of the function of this laughter of voice of the populace, is

its liberating influence. It overcomes fear: fear of the sacred, of prohibitions, of the

past, of power, and of established norms. What was fearsome becomes grotesque and

comic. Further, this voice of the people, by its grotesque laughter serves to push

aside convention to insist on a new look at the world and a consideration of other

possibilities for existence. As Bakhtin explains, its function is

to consecrate inventive freedom, to permit the combination of a
variety of different elements and their rapprochement, to liberate from
the prevailing point of view of the world, from conventions and
established truths, from cliches, from all that is humdrum and
universally accepted. This carnival spirit offers the chance to have a
new outlook on the world, to realize the relative nature of all that
exists, and to enter a completely new order of things. (Rablais and
His World 34)

Perhaps it should be noted that Bakhtin's interpretation of the carnival's

existence as a means of provoking change was deemed invalid by some. His critics

point out that the carnival was created to serve as a release of hostile feelings. The

idea was that once these hostilities were released, the world could then return to

"normal." In effect then, say the critics, carnival and the laughter of the populace

were a means of preserving the status quo. Additionally, Bakhtin's concept was

attacked by feminists, who point out the victimization of women in Rabelais' work.

In the case of parody, in essence yet another form of heteroglossia, Bakhtin

explains that it introduces into the other's speech an intention that is directly opposed

to the original one. The second voice, lodged in the speech of the other, clashes

antagonistically. Parodic word usage is analogous to ironic use, inevitably resulting

in a change of tone--often mocking, exaggerated or derisive. In feminist theory, this

appropriation of another's speech is similar also to Luce Irigaray's concept of

mimicry in which male discourse is mimicked ironically to point out its bias and

reduce or eliminate its insidious but forceful attempt to control.

In his essay, "Discourse Typology in Prose," Bakhtin identifies another type

of discourse which, unlike parody or double-voiced discourse, does not use what are

distinctly another person's words to express his/her own particular intentions. In this


the other speech act remains outside the bounds of the author's
speech, but is implied or alluded to in that speech. The other speech
act is not reproduced with a new intention, but shapes the author's
speech while remaining outside its boundaries. Such is the nature of
discourse in hidden polemic and .qujll.. as a rule, in a single line of
dialogue ("Discourse Typology in Prose" as cited in Lambropoulos,

Continuing, he explains that in everyday speech, instances of internal polemics are

'barbed' words and words used as 'brickbats.' This category also would include any

speech that is servile or overblown, any speech that is replete with reservations,

concessions, loopholes, and so on.

The concept of heteroglossia further can be understood to function at the

level of the text as it relates to other texts--its intertextuality, or what Bakhtin refers

to as dialogism. As Tzvetan Todorov has pointed out, "After Adam, there are no

nameless objects nor any unused words. Intentionally or not, all discourse is in

dialogue with prior discourses on the same subject, as well as with discourses yet to

come, whose reactions it foresees and anticipates."(Michael Bakhtin : the Dialogical

Principle, x) On a very fundamental level, without this quality of dialogism or

intertextuality, a literary work simply would be iininlrri I i .ihk. like language that had

not yet been learned. Readers grasp meaning of literary works through their

structure, their discourse and through their relation to archetypes or models encoding

all of literature. A literary work's relation to these archetypal models may be in its

imitation, its transformation or even its subversion of them. That is, every text refers

implicitly to other texts, whether through its form, its content, its characterization or

its specific use of language.

The notion of intertextuality was explained by Julia Kristeva, whose

definition of the word represents an expansion of the concept introduced to her in her

study of Bakhtin's theories.2 For Kristeva the term "text" is synonymous with

"system of signs"; thus for her, and others such as Barthes and Livi-Strauss, the

literary text becomes the site of a blending of the instinctive and the social where

messages are collected and, often unconsciously, rearranged in new combinations.

These messages are detectable in written texts as a result of this process of

transposition and transformation, even though they are not stated explicitly.3

Christiane Rochefort's thirteen novels affirm Bakhtin's conception of the

genre. She envisions it as a dynamic genre that can adapt to the individual styles and

intentions of creative writers. For her, the fiction speaks primarily through

heteroglossic or polyphonic interplay evidenced in the language of its narrator(s) and

characters. Sometimes overtly, sometimes subtly, voices representing conflicting

concepts, perceptions, attitudes, experiences, and intentions set up dialogic tension.

Beginning with Le Repos du guerrier in 1958, the novel has served as a medium

through which Christiane Rochefort could translate personal vision into fiction.

Refined, transformed, and reconstituted, Rochefort's vision and her artistry reside in

the fictional representation of the experience, behavior, attitude, and perception of

her narrators and characters, especially as that is evidenced in the dialogic interaction

of their textual voices. For Rochefort, as well as for the narrator of her

Conversations sans paroles (cleverly subtitled as roman), the essence of meaning

and of writing itself resides precisely in the interfacing of ideas, of positions, of

words. She writes:

Je suis tres regardante sur la conversation: c'est une des nourritures
queje ch6ris le plus.
Nourriture de I'mne.
Et l'6criture meme, n'est-ce pas une conversation? (25)

As to the words that make up the language of these written conversations,

Rochefort has had much to say. It is evident from her texts that she was acutely

aware of the inadequacy of language as an instrument of expression and

communication. Its arbitrary nature, combined with the inevitable embedding of

inherited ideologies, has been a constant source of frustration for her, particularly as

a writer. She mockingly complains. "c'est un produit manufacture, usin6, pr&t A

cracher, qui s'6coule au dehors tel quel d6s qu'il y a un trou. La bouche par

example" (C 'est bizarre 'dcriture, 132). Caught in the paradox of those minor

voices forced to operate within the discourse of the dominant, Rochefort insists that,

nous usons machinalement un language requ tout armed centre nous,
centre l'homme, et tant que nous l'usons sans examen ni revision
dechirante (pour lui) nous exprimons le mode regnant, meme si nous
exprimons haut et clair une opposition A cet ordre.(134)

The problem of language is, in fact, a theme central to the entire corpus of

Rochefort's writing, fictional and non-fictional. It underlies all other themes and, as

this study points out, is persistently referenced within the cacophony of voices

making up each of her different texts. Rochefort's texts serve as reminders that, as

Freudian thought has taught us. what is voiced must be regarded with suspicion

because conscious speech is not one hundred percent "conscious." The reader, along

with the textual narratee, would do well to remember that there is always subversion

going on in language and to be attentive to this phenomenon. Fundamentally

ambivalent in nature, words provide Rochefort with a multivalent medium through

which polyphonic voices can seek expression.

In the latter half of the twentieth century, the years when Rochefort was

creating her fiction, her work met with mixed reviews. Certainly it did not go

unnoticed nor was it met with indifference. Scandal and criticism initially

surrounded the publication of several of her books, notably: Le Repos du guerrier

and Quand tu vas chez lesfemmes Much of the criticism centered around

Rochefort's bold and unorthodox use of language, as well as the sexual content of

her books.

Attracting attention to Rochefort's work are the dissident voices of her

fictional characters who rail, sometimes only semi-consciously, against each other as

well as against less easily identifiable, often hidden, but equally persistent voices

coming from the various strata of Western society. At issue, inevitably, are the

conflicting ideologies surrounding these characters and within which each struggles

to find his own particular sense of truth and impose his own voice among the din.

Yet, to date, little critical research has been done which would isolate, identify or

attempt to analyze the many conflicting voices whose presence directly impacts

textual meanings. One notable exception is the work done in 1990 by Barbro Nilsson

which attempts to identify the voice of Rochefort herself within the pages of her

novel Quandtu vas chez lesfemmes. Through comparative analysis of the essay C'est

bizarre I 'criture and the novels Le Repos du guerrier and Les Stances ? Sophie,

Nilsson isolates recurring textual elements that she sees as invested with particular

meaning by the author. She seeks to establish that Quand tu vas chez lesfemmes is

an autobiographical text ("Le Chien n'aboie pas: Quand tu vas chez les femmes, Un

roman autobiographique de Christiane Rochefort analyses partir de ses oeuvres


Although Rochefort is not yet deemed a major writer, one as important as

Sarraute or Duras for example, her work deserves more recognition and study.

Indeed, one purpose of the current analysis is to augment her standing within the

canon of French women writers in particular as well as within the general corpus of

French literature. Her books have garnered several awards of distinction: the

Nouvelle Vague prize for Le Repos du guerrier in 1958. the Roman Populiste prize

for Les Petits Enfants du siecle in 1961, and the Medicis prize for La Porte dufond

in 1988). Rochefort's books, or excerpts from her writing, frequently are included in

both high school and university-level curricula, and her profile figures consistently in

more recent anthologies of twentieth-century French literature.

Exerpts from Les Petits Enfants du siecle commonly are included in

intermediate-level university texts because they provide an excellent point of

departure for discussion concerning cultural aspects of modern-day France. Both Le

Repos du guerrier and Les Stances 6 Sophie frequently are included in university

courses in sociology and/or women's studies because of the important and

controversial roles played by the female characters, as well as the socio-economic

situations surrounding those roles. Her books, Archaos ou lejardin etincelant and

Heureux qu 'on va vers I 'td, deal with feminist versions of utopia and make

excellent additions to any study dealing with that theme. In this regard, Rochefort's

work may be compared to others, notably Monique Wittig's Les Guerrillkres and Le

Corps leshien. The autobiographical aspect of her books, in addition to her

willingness to speak publicly about her fiction and her essays on writing, has

attracted the attention of literary scholars who see her as a serious writer whose

impact is significant.

Because of Rochefort's particular brand of humor, much of it achieved

through innovative use of language, her work has interested linguists and

philologists. One of the most thorough and insightful analyses of Rochefort's

creativity with language is Monique Crochet's "La Cr6ation lexicale dans Une Rose

pour Morrison de Christiane Rochefort." In her essay, Crochet categorizes and lists

numerous examples of morphological and syntactical innovations with which

Rochefort personalized her writing. Crochet rightly asserts that, "d'un point de vue

linguistique, la neologie rdvele, par l'extreme diversity des proced6s d'invention et

des sources langagieres, le haut degr6 de maitrise de Rochefort, son erudition, son

imagination, son sens du comique, en un mot, son talent d'ecrivain."(394). Also of

note with regard to criticism of Rochefort's fiction is the fine, detailed work done by

Isabelle Constant, Les Mots etincelants de Christiane Rochefort, languages d'utopie,

on the theme of utopia with emphasis on subversion through Rochefort's unique

handling of language.

The most comprehensive study of Rochefort's novelist fiction to date is the

recent publication in January of 1999 of Margaret-Anne Hutton's book, Novels of

Christiane Rochefort: Countering the Culture. Hutton provides an introduction to

Rochefort as woman and as writer, followed by a chronological overview of nine of

Rochefort's novels. Her discussion focuses on the representation of minority groups,

the presence of intertextual material, the use and thematization of language as a

political tool, and some narrative and structural complexities. In her book, Hutton

reiterates the contention of this study that .i-,th. .uh- Rochefort's status is

acknowledged via her presence in anthologies, the press, and academic journals, and

although she received literary prizes, what is lacking is the all-important back-up of

critical material. .. ."(8) Hutton concludes with the suggestion that Rochefort's

writing seems to lend itself to further analysis: articulation of discourse or discourses

and the power relations from which they stem, as well as alignment with queer

theory and politics (because it is marked by suspicion of any and all identity labels).

She points out that what is most notably lacking within existing critical analyses

referencing Rochefort's work is any systematic analysis of her narrative technique. It

can be added that, in particular interest to the current study, little attention has been

given to voice as a narrative device either within the general corpus of Rochefort's

fiction or with regard to any of her specific works.

Rochefort herself tried to make clear to her interested public that the question

of voice was at the core of her writing project. In essence, she envisioned her writing

as a kind of dialogue or conversation. The narrator in her 1997 Conversations sans

paroles rhetorically queries, "et l'6criture meme, n'est-ce pas une conversation?"(25)

During an interview with Marianne Hirsch, she remarked about Encore heureux

qu 'on va vers I 'edt that, "originally, I had a basic structure in mind, which was a

dialogue between two little girls. It was a kind of game in my head. I often envision

just such a skeleton-not an overall plan, but a dialogue, for instance."(L 'Esprit

Crdateur 115) About Les Petits Enfants du siecle, she noted that "en faisant ce livre

ce que je visais c'est, comment dire, 6crire en polyphonic: trois voix."(Ma vie revue

et corrigde par I 'auteur 283) The creation of these multiple voices at play within the

narrative is not merely an exercise in style. Rochefort uses them to create meaning.

Meaning, however, derives from more than a parade of words. As Rochefort

insisted, "le sens n'est pas dans le mot il est dans l'organisation." (C'est bizarre

S'dcriture 69) For Rochefort the organization is dialogic. Where voices collide, there

is tension and struggle for dominance. Undercurrents, peripheral influences and

ideologies begin to make themselves apparent within the discourse. The voices then

become a medium through which textual meanings can be derived.

In reference to Encore heureux qu'on va vers I 'etd, Rochefort explained that,

"although the book had started as a structural game two years before, it became a

story fed by the potential of the children. It was no longer a game, but a message and

the message dominated the form The dialogue was replaced by another structure,

a network."(116) As for meaning within the lexicon, Rochefort warned,

les mots sont a surveiller de pres... Ils vivent leur vie. Ce n'est pas
aussi pute qu'on pense. (a ne raconte pas pour l'etemit6 ce que le
Maitre est parvenu a leur faire cracher sous la torture. C'est branches
plus loin, vieux bateau qui a force de naviquer se convient de
coquillages et toutes sortes de concretions des profondeurs. A plus ou
moins long terme ils refont surface et nous 6clatent dans la figure.(Le
Monde est comme deux chevaux, 115)

That is to say, the reader must look beyond the words. He must attempt to determine

who is speaking, to whom, from what perspective, about what, and with what

intention. He must consider the words as they interact within their dialogic context.

Whether the voices are intradiegetic, issuing from characters within the

narrative, or whether they are extradiegetic, issuing from an external narrator, they

are always familiar voices that seem spontaneous and immediate. Theirs is a spoken

language. Rochefort insisted, "moi qui ecris tout naturellement le language parld."(10)

For her, "l'6crit-parle est tout ce qu'il y a de sophistique. en fait d'6criture."(12)

Critics have likened Rochefort's writing to that of others known for their ability to

creatively manipulate words and spelling to mimic spoken language, (notably, like

C6line in Une Rose pour Morrison and like Queneau in Le Repos du guerrier).

Those writers usually mentioned are, in fact, ones that Rochefort expressed

admiration for and whose influence she acknowledged. She admitted in her

autobiographical novel: "je me souviens quand j'essayais d'ecrire comme Faulkner,

Kafka, et Joyce."(Ma vie revue et corrigge par I'auteur.l 17) As Georgiana Colvile

noted after an interview with Rochefort,

during the 1950s in France she felt quite alienated in her way of
writing but later she began to feel part of a new tradition, as more
recent writers like Ajar, Agnes Pavy, Raymond Levy and Rachel
Mizrahi began to emerge in France. The bond between them is an
attempt at transmitting spoken language or coming as close as
possible to it in writing. This led me to mention Cl6ine who had done
this, also alone, much earlier; she replied that much as she dislikes
him as a person, she has to admit to his stylistic breakthrough and
feels closer to him than to more traditional novelists like Frangois
Mauriac. ("Christiane Rochefort", Women Writers talking, 215)

In the aforementioned interview with Marianne Hirsch, Rochefort listed among her

favorite French writers Marguerite Duras, Virginia Woolf. Nathalie Sarraute, Boris

Vian, Raymond Queneau, Denis Diderot and Pierre Choderlos de Laclos.

Rochefort's recent death in the summer of 1998 not only makes the body of

her literary work definitive, but is likely to regenerate interest in her writing and its

significance to the canon of women's writing and to the canon of French literature in

general. This project, then, continues the debate that surrounds Rochefort's writing,

with the aspiration of confirming her place within those frameworks.

Specifically, Chapter Two provides a summary of Rochefort's writing career.

It establishes her place within the context of French women writers and within the

context of French literature of the twentieth century. Attention is given to aspects of

her personal history that are relevant to her writing project, as well as to some

important literary influences. It recognizes Rochefort's stylistic development over

the course of her writing career by organizing her eleven novels into three basic

groups which form the basis for the analytic discussion in the following chapters.

Chapter Three analyses the narrative treatment of voice in the first group of

novels, Le Repos du guerrier, Les Petits Enfants du siecle, and Les Stances a Sophie.

The analysis demonstrates that, although Rochefort considered these early novels as

inferior and as belonging to a period of her innocence as a writer, they are, in fact,

quite complex and sophisticated from a narrative point of view. Further, and

important to appreciation of Rochefort's development as a novelist, analysis points

out that the seeds of Rochefort's later narrative style already are present. The

discussion deconstructs verbal masks and subtle manifestations of multiple

consciousnesses and intentionality at odds within the various discourses of her

fiction. This section examines the different voices to determine their differing points

of view or their layered plurality as dialogues in miniature of conventions, taboos,

prescriptions, repressions, and authorities coming from some exterior source. The

voices further are investigated for their importance to debates over selfhood and

identity in Rochefort's autobiographical fiction. By focusing on the nature and

dialogic interaction among the various novelistic voices, analysis discovers how the

writer succeeded in creating narrative tension and meaning in her texts.

Chapter Four deals with novels belonging to what may be considered

Rochefort's second or middle period, from 1966 to 1978: Une Rose pour Morrison,

Printemps auparking, Archaos ou lejardin &tincelant, and Encore heureux qu'on va

vers I eti. The analysis demonstrates that the novels written during this period are

clearly marked by events, attitudes and discourses of those pivotal years in French

society. Discussion reveals a shift in focus from the plight of individuals to that of

groups and their combined reactions against situations and preconceptions they

perceive as unacceptable. Further, an increased element of fantasy and a heightened

sense of ambiguity surrounding the speaking voices within the diegesis is noted and

analysed. Metatextual concerns in the novels of this period are highlighted as the

narrative voice more frequently becomes self-reflective and as the act of narrating is

brought to the attention of the reader.

In Chapter Five, the analysis centers on the novels that comprise Rochefort's

third and final period, between 1982 and her death in 1998: Quand tu vas chez les

femmes, La Porte du fond, Le Monde est comme deux chevaux, Conversations sans

paroles, and Adieu Andromede. The analysis points out that, as the narrating voice

increasingly assumes multiple personnae, its function within the diegesis varies as

well. Increased urgency in the need to communicate is counter-balanced by

heightened mystery in the traditional mechanisms of communication. Ambiguous

and even anonymous speakers, hidden messages, and silences characterize these later

texts, that, nevertheless, continue to "voice" Rochefort's unflagging resistance to

stasis and to passive, unquestioning acceptance.

In the concluding section, I argue that the importance of Rochefort's writing

project lies not only in its contribution to our understanding of the cultural influences

and the effects of political and economic factors within post-war France on French

citizens, but in its imaginative and creative narrative technique. I maintain that

through complex, dialogic interaction of a diversity of social speech types and

heterogeneity of perspectives, Rochefort's fictional narratives bring important

contributions to the novelistic genre and to debates surrounding issues of language,

meaning, power, and identity.


1. Access to Bakhtin's work has been difficult, however, for a number of reasons.
First, because of the Russian Revolution and its aftermath, the political repression
under the Stalinist regime in Russia, and hardships further compounded by the
Second World War, many of Bakhtin's manuscripts remained unpublished for a long
time. From 1930-1936, he lived in forced exile in Kazakhstan. Several more decades
of forced isolation from the cultural life of Moscow and Leningrad followed from
1936-1972, during which time he suffered from a debilitating bone disease that
eventually required the amputation of a leg. It was not until 1965, twenty-five years
after its submission as a doctoral dissertation in 1940, that his work on Rabelais and
the carnivalesque was published. His work on Dostoevsky as a writer of the
"polyphonic" novel was finally revised and republished in 1963. Some of his
manuscripts were destroyed during the war, and others have only been published
posthumously. A portion of his thought has been retrieved from documents attributed
to other students who were part of a group of intellectuals with whom Bakhtin
associated for the discussion and exchange of ideas. The authorship of several of the
works produced by members of this circle remains in dispute. Further complicating
access to Bakhtinian thought is Bakhtin's own admission of incompleteness, a
penchant for variation, and a plurality of terms to name the same phenomenon. And
finally, as Tzvetan Todorov has pointed out, it is in translation that Western readers
first become acquainted with his writings. He adds that,
Bakhtin has been translated by individuals who did not know or did not
understand this system of thought, though I will concede that this is not an
easy matter. As a result, key concepts, such as discourse, utterance,
heterology, extopy, and many others, are rendered by misleading
"equivalents" or even simply dropped altogether by a translator more
concerned with the avoidance of repetition or obscurity. In addition, the same
Russian word is not translated in the same way by the various translators, a
fact that may cause the Western reader undue difficulty. (Mikhail Bakhtin,

2. In her essay "Word, Dialogue and Novel," included as a chapter of Desire in
Language: a Semiotic Approach to Literature and Art a collection of Kristeva's
articles gathered together by Roudiez, Kristeva discusses Bakhtin's theories, adding
her own interpretation of them and expanding on them. In the essay, she contends
that every text is constructed as a mosaic of citations and that every text is an
absorption and transformation of other texts. Jean-Yves Tadid, in Le Roman au
vingtieme si&cle, discusses the association between Kristeva's concept of
intertextuality and Bakhtin's earlier theories. (193)

3. In her book La Revolution du language poetique, Kristeva writes,
Le terme inter-textualitd designe cette transposition d'un (ou de plusieurs)
systeme(s) de signed en une autre; mais puisque ce terme a &t6 souvent
entendu dans le sens banal de "critiques de sources" d'un texte, nous lui
preferons celui de transposition qui a l'avantage de pr6ciser que le passage


d'un systeme significant a un autre exige un nouvelle articulation du th6tique.

4. The following represents a sampling of critical reception of Rochefort's work in
the French press:
Emile Henriot in Le Monde, (November 26, 1958), criticized Le Repos du
guerrier for its cruditese de language adding that "A c6te de Mme Rochefort,
Mme Franqoise Sagan est un pensionnaire, et I'Histoire d'O une bluette.

J. Gregoire, in Europe Auto (January, 1960), wrote that "la tendance A tout
remaner au sexe et a ses manifestations est souvent le fait d'une impuissance
ou d'une frigidit6."

Cl1ment Ledoux, in Le Canard Enchaine (September, 1958): "Cette
intelligence-la n'est qu'une forme pr6tentieuse d'une certain sottise."

The editors of Lumidre (December, 1958): "Le Repos du guerrier est un livre
immonde, pi6tinant toute dignity humaine et faisant aucunement honneur a
ceux qui le primerent, ni ... aux Editions Grasset qui accepterent de le


"L'6criture, c'est insondable: plus on creuse, plus on decouvre. La chose
qu'on ne sait pas qu'on cherchait est cachee A I'int6rieur, tout au fond"
(Conversations sans paroles. 71).

One of the collective goals of women writing in the twentieth century was to

examine the world from the female perspective, redefining themselves and their roles

in the process. In the novelistic genre, women found an ideal literary form through

which to accomplish that goal. Foregrounded in their work are not only issues

pertaining to relationships between subjectivities and the constitution of those

subjectivities, but relationships between gender and writing, psychoanalysis and

feminism, and sexual difference and essentialism. Working within the pliant form of

the novel, Christiane Rochefort and other modern and contemporary female writers

were able to expand the literary scene by bringing elements of their inner world into

consciousness and giving them expression and shape.

All of these issues are integral to Rochefort's novelistic fiction. Rochefort was a

writer, not with a cause, but with causes. Indeed, her fiction seems designed to raise

consciousness, encourage questioning, and promote debate over acceptance of the

status quo, whether that involves gender, age, sexuality, or existing social and

political institutions. Although influenced by the experimentation with form begun

by French writers during the 1950s'. Rochefort turned her attention to different

concerns even while adapting narrative and structural innovations to her own


While the antinarrative2 or disruptive narrative techniques demonstrated in

Robbe-Grillet's Jealousy or Beckett's Molloy inform Rochefort's texts in part

(particularly her later texts: Ma vie revue et corrigde par l 'auteur, Quand tu vas chez

lesfemmes, La Porte du bfnd, and Conversations sans paroles), she adamantly

refused to adhere to any particular mode, preferring instead to forge her own

particular eclectic style. She once commented that,

en France on est terrorism par une certain id6e de 1'6criture. Combien
de gens sont embrouill6s lI-dedans, j'en suis sore, c'est le
structuralisme, combien de gens sont embrouill6s la-dedans, ils
croient que c'est Ca qu'il faut faire, done on ne se trouve pas soi-
m6me sous ce terrorism. Bon, il a fallu enlever tout le terrorism
culturel.(Crochet, 431)

Indeed, analysis of Rochefort's narrative reveals its refusal to fit neatly into any


Rochefort's refusal of any kind of categorization extended to the entire

culture of literary theory which tended to dominate the literary scene in France in the

latter half of the century. She disdainfully considered all this theorization of literature

as reductive and pointless and its participants as arrogant, pseudo-intellectuals. She

once vehemently declared,

we're seeing far too much literary theory being written today,
considering literary theory isn't at all important .. it's just nonsense.
... General theories what should be done and what shouldn't be
done all the Tel Quel theory, for example in my opinion it should
be put in the trash can. No question about it. It's wrong. (Shifting
Scenes, 184)

For Rochefort, these theorists merely try to "validate their own way of thinking ...

when they use the book just as a crutch to prop up their own ideas."(Shifting Scenes,


Generally speaking, Rochefort's fiction is anti-establishment. In it, narrators

and characters verbally contest modernization and the capitalist system with its

regulatory institutions, mindless authority figures and, perhaps especially, controlling

discourses emanating from established sources of power. Her characters and

narrators frequently represent the popular class and various groups that Rochefort

perceived as oppressed or marginalized in some way. Among these groups we can

mention, for example: women, children, homosexuals, laborers, students, even

writers. Rochefort's themes include such controversial or taboo areas as: government

policies affecting individual lives, female and gay rights, state-controlled education,

Christianity, child sexuality, incest, and even sado-masochistic sex. Yet, at the heart

of Rochefort's fiction, in nearly every instance, is the solitary individual at odds with

mechanisms of society that would limit his perceptions, his activities, and therefore,

his identity.3

One trend in the novel during the twentieth century was toward creation of a

kind of hybrid form that Serge Douvrobsky referred to as autofiction4, a blend of

autobiographical and fictional writing which the author candidly acknowledges as

such. Considerations of time, memory, perspective and voice are of particular

importance in appreciation of the writer's form and content in this new hybrid form.

Male and female writers such as Roland Barthes (La Chambre claire, 1980), Michel

Tournier (Le Vent Paraclet, 1977), Maryse Cond6 (Heremakenon, 1976), Natalie

Sarraute (Enfance, 1983), Marguerite Duras (L 'Amant, 1984), Alain Robbe-Grillet

(Le Mirroir qui revient, 1984) and Christiane Rochefort, (Ma vie revue et corrigie

par I auteur, 1978 and Conversations sans paroles, 1997), for example, were

instrumental in their emergence and development. These modem writers of

autobiographical texts, or autofiction, realized that it is not possible to give a truly

accurate account of their own lives because memory is unreliable, selective and

transforming. They were also acutely aware of reader expectation and response to

content of any writing labeled "novel" or "autobiography," particularly with regard

to perception of truth. The entire concept of "truth" is called into question.

Rochefort's participation in and contribution to the newly developing body of

women's writing is also worthy of note. Generally speaking, the chorus of women's

voices so evident in today's literature is a recent development, particularly in France.

Although throughout the centuries a handful of women have managed to impact

literature through their active role as writers and patrons of writers, it was not until

the twentieth century that the world significantly opened up for them. Only then

were many of the social and political gains sought by previous writers such as Marie

de France, Madame de Lafayette, George Sand, and Colette, finally realized. Women

in France now write and publish freely. They launch journals, own publishing

houses, and are in the forefront of experimentation and innovation with new literary

forms. On this subject Rochefort commented that,

things are beginning to even out ... these days there are more women
in institutions like the university system, more women in publishing,
etc. even if they don't usually have the same power as men. ... I
think this equalizing business is a good thing. ... In France, women
are being published more frequently. It's still a little lopsided, but
the problem of women's posterity is going to be taken care of; they're

going to be known as a matter of course from now on. Complete
disappearance is a thing of the past. (Shifting Scenes, 180-1)

Because literature is one of the most important cultural forms through which

societies shape their sense of values and reality, it follows that any attempt to define

a national culture would only be partial and incomplete if it depended on the writing

of only one segment of that culture. As Simone de Beauvoir eloquently stated,

what we all want to express by means of very different works, is
certainly not the feminine universe to which tradition formerly tried to
confine us: it is all of contemporary society as we see it from our
viewpoint as women. (as cited in Ophir, Regards feminins, 11-12)

Scholars have agreed that Colette and Simone de Beauvoir were among the

earliest in this century to impact literature with a new vision of woman. Germaine

Brde commented that, "in the twenties, after the upheaval of war, a new type of

woman writer appeared, often university trained, conscious of her intellectual

powers, less willing to accept either her relegation to the ranks of feminist writer or

the current definition of her feminine nature.(Women Writers in France, 46) Colette,

for example, redefined the relationship between men and women through the

depiction of women as subjects and men as objects. Beauvoir laid the foundation for

modern feminist thought with the publication of her 1948 Le Deuxieme Sexe, and

then worked to create novels illustrating theses introduced in her theoretical works.

Consistent with Germain Bree's o~ ... i. pc of woman", Christiane Rochefort was

well read, educated, intellectual, and certainly resistant to any labels or

preconceptions traditionally associated either with women in general or with the

nature of women's writing. As in the work of both Colette and Beauvoir, Rochefort's

fiction presents a collection of narrators and protagonists who are largely female,

therefore offering the reader a view of the world and its participants from a woman's


For Rochefort, though, female subjectivity was not enough; she insisted on a

changed notion of femininity as well. In an interview with Monique Crochet,

Rochefort underscored the difference she felt between her own writing and that of

these earlier novelists. She explained that,

c'est pour 9a que je n'ai pas aim6 Colette quand je l'ai lue dans mon
adolescence ... ce qui ne m'a pas plu, c'est que tres souvent elle
entrait dans l'image suggerde des femmes. Au fait, j'aime la
litt6rature de r6volte, de resistance ...." ("Entretien avec Christiane
Rochefort" 428)

It is precisely that inherited In' J suggeree des femmes" which piques Rochefort's

ire and that Beauvoir had so thoroughly and convincingly deconstructed in her

treatise Le Deuxitme Sexe.

Germaine Br6e noted that the end of the war in Indochina, despite the trauma

of decolonization, brought about a period of prosperity that contributed to

disengaging literature from earlier socio-political preoccupations. Two fundamental

concerns marked the work of French writers of both sexes: "the relationship between

established literary patterns and socially accepted, inherited ways of seeing or

constructing reality; [and] the phenomenon of writing itself, of how language works,

of why and how a writer works. .. ."(Bree 58) These two concerns are pertinent to

Rochefort's personal rph-. ,1'..Fph. and to her fictional narrative. For Rochefort, the

novel served as a medium for challenging inherited constructions of social reality

and self that she found particularly unacceptable, limiting and oppressive. She was

keenly aware of the power of i J riu L U,' to perpetuate preconceived notions. She not

only railed constantly against that phenomenon, but personally took up the weapon

of language and manipulated it in a determined effort to try and disarm it.

In this regard, that is in her preoccupation with the power of language to

determine human perception, Rochefort noted,

on n'a pas le temps de se demander D'ou vient le mot, qu'il est deja lI
et occupe le paper, et y a plant son petit drapeau. Nous n'avons pas
A chercher les mots mais A les perdre; a construire les phrases qu'A les
d6manteler; car ce sont des forteresses qui nous enferment dans le
mode de pens6e regnant sans que nous en ayons la moindre
conscience; et nous en font transporteurs. Ce n'est pas notre faute,
puree. C'est le dressage, nomm6 par antiphrase education. .. Ecrire
vraiment consiste a d6s6crire. (C 'est bizarre I 'Vcriture, 133-4)

For Rochefort and others, the challenge was, in a sense, to reinvent language. Their

writing evidences an attempt not only to speak against what they regarded as

phallogocentric discourse and a refusal to accept the world as it is, but a creative

exercise in word play including the invention of neologisms.

Little is known of Rochefort's private life. She was born in Paris, in the

fourteenth arrondissement, the only child of working-class parents. Of them she

related, "mon p&re etait un petit t616graphiste de dix-huit ans quand il 6pousa ma

mere qui avait le meme age. Je suis presque une enfant naturelle, j'imagine que je

suis nee assez vite apres le marriage .... Je me sens d'une g6n6neration spontande. ..

. "(Bourdet, 36) The fourteenth arrondissement is a neighborhood that has been

viewed as ambivalent owing to its motley population of mostly working class

citizens and artisans sprinkled with a relatively small percentage of aristocrats,

plutocrats and members of the bourgeoisie. One critic, Claire Lise Tondeur, referred

to it as "un peu boheme et r6volutionnaire." (Voix defemmes, 81) Politically, the

quarter supported the Commune in 1871, Boulanger in the 1880's, Vichy in World

War II, and de Gaulle in the years after the war. If milieu contributes to the

formation of one's personality and ideology, it is not surprising then to recognize this

bohemian and revolutionary attitude in the writer as well as in her fiction.

Rochefort's early education began at the Icole Communale. Soon afterward,

her parents divorced and placed her in a convent school, the Cours Lacordaire.

where she finished her elementary education. Of those years, Rochefort commented,

"j'ai &t6 une dlve doude, mais indiscipline. J'dtais clown, vous comprenez, et

j'avais toujours zero de conduite."(Visages d'anjourd'hui, 36) As this study shows,

Rochefort's religious training significantly impacted her writing. Numerous

references, allusions, and even direct biblical quotes permeate the pages of her

novels. Christian archetypes frame some of her characterizations, and Christian

patriarchal orthodoxy comes under relentless verbal scorn.

Declared a good student by the nuns of the convent school, however,

Rochefort was enrolled next in the Lyc6e F6enlon where she excelled in mathematics

and natural history but, ironically, did poorly in literature. After secondary school,

she tried her hand at drawing, painting, sculpture and music, all the while earning her

own living as a bank employee, as a clerk in various government offices, and as a

journalist for a local paper.

Earning a living was a primary and a constant concern for Rochefort during

the early days of her writing career. For the most part, she was self-taught through

her voracious reading and general curiosity about science and the arts. Eventually,

she enrolled briefly at the Sorbonne where she took courses in medicine, psychiatry,

psychology and ethnology. She was disappointed in the university though, and

considered her decision to enroll an error. Talking with interviewer Denise Bourdet,

Rochefort remarked, "j'ai 6t6 A la Sorbonne. Je m'y suis promen6e avec agr6ment,

mais j'etais incapable de m'ins6rer dans l'organisation administrative, de prendre

mes inscriptions en temps voulu, bref, je ne suis pas une carrieriste (sic) etj'ai

renonce I'agr6gation. I i ..,. d'aujourd'hui, 36) Rochefort saw institutions in

general as mechanisms of power, imposing their will, organization, and ideology on

individuals. Her reaction to them was invariably adverse. Educational institutions

were a particular target of her criticism, as evidenced by her 1975 novel Encore

heureux qu'on va vers 1'dtd, and her book-length essay Les Enfants d'abord

Writing seems to have been an early calling for Rochefort. From her

childhood on she wrote poems, plays, journals, songs, and essays for her personal

amusement and satisfaction. Of those beginning efforts Rochefort has related,

"c'6tait mon 6poque gongoriste ... Plus tard j'ai fait de l'ecriture automatique. J'en

ai des kilos. Une femme, n'est-ce pas, fr6quente toujours ses ainds. Les miens 6taient

des 6pigones du surr6alisme. Mais j'ai vite 6t6 atterr&e par l'absence de contenu de

mon 6criture automatique, etj'ai cess6 cet exercise."(Bourdet, 37) Publicly, she

worked for a while as a newspaper correspondent. Later, she spent fifteen years as

press attache to the Cannes film festival, during which time she wrote a number of

articles on film criticism. She also worked for a short time for Henri Langlois of the

Paris Cinematheque. Rochefort eventually lost her job because she was seen as

willful, out-spoken, and troublesome. Although her career as a novelist did not begin

until she was forty years old, with the publication of her first novel Le Repos du

guerrier, writing remained her passion. For her, the exigencies of conjugal life

proved too heavy an imposition on her time and writing efforts. She noted, "j'ai ete

mari6e,j'avais des preoccupations menageres, etje faisais de la litterature

alimentaire."(40) Reflecting on her marriage of only four years, Rochefort once

remarked, "that gentleman couldn't understand that I wanted to write at night, he

kept asking me to come to bed, so I had to choose: obviously, I wasn't going to give

up my writing. I have never regretted it."(Women Writers Talking, 210)

Although she vehemently disliked labels of any kind (she emphatically

declared during one interview, "I would be an anarchist if that were not already a

label!"(Women Writers Talking, 209), Rochefort can be regarded as one of the

pioneers of the women's movement in France. Her 1958 novel, Le Repos du

guerrier, already foregrounds themes that will become central to the twentieth-

century feminist agenda. She was a participant in the early years of women's

encounter groups that grew out of the events of May '68 and in the demonstrations

for free legal abortion during the early 1970's. During the early years of the

Movement de liberation de laJfemme, or MLF, she wrote three strong articles

published in the feminist paper Le Torchon brule warning against the dangers

besetting the organization. Early on, she had recognized various destructive forces

threatening to weaken and divide its energies: the attempt by left-wing political

groups to annex the movement to their own ends; the use of the acronym MLF by the

mass media to promote their productions and performances; and the selfish wish of

some of its own members to usurp as much personal power as they could. An

iconoclast, Rochefort eventually lost interest in the women's movement, in the end

just another organization. All of her work, in fact, exhibits a common trait,

abhorrence of respected hierarchies and power structures. Her writing stands as a

passionate appeal for the right to be different and for respect for the oppressed,

whether women, workers, sexual misfits, or children. For her, the modem society of

consummation corrupts, oppresses and destroys what is natural and desirable in

people and in the environment.

As to the question of feminine literature or the more recent concept of

dcriturefeminine, Rochefort, not surprisingly, expressed strong sentiments. Asked if

she thought there were such a thing as a feminine style of writing, she declared

emphatically, "c'est toujours cette meme sacr6e histoire. Moi, j'aime pas Ca le style

f6minin ce qu'on appelait comme qa."("Entretien avec Christiane Rochefort",

French Review, 428) She also expressed hostility toward H61ene Cixous' theory of

feminine writing or ecriture bminine, which purports that women's writing emerges

from and celebrates female sexuality. As outlined by Diana Holmes, on a formal

level ecriture fminine seems to signify "disruption of orthodox structures, cyclical

patterning, a voice that is sensual, musical and passionate but self-effacing before the

rich associative power of words."(French Women's Writing, 226) Some of the

privileged themes of such writing would include: writing itself, women's experience

of their own bodies, and women's relationships with each other. Although an

argument could be made that Rochefort's writing demonstrates traits associated with

this concept of ecriture feminine, (in fact, Diana Holmes has done that in her essay

"Feminism and Realism: Christiane Rochefort and Annie Ernaux"), Rochefort,

basically, saw no difference between men and women writers as to their style and

form. It was only in the area of content that she would acknowledge any possible

differences between male and female writing, those due to social or cultural

considerations. For her, as far as artistic expression is concerned, differences among

individuals must necessarily be expected, but not between entire groups. She

insisted that,

a lot of stupid things have been written about rwril as a woman,"
especially in reference to biology. You can't determine what
biological differences are; they're so overlaid with culture that it's
absolutely impossible to get a clear picture of them. And it's stupid to
try .... Besides, I'm not sure 1 believe in biological differences.
People do have different experiences, of course, but writing as a
woman is like writing as a black, or writing as a coal miner, a
samurai, an Indian Buddhist. ... I have a certain material to work
with. But that doesn't mean that there's a specificity to the writing. I
could j u :- a, I., have given you the response you got from
Sarraute: "I'm not a woman writer; I'm a writer."(Shifting Scenes,

Rochefort's formal writing career began with the publication of two short

stories: Le Demon des pinceaux (1953) and Le Fauve et le rouge-gorge (1955).

However, it was not until Grasset published her first novel, Le Repos du guerrier in

1958, that she became well known and respected as a writer. The novel was an

instant success selling 600,000 copies, taking its place on the best-seller list, and

receiving the Prix de la Nouvelle Vague. (In 1962, Roger Vadim adapted the novel

for the screen, and then-reigning sex symbol of French cinema, Brigitte Bardot,

played the starring role.) The novel, scandalous and controversial from the

beginning, attacks marriage and accepted role models in relationships between men

and women. Rochefort questions the mutually alienating effects of preconceived

stereotypes on both sexes. In particular, this couple participates in a sadomasochistic

sexual relationship in which a bourgeois woman humiliatingly submits to the erotic

demands of a bohemian male.

Rochefort's second novel. Les Petits Enfants du siecle (1961) was also well

received and earned her a second award, the Prix du Roman Populiste. This award

was established in 1931 to be given "a toute oeuvre qui peint les gens du people et

les milieux populaires, A condition que se degage de cette peinture une tendresse

humaine vraie."(cited in introduction by Thody, xxiv) Another success, Les Petits

Enfants du siecle was ranked third on the bestseller lists in May 1961 and adapted for

French television in 1974. Like Le Repos du guerrier, this second novel also found

its way to the big screen in a film by Godard entitled Deux ou trois choses queje sais

d'elle. According to Rochefort, this film "n'a pas regard mon livre mais les choses

posant les memes questions A peu pres."(C'est bizarre 'ecriture, 55) Les Petits

Enfants du siecle has become almost a classic. Excerpts of it are regularly included

in high school and university French textbooks as a means of introducing students to

vocabulary as well as to aspects of modern French culture, particularly life during

the years now referred to as the trente glorieuses immediately following the Second

World War. As Diana Holmes aptly commented,

Les Petits Enfants du siccle(1961) engages directly with
contemporary social issues in a classically realist way. The narrative
concerns what Rochefort sees as a cluster of interlocking social
policies designed to ensure both social control and increased
industrial productivity: the encouragement of a high birth-rate through
financial incentives and lack of contraception; the relocation of the
working class in estates ... the channeling of the desire for pleasure
into the consumption of manufactured goods, achieved through
advertising and marketing techniques. ... (Contemporary French
Fiction by Women, 30)

As in Le Repos du guerrier, both sexes feel stifled by predetermined class

and sex roles. This time, all the characters come from the lower strata of Parisian

society, the working class. The narrative unfolds among the inhabitants of the

habitations a loyer modern or HLMs of the then newly-constructed apartments built

outside Paris to rehouse inner-city slum-dwellers.

Les Stances a Sophie followed in 1963. A kind of Bildungsroman, the novel

traces, in first-person, a young woman's gradual awareness that marriage is a social

institution deeply determined by tradition and in which pre-determined roles and

relationships are extremely difficult to change. She learns that individualism is, in

fact, a myth. Her choices as a consumer (and therefore the sense of self that she

attempts to express through those choices) are illusory. Underlying all this limitation

and pre-determination are ideologically charged words, in a language that is encoded

with values and meanings. In this novel, the protagonist's husband Philippe

symbolically represents a political and economic system that perpetuates myths that

serve only to thwart individual expression and achievement, particularly for women.

Une Rose pour Morrison followed in 1966. A futuristic caricature of modem

society, its characters and themes presciently announce the events of May 1968 and

feminist theory of the 1970's. As in Les Stances a Sophie, Rochefort's narrative

attacks those forces of society that tend to stifle the individual. Again, linguistic and

sexual revolutions are preliminary to political change. One critic, Lucille Becker,

described the novel as "an allegory of pre-1968 France in which the characters are

personifications of abstract qualities."(Twentieth-Century French Women Novelists,

144) The novel's title derives from an actual person. Norman Morrison was an

American who, in protest to the Vietnam War, committed suicide on the steps of the

Pentagon in 1965. Finding himself living in what seems like a police state, the main

character, Triton Sauvage, becomes a rock star and adopts the stage name Amoking

Bird. He travels around the world singing antiwar songs and telling people the true

meaning of words they hear and use.

The student rebellion of 1968 forms the backdrop for Rochefort's next novel,

Printemps au parking. Here the protagonist is a run-away adolescent who goes to

the Latin Quarter where he strikes up a friendship with a university student. Their

brief homosexual encounter transforms their lives. Having crossed this social barrier,

they both begin to question other dictates of society. The novel's ending, at the

approach of springtime, S u .L. I jr.'l.i. r hi, -'imoin, '-that of a freer, more tolerant

and open society. This novel was apparently a difficult one for Rochefort to write;

she began writing it in 1964, before Une Rose pour Morrison, and rewrote it three

times before releasing it for publication. Still dissatisfied, she decided to write a sort

of journal of the adventures and obstacles that accompanied the writing of the book.

This journal was eventually published in 1970 as C'est bizarre I 'criture. It was also

published in Canada in 1977 under the title Journal du printemps, rdcit d'un livre.

The question of sexuality is a recurring theme in Rochefort's work.

Heterosexual, homosexual, bisexual, incestual, sadistic, and masochistic sexual

relations all play an important role somewhere within the corpus of her writing. But,

as Rochefort explained:

sex is absent. Sex, that is the desire, longing, feelings, and emotions
that are really connected with sexual energy, with the body itself in its
purely sexual manifestation. Sex is an organ of communication. But
when you take a look at what actually happens, that's not at all what
you see. The end result, what with the frantic socialization of that
particular mechanism, what with oppression, alienation, exploitation,
sublimation, recuperation, that's not at all what it's
about.(Homosexualities and French Literature, 103)

For her, the horror of being stigmatized for sexual morals, or for anything for that

matter, is a very real form of imprisonment.

In her personal life, Rochefort was bisexual. She has stated, "I've loved

people, and sometime it's been women, sometimes men, that's all there is to it."

(105) Asked if she thought there existed a connection between homosexuality and

certain literary trends, Rochefort responded, "when you see how many homosexual

men there are among artists and how good they are, it seems there must be a female

element in their creation. ... It would seem that one must be double-sexed to be a

creator."(108) In each of her books, the question of sexuality is situated within

broader issues of power, relationship, and subjectivity.

Rochefort's next two books can be classified as utopian novels: Archaos ou

le jardin dtincelant (1972) and Encore heureux qu 'on va vers I 'ete (1975). Archaos

is Rochefort's longest novel and was her favorite. She considered it the most positive

text she ever wrote. The novel begins as a medieval epic with all of the conventional

characters of that period: a king, queen, ministers, and so on. In this make-believe

kingdom, the guiding principle is that, "rien n'instruit comme le plaisir."(Archaos,

152) The new Utopia is founded on the abolition of personal property, authority, and

law and on the belief that good sex is important for everyone. "Good sex" is seen as

that which includes tenderness and generosity toward the sexual partner and a sense

of communion with the world at large. Outside the kingdom, desire and pleasure are

linked to the destructive designs of Order and Progress. There, in other words, sex is

a mechanism for control. As Diana Holmes explained, "desire, then, is seen as a vital

part of feeling whole, and as an impulse constrained and diminished by the language

and institutions of a patriarchal culture."(French Women's Writing, 263) Separation

of the sexes is virtually abolished in favor of androgyny or what Rochefort sees as

wholeness. Androgyny refuses polarization and represents a kind of vision that

would focus instead on the positive attributes of both genders and blend them into a

total sense of self. The novel suggests that this blending of personality traits is

possible in all human beings. In essence, its message is how to desire without power.

Encore heureux qu 'on va vers I 'dt is a utopian vision that focuses attention

on the plight of children, whom Rochefort views as a particularly oppressed group of

humanity. In this novel children unite in rebellion against an insensitive school

teacher and run away to escape from a society that tries to stifle them at every turn.

They establish a commune where logic and authoritarianism are to be replaced by

intuition and imagination. In her non-fictional text Les Enfants d'abord (1976),

Rochefort cites facts and figures to support her thesis that children are an oppressed

minority all over the world, having virtually no rights of their own. Both books met

with hostility. In the opinion of her readers, she had attacked and maligned the

traditional family unit.

During the next several years, Rochefort turned her attention away from the

novel to produce a ',, .'k-iil essay on the condition of children (Les Enfants

d abord, 1976), a whimsical autobiography (Ma vie revue et corrigde par I 'auteur,

1978), a collection of short stories (Pardonnez-nous nos enfances, 1978), and a free-

style translation of John Lennon's In His Own Write (En flagrant ddlire, 1981).

Crossing boundaries between fiction and non-fiction, Rochefort's autobiographical

text was a kind of literary experiment with Maurice Chavardes at the request of the

publisher, Stock. It was based on a taped interview which was intended to provide a

spontaneous, oral-style text of a dialogue between writers, similar to the one

successfully conducted by Marguerite Duras and Xaviere Gauthier in Les Parleuses

in 1974. Because Rochefort was not pleased with the taped dialogue, she

subsequently reworked the material as "literature." In the introduction to her book

she explained:

Maurice Chavardes et moi avons passe ensemble une quarantine
d'heures rien qu'A parler, et bourre plus de vingt bandes. J'ose dire
qu'on ne se connaissait pas a la fin mieux qu'avant. Lui n'etait pas
sense me faire ses confidences, il posait les questions. Et moi, qui lui
livrais ma vie, je crois qu'il me connaissait mieux quand il n'avait que
lu mes livres.
L'interview, c'est I'anti-communication. (31)

For Rochefort, the idea of experimenting with a form held all the appeal of

this project. She admitted that a taste for experimentation, a curiosity for research,

and a love for games of language were her personal demons. And experiment it is.

Certainly it cannot be categorized according to the criteria set forth in Philippe

Lejeune's Le Pacte autobiographique. Closer to Serge Dubrovsky's concept of

autofiction, Rochefort's book establishes its own parameters. Georgiana Colvile

referred to the book as a "potpourri o(f ihb 'iiL poems, proverbs, word games,

lists of memories, militant statements, newspaper clippings, favorite recipes, and

many other items, all full of humor and rebellion [which] gives the reader a far

more accurate portrait of her than any conventional autobiographyy ever could."

(Women Writers Talking, 226)

Rochefort returned to the novelistic genre with the publication in 1982 of

Quand tu vas chez lesfemmes. In it, the dark, anti-hero of the novel, Bertrand, allows

his desire to draw him into anguished, masochistic behavior which he survives, but

only barely. A teacher and psychoanalyst, Bertrand has just spent a year researching

and preparing a philosophical treatise. This project having caused him to suffer

moral despair and confusion, he makes a trip to Paris where he visits prostitutes and

pays them to beat and humiliate him, seeking relief through sexual and physical

punishment. In a kind of reversal of roles, he allows himself to become enslaved to

the destructive nature of strong and masterful women. Petra destroys his career by

publicly refuting him as he attempts to present his research in the university's

amphitheater. His sexual perversions, his martyrdom, his lack of any human

relationship based on compassion or acceptance, combined with the fact that he

exhibits no clear sense of self or purpose, all place him outside "ordered society."

His wife, Malaure, eventually even appropriates the narrative and replaces him as the

figure of the writer. Betrand, in the end, is left without words, without a voice.

As part of its Collection La part obscure, (collection under the direction of

Eglal Errera), Grasset & Fasquelle published Rochefort's Le Monde est comme deux

chevaux, in 1984. Perhaps unsure of how to classify this particular text, and with no

inscription included by the author either in its title or on the flyleaves to indicate an

intended genre, the book has subsequently been referred to as an essay. A quoted

statement printed on the back cover of the paperback edition states that,

"La part obscure" demand a des ecrivains d'6crire un texte que I'on
n'a pas coutume de lire sous leur plume. L'auteur le plus libre, le
plus accompli, semblerait avoir un enfant secret. Certains ont pr6f&r6
le garder dans le silence des mots, d'autres ont d6cide de le mettre au
jour, d'offrir A l'6tonnement de leurs lecteurs un "ce que je suis

In this book. Rochefort assembled a collection of diverse observations,

thoughts, quotations, comments, and news items of current events that, in their

ensemble, offer a personal vision of the world around her and, through that vision, an

understanding of herself. In this motley assortment of mini-texts, Rochefort draws

attention to the ironies, paradoxes, inconsistencies, uncertainties, incongruities, and

injustices of an imperfect world where stupidity, ignorance and pettiness abound. In

a style that recalls John Dos Passos' 1913 USA. trilogy, Rochefort combines

various literary devices/forms such as memoir, journal, news item, advertisement,

editorial, dialogue, and poetry to give a view of the contemporary world. She touches

on many domains of everyday life affecting the human condition in general: art,

politics, religion, philosophy, ecology, urbanism, education, family relationships. At

the end, in a section entitled "Visage original, she turns her regard inward. Using a

tone that is at once personal and indulgent, she comments on her feelings of

insignificance and vulnerability in a complicated, often hostile world:

Mais moi, moi, je t'aime .. tu es une vraie chose petite 6tre, pleine
de traces et de cicatrices, Ajamais imparfaite, mais moi je t'aime car
je sais de quelle bataille tu es le h6ros vaincu et d6sol6. (220)

In 1988, Rochefort received another award of literary distinction, the Prix

Medicis for her powerful novel on incest and child sexual abuse, La Porte dufond.

The narrator recounts in conversational style, without self-pity, the story of the

person she has become. Rochefort's novel dramatizes prevailing myths surrounding

the issue of father-daughter incest: the myth of the seductive daughter and that of the

collusive mother. As Margaret-Anne Hutton noted, "Rochefort prompts us, as

readers, to engage with the central issue of responsibility and consent, confronting us

with our own prejudices and preconceptions."("Assuming Responsibility," Modern

Language Review, 333) Additionally, as always in Rochefort's narratives, an attack

is leveled against patriarchal institutions. This time focus is on Freudian psychology

and Christianity, because of their pervasive ideology in contemporary society and

particularly with regard to their impact on family dynamics and the relationships of

power. As Hutton pointed out, the question becomes, "How free is the individual to

operate outside the prevailing ethos of that society?"(339) The narrative then, in

essence, raises the possibility of multiple victims. The issues raised in La Porte du

fond are also addressed in Rochefort's book-length essay Les Enfants d'abord, 1976.

In her essay, she makes clear her belief that incest itself should not be condemned.

The offense for Rochefort is, rather, the abuse of power in the context of parent-child


After a hiatus of ten years, Rochefort published two additional texts in the

year before her death: Conversations sans paroles and Adieu Andromede, (1997).

Adieu Andromede is a collection of free verse and miscellaneous, short musings

inspired as a mature artist reviews poignant moments of her life. Both texts are

poetic, not only in form but in tone. Both posit personal, philosophic contemplation

on past and present relationships, on the precariousness and purpose of individual

existence, on death, and on the aleatory nature of communication, particularly the

inadequacy of language to effectuate it either orally or in writing. Though a lament

of the irritants, frustrations, and insidious controls civilization imposes on individual

life, both texts are essentially optimistic that what is objectionable can be overcome.

The human spirit, in determined defiance, can and will prevail.

In an interview with Denise Bourdet, Rochefort remarked that she had

recently attended a colloquium in Royaumont on the subject of the novel. "J'ai peu

parl6," she continued, "et seulement avec Glissant qui soutenait que la poesie ne

devait pas se melanger au roman. Moi, je trouve que si." (Visages d'aujourd'hui, 37)

Rochefort ends her narrative in Conversations sans paroles with the couplet:

Mon corps la terre, et mon esprit
Aux electrons qui l'ont cre6. (110)

Conversations sans paroles is cleverly subtitled roman, one of only two of her texts

to be so designated (the other being La Porte dufond). It is, however, unmistakably

autobiographical. Recalling Nathalie Sarraute's tropismes or sub-conversations,

Rochefort would have the reader attempt to reach beyond the surface of words:

ce sera, sij'y parviens, A travers ses divagations, et ses
emerveillements, l'histoire, autrement remarquable, bien que
beaucoup moins remarquee, de ce que portent les yeux, de ce qu'ils
delivrent, et 6changent, au-dela des paroles, et sans elles.
Je ne sais pas sije vais m'en tirer. (33)

Though Rochefort's novels are highly personal, most often written in first

person, their scope extends beyond the narrative exploration of individual experience

or psyche. As her narrator insists:

II ne s'agit pas de toi.
Ni non plus de moi. Moi je ne suis ici
qu'un support.
II s'agit, comme toujours, de la vie.

De la vie. (103)

Rochefort's novelistic exploration of life foregrounds the enduring theme of

the solitary individual pitted against invisible yet powerful forces inherent in

civilized society. Through the variety of voices in her novels, she effectively deals

with the personal and, at the same time, makes a powerful statement about such

broad issues as language, sexuality, essentialism, and institutional and economic

exploitation. Consequently, from the pages of her texts emerges a cacophony of

diverse voices that, through their insistent interchange, challenge existing myth and

convention as they create narrative interest and tension.

Three broad groupings delineate Christiane Rochefort's stylistic development

over the forty years of her novelistic career. Her early novels, which gained her

recognition and established her as a serious writer, appeared in the five years

between 1958 and 1963 (Le Repos du guerrier, 1958; Les Petits Enfants du sicle,

1961; Les Stances a Sophie, 1963). Narratively, these novels are characterized by a

general adherence to novelistic tradition. They are realistic; characters are well

defined and relationships among them are clear; events proceed linearly; an

autodiegetic, female narrator controls the pace of the narrative; and the tension in

each novel results from an individual's resistance to dictates of society. Of these

novels Rochefort has commented, "C'6tait dans le temps de mon innocence litt6raire

et d'un temps oi on raconte une histoire. Etj'avais un style d6guelasse. Et de

toute facon, quand j'6crivais des livres a ce moment-la, c'6tait ma periode

d'6tude."(Steckel, 164) Yet, the seeds of Rochefort's mature writing style are already

present: irreverent voices of irony and dissent; narrative structuring through

analepsis, repetition, and intensification; heavy intertextual weaving; varying levels

of language usage, with particular attention to individualizing spoken language;

splitting of the narrative voice; layering and shifting of tenses; voices of characters

serving as authorial masks; complicity with the reader; and an overall dialogic


A second group of novels, published from 1966 until 1978, is clearly marked

by the events, attitudes and discourse of those pivotal years in French society. In

them, there is a notable shift from focus on the plight of a single individual to interest

in a group of individuals and their reactions against situations and preconceptions

perceived as unacceptable. Included in this period are Une Rose pour Morrison,

1966; Printemps au parking, 1967; Archaos ou lejardin etincelant, 1972; and

Encore heureux qu 'on va vers I 'edt, 1975; and Rochefort's autobiographical

experiment, Ma vie revue et corrige par 'auteur,1978. The third-person narrator in

three of these novels is extradiegetic, and whether s/he is male or female is unclear

and unimportant. In a fourth, the first-person, homodiegetic narrator is male. An

increased element of fantasy resides in all of the novels of this period. Two, in fact,

are utopian in theme. All are characterized by a heightened sense of ambiguity and

even anonymity surrounding the speaking voices within the diegesis. Although

metatextual commentary is present in Rochefort's first novel, Le Repos du guerrier,

it is in these later novels that the novelist begins to develop more fully this aspect of

her writing style. More frequently, the narrative voice becomes self-reflective as the

act of narrating itself is brought to the attention of the reader.

The third, and final, period of Rochefort's novelistic creation is inscribed by

an increased narrative complexity, a marked tendency for narrative self-

consciousness, and a return to her earlier penchant for an autodiegetic, first-person

narrator. During the last fifteen years of her life, Rochefort published five more

novels: Quand tu vas chez les femmes, 1982; La Porte du jond, 1988; Le Monde est

comme deux chevaux, 1984; Conversations sans paroles, 1997; and Adieu

Andromede, 1997. Again, one of the narrators is male. The narrative voice

increasingly assumes multiple personae. In several of her earlier novels, the narrating

character experiences a split or change of perspective as a result of an experience or

experiences that force a certain self-awareness. In her later novels, however, the

narrating voice itself vacillates between roles as purveyor of the diegesis, as

participating character, and as commentator. Often confusion or disorientation can

result for the reader as both the narrating voice and the voices of the characters

become enmeshed and entwined with little or no indication of who is speaking. The

tendency to include ambiguous and anonymous voices is matched by attention to

messages hidden behind the spoken words, within other physical signs, and in the

silences of the unspoken. Increasingly, there emerges a sense of urgency to

communicate by whatever means. Rochefort's boldness in broaching controversial

themes continues and even reaches into areas often considered taboo, particularly

from the pen of a female writer (specifically, sado-masochism and incest). Yet,

however dark and threatening her choice of theme, Rochefort's treatment of it

remains ironically humorous. Through the mockery, an underlying optimism persists

throughout most of Rochefort's fictional railing against repressive individuals,

attitudes and institutions.


1. Notably, the group of writers who came to be called "new novelists."

2. Gerald Prince gives the following definition of "antinarrative" in his A Dictionary
o1 '.."'.. .,.'..- (1987): "A (verbal or nonverbal) text adopting the trappings of
narrative but systematically calling narrative logic and narrative conventions into
question; an antistory. Robbe-Grillet's Jealousy and Beckett's Molloy are
antinarratives." (Chatman, 1978).

3. The desire for individual expression has always been inherent in literature, and as
Walter Benjamin observed in 1936, the birthplace of the novel "is the solitary
individual." ("The Storyteller," 87) That solitary individual, in his personal crisis of
identity and fulfillment, haunts the pages of novels from every era. One can look as
far back as Beroul's and Thomas' accounts of Tristan et Yseut, Chr6tien de Troyes'
La Mort du roi Autu and Rabelais' Pantagruel and Gargantua. In the 17th century, in
Madame de la Layette's La Princesse de Clkves, a young woman's individual crisis
pits her against social conventions of her day. In the eighteenth century, notable
examples of the individual's determined struggle for self-actualization can be found
in Pr6vost's Manon Lescaut, Marivaux's Le Paysan parvenu, Diderot's La Religieuse,
Rousseau's La Nouvelle Heloise, and even Voltaire's Candide and Zadig, to mention
only a few. The nineteenth century's array of unforgettable novelistic heroes striving
to achieve a sense of self within the framework of a politically and economically
turbulent society, constrained by myth and convention, includes such forceful
characterizations as those of Ren6, Adolphe, Indiana, Eug6nie Grandet, Julien Sorel,
Gervaise Macquart, and Emma Bovary. This trend has persisted and intensified in
the twentieth century with a predominance of first-person narratives characterized by
a heightened awareness of the pervasive power of language to interpellate and
determine subjectivity or alterity. Pertinant to this trend in modern literature, eight of
Rochefort's eleven novels are written in first person.

4. In coining this term, Doubrovsky designates writing that, like psychoanalysis,
takes place beyond the distinction between confession and invention. For him, the
meaning of life does not exist anywhere to be discovered; it must be invented or
constructed. He explains that "autofiction is the fiction of myself that I have decided,
as a writer, to give of myself, incorporating the experience of analysis, in the full
sense of the word, not only in thematics but also in the production of the text."
("Autobiographie/Verit6/Psychanalyse." 96)


"C'etait dans le temps de mon innocence litteraire. ...
(Christiane Rochefort, interview 1975)

In Le Repos du guerrier, Genevieve serves as the first-person, autodiegetic

narrator. She begins with an interior monologue the sense of which will become

clear when it is taken up again on the last pages of the novel. Following her opening

monologue regarding her present state of mind, Genevi&ve begins a retrospective tale

of her agonizing relationship with a man she had met by chance encounter. Her

experiences with this stranger force her to reexamine her own attitudes, values, fears

and desires.

There is then, from the beginning, a splitting process as the present narrator

judges her former self and begins to relate the situations and events that will

comprise the narrative. As she describes herself, the imagery is always from the

point of view of the other, of the man Renaud with whom she has established a

master-slave relationship, or of her "other" self. The existence of this other self is the

result of a metamorphosis brought on by her desire for Renaud, desire that she labels

in the only acceptable terms that 1950's French society permits a well-brought-up

young woman to speak: love. She relates that,

je ressens une delivrance d'accouch6e.... Mon venture me fait mal.
Une b&te chaude y habite depuis une minute et d6ja prend

place, ce monstre se dilate, et c'est moi. Le moi qui, toute ma vie, a
ni6 le coup de foudre, le coup de foudre vient de le tuer. (43)

She talks of her nouveau moi, her nouvelle peau, and her nouveau monde.

Her perspective on life changes completely as she explains that, "une fois pose la

ligne de force de l'amour, on voit que le monde est gouverne par la magie et non par

la raison." (45)

In reference to Renaud, she notes that, "il n'6coute pas ce queje dis, il le

regarded; c'est une impression tres curieuse, comme si j'existais A c6t6 de moi." (59)

A bit later she acknowledges that, "je ne me regardais plus que dans Renaud."(65)

She also experiences a physical split: into mind versus body or physical desire as

opposed to reason. She tries to explain that, "mon corps, pendant ce temps-lI, est

contre la porte. colle, il hurle, je hurle comme un chien. Je l'avais oubli6 celui-la..

. C'est pourtant moi aussi cette chair douloureuse." (72) The use of two different

subject pronouns, il andje, as well as the demonstrative celui-lh, grammatically

indicate her split perspective with regard to self. The immediate result of this

sensation of a divided self is imaginary dialogue between the two halves of herself

Speaking in familiar terms, using the tu form as she addresses her other self, the

voice of desire chastises and tries to bring under control the reasoning self: "vois ce

que tu as fait? dit I'autre. Tu l'as chass. ... Tu as tout nid, tu l'as nie; tu t'etonnes

qu'il parte?"(72) This technique of splitting the narrating voice into multiple aspects

of the same personality and placing them in dialogic opposition with one another will

be further developed later on by Nathalie Sarraute in Enfance and by Marguerite

Duras in I'Amant.' Thus, Rochefort's 1959 novel can effectively be read as opening

a kind of dialogue with these later novels from the standpoint of narrative treatment

of voice.

Genevieve attempts to make clear her schizophrenic dilemma by confessing

blatantly that, "il y aura deux Genevieve: Mile Le Theil; un foss6 creus6 au

bulldozer; et puis la Maitresse de Sarti. Les deux ne se connaissent pas, se

meprisent, se renient. 'Je suis une vraie femme', dit l'une, et I'autre: 'Tu es une

obs6d6e sexuelle'."(90) Renaud, however, interprets her struggle differently, seeing a

fundamental denial of her self in the unacknowledged desire to conform. In a

passage of direct discourse, Renaud's language "shows" or acts out through

syntactical and stylistic means the splitting apart or breakdown that is characteristic

of the schizophrenic condition to which he refers.

Schizophr6nie! Bourgeoisie, voila le nom de ton mal. Le rdel,
connais pas: m'arrange pas connais pas. Veux pas le savoir. Et que
la f6te continue. (278)

Renaud speaks in fragments, splitting apart sentences. He breaks the

negative form and verbalizes onlypas. He declares that she does not exist in the real

world, and doesn't want to. In an instance of free indirect narration, Renaud mimicks

Genevieve's speech: Le reel, connaispas. ... Veux pas le savoir. Then, by omitting

the subject pronoun tu from his utterances, he effectively effaces her subjectivity in

language as well. Schizophrenia, in fact, will be a recurrent theme in Rochfortian


The division within the narrative voice is paralleled further by the novel's

basic structure. The novel is separated into two parts, each having five numbered

chapters. The second half represents the metaphorical death of Genevieve's illusions,

illusions about the nature of being feminine, about love, about Renaud's power over

her, about how to live. It begins with her account of her last will and testament, and

continues with language and figures of death until the end. At one point Genevieve

ruminates that,

il fallait s'occuper les mains, ou les dents, ou Dieu sait quoi; remplir
un trou quelque part, qui n'avait pas de nom. Je le savais, ce nom,
moi et j'eusse donnd ma tate A couper qu'il ne s'agissait pas de
I'amour, comme le croyait Simone, mais de quelque chose de
beaucoup plus trouble et indefinissable, d'une echappatoire, toujours
la mime, ce d6sir de turner le dos a la r6alit6, de se perdre, de se
d6truire, et qui 6tait peut-etre, tout au fond, I'attrait de la mort. (236)

The interior debate that she carries on with regard to her sense of self and her

relationship with Renaud Sarti is played out additionally in the second half of the

novel through the creation by the novel's characters of a play reworking the myth of

Orpheus and Eurydice. The narrating voice of Genevieve relates that,

du coup, devenant Eurydice, dans un renversement hardi de la
16gende je me mis en quite d'Orphee.... Pour lyre,j'avais mon
propre coeur. .... Eurydice emploierait tous les moyens. Elle
essaierait de sdduire..... Orph6e essayait de chanter les vieux airs
d'autrefois; mais c'etait hideusement faux, hl6as! I1 ne savait plus. La
voix d'Orph6e serait d6form6e...invers6e, d6pouillde des
harmoniques, blanchie 'comme celle d'un mort'. (219-220)

In an interesting over-lapping of personalities, Orphee is spoken by Renaud

who functions also as a masked voice for Rochefort. Here "he" is depicted as a

frustrated figure who vainly tries to go along with the traditional, or "les vieux airs

d'autrefois" but, in his mouth, the words seem false. His voice becomes distorted and

empty under the tension of this constraint. Genevieve, in the role of Eurydice, goes

in quest for Orpheus, reversing the roles of the characters in the legend. Now she

can be seen to represent what is past, outdated. The music of her lyre falls flat and is

no longer able to seduce. It is not out of tune with the present. To force this tired

model on Orpheus only results in a deadening of his voice. Orpheus, rendered by the

traditional myth as symbolic of the notion of romantic love that saves lost souls, has

now become the object of Eurydice's quest. In this inversion of the myth, Eurydice

represents that romantic notion and she desires that Orpheus give voice to her music.

As does Eurydice, Genevieve tries every means to attain that embodiment of

romantic love promised by the myth, believing that her life and her "self" will be

transformed by it. Like Eurydice in the revised rendition of the play, however, she

will meet with disappointment and disillusionment. When Eurydice later finds

Orpheus' dismembered body, she vainly tries to reassemble it. Her failure to put his

body back together also parallels Genevieve's experience of failure in trying to put

Renaud's life back together, to "mainstream" him into society.

Renaud's loss of voice foreshadows a later passage of Genevieve's narration

in which she will reflect, "disait Renaud, qui disait, qui disait, mais ne faisait

toujours rien, que dire, jusqu'au moment oi il fut frapp6 d'une extinction de voix A

peu pros totale."(253) (An earlier foreshadowing occurs at the end of chapter four in

Part One of the novel as Genevieve notes to herself: "nous rentrimes en silence.

Renaud 6tait frapp6 de mutisme.")( 1l8) On a metatextual level, this failure and loss

of voice can also be understood as a breakdown of traditional narrative. The "old

tunes" just don't seem to "ring true" anymore.

Because Rochefort chose the voice of a female protagonist to narrate many of

her novels, in first person, readers and some critics have tended to identify that

character's voice as a mask of Rochefort's own. While the writer has confirmed that

aspects of various characters in her novels do indeed reflect her own life experience

or philosophy, those reflections do not always issue from the character to whom she

has given the narrating voice. In the case of Le Repos du guerrier, Rochefort has

made it clear that her female protagonist is not to be considered the author's

mouthpiece. Rather, she insists, "I didn't identify at all with the woman who narrates

in the first person. Everyone assumed I was her, but that's not me at all. It's

clear that the character who speaks for me in the novel is the man."(Shifting Scenes,


Rochefort identifies with her character whom she portrays as marginal or

unconventional. The man, Renaud, is a social dropout who rebelliously pits himself

against what he sees as senseless dictates of society. During the 1950's,

promiscuous sex, alcohol abuse and irillL '; were the primary vices through which

people displayed decadence and flaunted disregard for social norms. Renaud

wallows in self-deprecating sentiment. While he considers himself superior in his

obstinate refusal to conform, he seems to masochistically enjoy his misery. He

pompously rails, "le mortel ne meurt pas, il survit. Comme on survit A la bombe

atomique, le corps d6finitivement irradi6, I'ame planant sur la face de l'abime des

molecules potentiellement d6sintegr6es, sur le vide essentiel."(76) As for Genevieve,

he sarcastically belittles her naivete and willing objectivity: "regarde-moi un peu,

s6rieusement, c'est toujours toi que tu regardes, change l'objectif, mets un long foyer

... envisage oi tu fourres tes pieds. .. si tu crois que l'amour est un bouclier, tu te

trompes, c'est une breche."(77) Renaud's speech is authoritative and replete with

metaphor. Like Rochefort whose voice he masks, he is a sensitive and intelligent

soul prone to flights of imagination. His language is familiar and marked by derision,

le rire populaire directed at Genevieve and her naive fantasy that "love conquers


Reminiscent of Rimbaud's famous "je suis un autre," Rochefort has tried to

explain her narrative treatment of this character by saying,

ce que je voulais c'6tait montrer Je voyant II avec les yeux de
l"incomprehension. Bien qu'6crit a la premiere personnel, ce n'est pas
du tout un roman autobiographique. Moi, c'est II. Ce qu'il dit, c'est
moi qui le dis. Comme lui, j'aime dl6irer verbalement. Maisje ne
suis pas alcoolique. (Visages d'Aujourd'hui, 39)

Renaud, however, has a double in this novel, Rafaele, who appears only in

the last third of the book. The image of doubling is important, subtly underscoring

the duality inherent in human nature and serving as counterpoint to the theme of

schizophrenia in the character of Genevieve. Genevieve notes that, "elle lui

ressemblait comme une soeur"(204), and that, in fact, "c'6tait lui-meme."(269)

Rafaele is a seductively androgynous figure whom the narrator characterizes by:

"son allure entire fille et gargon ou plut6t les deux ensemble."(223) A woman, she

nevertheless dresses in somewhat masculine clothes (no bra, a man's shirt, pants);

her hair is cropped short; her voice is rough and aggressive; and her mannerisms are

similar to Renaud's (the way she sits, for example, crossing her ankle over her knee).

She is variously referred to by the narrator as: double, asexuee, soeur, fee, sorciere,

enfant, chevalier, copain, chat, bebd, bas-bleu, demi-folle, bouc dgarr, chevreau,

agneau, sacrifice, ange, and muse. In a later interview Rochefort acknowledged that

her voice is masked behind this double as well.

Je voulais 6crire Ca de mon point de vue A moi; celui qui est devenu
dans le livre Rafaele. (Hurtin, 9)

There is, then, a second splitting of voice, setting up an additional site of tension

within a character. Rafaele's more tempered voice may be understood to represent

the mystical, intuitive, and creative aspect of Renaud. Subsequent to his

acquaintance with her and under her influence, Renaud experiences transformations

in his personality, emerging as a writer figure, pianist and bon vivant. Genevieve


"Ce" Renaud 6crivait. Etait gai ... Ce Renaud aimait la musique ...
"Ce" Renaud, en pleine sante physique sinon mental, devorait,
laissait du whisky dans ses verres.... 1I vivait.... Et ce Renaud
soudain reve6l ce n'6tait pas le mien, c'6tait celui de Rafaele. (222)

Except for occasional, fragmented responses to demands voiced by Renaud,

the voice of Genevieve remains locked in the narration. Renaud's voice dominates; it

scorns, protests, ridicules, even philosophizes. Long passages are devoted to his

pessimistically existential voice argumentatively and negatively holding forth on the

pointlessness of human, and particularly his own, existence:

Et moi, j'aime ce qui est beau. A d6faut du reste. Surtout quand c'est
flou. Flou, tout est beau ... j'aime le flou, le vague, le brumeux,
l'estomp6, le on ne sait pas tres bien ce que c'est, alors rend-toi
compete du travail! Je gomme, je floute, je filoute, je file; A l'acide, au
couteau, a l'esprit-de-sel, a l'esprit-de-vin. (80)

Genevieve's narrating voice works around his spoken voice in the relative

silence of her recounted memory of their tormented relationship.

Je ne pouvais vraiment plus prdtendre ne pas savoir, et Renaud
s'agagait de mon silence. II me provoquait. "Qu'est-ce que tu
regardes!" Je le regardais se verser du vin avec cette promptitude
discrete qui avait longtemps tromp6 mon attention. "Tes mains." -
"Qu'est-ce qu'elles ont mes mains?" Ses mains tremblaient. "Tu as
de belles mains", soupirai-je, care pensais: quel dommage, de si
belles mains, trembler. ... "Ah oui?" II suivait parfaitement tout
l'arriere-plan de cette conversation.(100-101)

Renaud reads through her words as we do. He interprets her gestures and her gaze

along with her silence. Her spoken words tiptoe around his aggressive outbursts in an

effort to preserve her fantasies and illusions concerning Renaud.

As she gradually comes to know Renaud Sarti, and consequently herself

through her relationship with him, Genevieve finally realizes that at the bottom of all

the personal anguish she has experienced is the ultimate dilemma for all people.

Echoing Renaud's words, she notes, "mais comment vivre, c'est la question."(222)

In a final twist of situational irony at the end of the novel, Renaud apparently

abandons his obstinate refusal to conform to society's expectations. He gives up and

gives in (as Hutton suggests, he effectively loses the voice that has characterized him

from the beginning) saying,

je ne veux pas faire ce queje veux, passe-moi les menottes, je t'en
prie. Je ne veux pas de la liberty, de la liberty de rien... je veux dire
Bonjour Comment allez-vous Tres bien merci et vous, je veux aller
moi aussi dans la grande Machine A Laver, aide-moi, toi qui sais cela.
Aide-moi a vivre. Force-moi a vivre. ... Epouse-moi. S'il te plait.

Renaud sarcastically criticizes conformity in his use of the word "handcuffs"

and his mocking repetition of the standard formula of politeness "Hello How are you

Very well thank you and you." The image of the washing machine points to a

bourgeois consumer society as well as to the standardizing effect of mass production.

It is an image that Genevieve also uses when she refers to "that machinery" in the

following quote. Both feel the impact not only of technology and modern, persuasive

advertising but of the intangible myths that propel society's people in directions they

might not choose if left to their own imaginations and inclinations.

Genevieve's goal of self-fulfillment through love, and success as loving

redeemer of the wayward and cynical Renaud, seems finally at hand. Yet, as she

discovers, this too is only an illusion. Paradoxically, and apparently by her own

doing, the man she loved now no longer exists. He has been silenced. Further,

Renaud's surrender will leave her still powerless and still enslaved. In a sense, as she

comments, he has won.

La puissance 16gale don't il m'a munie, c'est lui seul qui en use,
come d'une bequille pour s'aider a aller oh il veut aller .... II a
besoin de cette machinerie, je ne suis qu'un instrument, je joue le rl1e
qu'il m'a donn6. C'est lui qui fait tout, pas moi. Moi je ne fais rien,
je n'ai rien fait, ce n'est pas moi, ce n'est pas moi, je le jure. (286)

The crisis of identity that has beleaguered both characters throughout the text

is unresolved. In a chapter replete with lexicon and imagery of death, the final death

metaphor, and the last line of the text, belongs to Cdline's hedonistic friend Alex

who tries in vain to comfort her by saying, "allez viens, ce n'est tout de meme pas la

chaise l6ectrique."(286) But, in a sense, it is. The repos du guerrier of the title takes

on a double meaning: not only the woman as the rest and recreation of the weary

warrior, but the end of the "battle," and the symbolic demise of the warriors

themselves. As Renaud comments, "toi tu es le repos du guerrier, du guerrier ldche..

. Je veux dormir-mourir, et pour qa une femme c'est le meilleur system. L'amour

c'est une euthanasie."(234) Rochefort has commented, "maybe she destroys Renaud

by wanting to integrate him: 'you must do something in life, you must conform.' She

sends him to the clinic for detoxification, and it is like a murder. She understands

that she has killed him as a poet, as a dropout, as a free person."(Hirsch, 119)

Circling back to Genevieve's narrating voice on the opening page of the

novel, the sense of her earlier ruminations now becomes clear. The affair is over;

Renaud is gone; she is again alone. Speaking in images of war, the narrator

acknowledges that her outward "victory" is based on "des ruines" and leaves her

only a sense of malaise. Her illusions shattered, she must accept the responsibility for

living her own life. She states categorically,

il faut brfiler ce pass une bonne fois, comme de vieilles lettres, et
qu'on n'y pense plus; il faut que je quite Renaud, puisque aussi bien
lui-meme s'est quitt6. Et continue. Dans le meme sens. Et vivre.
Avec ce que j'ai. Quej'ai voulu. (9)

Thus, as is characteristic in much of Rochefort's writing, the open ending at

the novel's conclusion does not bring a resolution of the tension. The writer has

taken no clear stance on either Renaud's or Genevieve's position. Rather, the

disillusionment of both characters sets the stage for yet another complex human


Even as the voice of Genevieve begins her retrospective narrative, Rochefort

subtly weaves in, from time to time, voices of other characters within the diegesis. In

a sort of hybrid construction that Bakhtin would refer to as heteroglossic, double-

voiced discourse, the voice of the narrator becomes inflected by that of one or more

of the characters. Such is the case, for instance, during a confrontation between

Genevieve and the provincial desk clerk at a local hotel. After suspiciously implying

that she must have promiscuous intentions, first because she was traveling alone in a

strange town, and additionally because she was reporting an alleged key mix-up

involving the room of a male patron, the clerk makes lame excuses for his behavior

and then, conveniently, changes the subject. At this point, Genevieve lapses again

into her interior monologue. As she ruminates internally over the conversation that

has just ensued between them, their two voices become enmeshed.

voilA. Changeons le sujet. II ne l'avait pas connue elle, mais par
centre Charles, mon oncle en some, qui venait faire sa parties en
face, lI vous voyez. II d6signait le cafe de la Gare, oi j'aurais pu,
aussi bien, descendre, pensai-je avec quelque regret. Ils poss6daient
des immeubles en ville, n'est-ce pas? Et puis cette maison; elle avait
un tres beau parc, que longeait malheureusement, a present, la
deviation des poids lourds. C'est par li aussi qu'on allait faire le
motel, vous savez, ces casernes sur le bord des routes, la nouvelle
mode.... (23)

,I'pp rn back and forth from present tense to past, Genevieve recalls

snatches of the desk clerk's nosey and condescendingly familiar remarks about her

relatives' real estate affairs. Undistinguished in the flow of the narration, the voice of

the clerk is, nonetheless, discernable. Some of his comments are reported indirectly,

for example: Il ne I 'avait pas connue elle, mais par centre Charles, mon oncle en

some, qui venaitfaire sa parties en face. Other parts of the narrative represent the

narrator's own thoughts: oiij auraispu, aussi bien, descendre. Still others represent

the clerk's exact words: l, vous voyez; n 'est-ce pas?: and vous savez. The subtle

mockery resonating from this repetition of the clerk's inept attempt to establish a

complicitous accord with Genevieve, instead, has the effect of encouraging collusion

between the narrator and her implied narrataire. There is even, in the mocking

sarcasm with regard to the new-style lodging for travelers beginning to appear all

over France in the forties and fifties, an echo of the Rochefort's own voice of disdain

for modern architecture: le motel ... ces casernes sur le board des routes, la nouvelle

mode .. Thus, the narrating voice is not as straightforward as it might at first

appear. It is a dialogic complex of voices from among which narrative tension


The voices of the text can be separated into two basic groups: those of the

bourgeois figures (Genevieve, her fiance Pierre, her mother, and her friend Claude)

and those of the more bohemian characters (Renaud, the artist Katov and the free-

spirited Rafaele). As Bakhtin has suggested for the novelistic genre in general, the

discourse of the characters can be understood as a culturally contingent mix, having

a social, historical and cultural context and constituting an expression of an ideology.

On a fundamental level, the crux of the tension in this novel resides in the conflicting

ideologies espoused by these two groups of characters representing two different

sectors of 1950's French society. Although all sectors of French society, including

the bourgeoisie (and especially intellectuals), were touched by Communist ideology

and activity, Rochefort positions the character Renaud and his companions as

representative of this line of thought.

The theme of love is recurrent in Rochefortian fiction. Here,Genevieve's

idealistic and archetypal view of love as a selfless and transforming power is poised

against Renaud's cynical denial of love's emotional aspect in favor of only

ephemeral, narcissistic, and sexual pleasure. Renaud's bitter nihilism is directly

related to the social and historical context from which he derives. A disillusioned

adherent to communist philosophy, Renaud's existential despair is linked to the

difficulties experienced by the communist party in France since the 1940's when

news of Russian labor camps became known. The Cold War with its ever-threatening

atomic confrontation and escalating Russian aggression in eastern Europe marked

the decade of the 1950's, increasing tension and creating, for some, a sense of

fatality and impending doom. The voice of Renaud viciously attacks Genevieve


on survit a la bombe atomique, le corps d6finitivement irradie, I'ame
planant sur la face de l'abime des molecules potentiellement
desintdgrees, sur le vide essential. ... II est temps que tu saches oa tu
es et ce que tu es en train de faire parce quejusqu'A present tu n'y
comprends pas grand-chose il faut le dire. Car ils sont mortels pour
leurs semblables, que l'amour meme, Genevieve, ne protege pas....
Ne protege pas. (76-77)

His disdain is relentless. He scornfully announces that, "un jour j'ecrirais un trait. Je

l'appellerai 'De I'Amour'... etje serai contre. J'y d6montrerai que l'amour n'existe

pas." (84)

Current ideologies also gain a voice in Rochefort's novels as narrators and

characters repeat cliches. In Le Repos du guerrier, most of them come from the

acerbic mouth of Renaud. As Cdline notices, "voila Renaud. Sur le velours. Le beau

velours des formules avec un si grand air de vdrit6."(71) Most often these are

situated within the narration or within dialogue in such a way that their claim to self-

evident truth only rings hollow. As Rochefort notes, "pour les cliches ils sont expres,

mais si possible, ils sont pervertis c'est la voix plut6t de la soci6et qui les dit,

pour beaucoup de ces cliches et generalites."(Steckel, 167-168) Rochefort's fiction,

then, functions most often to debunk these ideas circulating as obvious truth.

Rochefort's novels are richly permeated with other impersonal voices that

contribute to the polyphonic nature of the text and, in Bakhtinian terms, to its

dialogism. Within the culturally contingent mix constituting the discourse of the

novel, for example, intertextual allusions and citations situate points from which

Rochefort's text interfaces or "dialogues" with other, preceding texts. Bakhtin has

demonstrated that this narrative technique functions to expand potential meaning

beyond the confines of the present text by setting up implicit centers of authority to

parallel or conflict with those made more explicit through direct narration and

characterization. Rochefort's novels incorporate a wide variety of intertextual

references including such sources as: the Bible, works of literature, music,

psychology, art, science, history, philosophy, and even political documents.

Le Repos du guerrier is particularly rich in intertextual material. Rochefort's

first novel, in fact, sets a standard for her subsequent work with its numerous

biblical, literary and musical references. It could be ranked among the four most

complex and sophisticated of her novels in this regard with eight instances of both

musical and biblical intertext and at least forty that are literary. Interestingly, all of

the biblical allusions are made in reference to Renaud. He is variously likened to a

statue de sel (1, 51, 237), to Saint Michel Archange battling the demons (160), to

Jonas hiding in the belly of the whale (242), and to the pharisien who was advised:

regardede ta poutre avant d'6ter ma paille."(243) Another is used in reference to

Renaud's double, Rafaele: lAnge de la Rdsurrection. (262) The quantity and

sophistication of intertextual references, or voices, appearing in Rochefort's novels

presupposes a reader who is also versed in the arts and who is thereby capable of

"getting the message."

Perhaps the most important of the musical intertext in Le Repos du guerrier is

the reference to Monteverdi's opera Orpheo. As Margaret-Anne Hutton has

discerningly illustrated, the musical intertext impacts significantly on possible

meaning to be derived from the diegesis if read as a metadiegetic mise en abyme

when it is taken up by the characters for the creation of a mini-play. It is the death of

Orpheus that makes this interpretation work. Hutton suggests that,

to read Euydice as a misee en abyme" of Le Repos, is to gain an
insight into how to interpret the text's conclusion: Genevieve's
unremitting love will prove to be fatal, rather than redemptive;
Renaud will be robbed of his voice, and will suffer a metaphorical
death at the hands of Genevieve. (The Novels of Christiane Rochefort,

Her reading becomes particularly significant in light of Rochefort's

acknowledgement that the character, Renaud, represents one of her authorial masks.

Rochefort's life-long appreciation of music encompassed a wide spectrum of

types including classical, jazz, popular, and folk, all of which she has integrated into

her fiction.2 In Le Repos du guerrier, for example, there are references not only to

Monteverdi, but to to the classical music of Mozart, Beethoven, and Schubert. These

references are not innocent or incidental; all are subtly suggestive in the same way

that Monteverdi's opera suggests a metatextual reading. Although she does not

explain her action, for example, Genevieve avoids selecting recordings by

Beethoven, probably because she knows that Renaud will sneer at any choice of

classical romantic music. Instead she chooses La Jeune Fille et la mort by Schubert,

again a mise en abyme of her own relationship with Renaud. Later, in a pastiche of

the folk song Le Bon Roi Dagobert, Rafaele amuses her companions by composing

new words: "le Roi Renaud de guerre vint-tenant ses tripes dans sa main ... Ni de

la femme ni du fils/je ne saurais me rejouir. ... Et quand on fut a la mi-nuit/ le Roi

Renaud rendit l'esprit."(262)

Intertextual weaving of literary "voices" in Le Repos du guerrier again

incorporates a full gamut of cultural levels from popular comic strips, detective

novels and film to theater, classical antiquity, philosophy, and nineteenth century

romanticism. Tintin and Gigi find a place as do the mythical personalities Pan,

Caliban, Hercules and Icarus. Novelists such as Laclos, Sade and Restifwho are

noted for sexual themes share textual space with detective sleuths Sherlock Holmes

and Hadley Chase. Cervantes, Dante, Bergson and Heidegger figure as oblique

voices in the polyglot of Rochefort's text. Seemingly casual use of the lexicon of

theater combines with Genevieve's allusion to Antoin Artaud in her remark, "j'6tais

assoiff6e de vengance etje faisais mes classes de cruaut6"(164) and in theatrical

metaphors such as:

cette dramaturgie chaotique qu'6tait la vie de Renaud Sarti et qu'il
croyait cr6er quand il la subissait. C'dtait une Commedia dell'arte, ou
plut6t une Tragedia dell 'arte, ou mieux encore, les deux ensemble, lui
dans la com6die, moi dans la trag6die etjamais sur le mime ton,
j'arrivais dans un r61e une fois pour toutes fix6, Pantalon Boy-scout,
mais don't le texte restait a improviser en scene, de quoi Renaud se
chargeait, brodant et rebrodant selon la disposition du public ou celle
de son humeur.(115)

Renaud repeats the nineteenth-century romantic refrain "elle est morte en me

donnant la vie,"(89) and Genevieve alludes to Paul Verlaine's "de la musique avant

toute chose."(238) Genevieve reflects, "j'6tais tout bonnement en train de claquer

mon heritage en d6bauches a la faqon d'un heritier romantique du XIXe siecle...


Rochefort's knowledge is wide-ranging in all of the arts, especially literary.

All of these allusions and citations have been carefully selected and function as

extratextual voices that create tension by evocatively contesting, expanding,

illustrating, or parodying characters, actions and situations within her novels.

Commenting on the nine different references to Don Quixote in this novel, for

example, Rochefort once remarked, "ce n'est pas pour rien queje l'ai montr6 lisant

Don Quichotte. Renaud est un Don Quichotte rat6, sur-rate. II n'a m6me pas le

pouvoir de l'illusion."(Bourdet, 39) Her novel Le Repos du guerrier orchestrates

voices emanating from mythological references such as Pan, the Grail, Hercules, and

Icarus, all of which comment on the character of Renaud. "Je suis la reincarnation du

grand Pan," he announces.(169) Genevieve confesses that, "chercher Renaud, c'est

mon lot en ce monde, mon pauvre Graal personnel..." (137), and that, "lajoie de

Renaud me faisait Hercule. .. ."(255) By the end of the novel, Renaud admits, "je

suis tomb. .... Toute l'affaire est que je me suis cru un dieu, que je bois pour

essayer d'y croire, mais c'est pas vrai, finissons-en avec ces fantaisies icariennes A la

con."(283) Renaud's obsession with detective novels underscores his escapism and

obstinate refusal to face life around him. The narrator refers to Renaud as "ce

Sherlock Holmes"(48) and later notes, "il est lA, il lit Hadley Chase, rien d'autre

n'existe."(68) Often these references are a source of Rochefort's ironic humor, as in

the following passage of Genevieve's narration:

je me sentais tr&s loin de lui. J'absorbai deux comprimds etje cachai
les tubes entire L 'Imaginaire et L 'Etre et le neant, un endroit o6
Renaud n'iraitjamais les chercher. (136)

The titles of the two books mentioned offer portraits in miniature or

metaphors of the novel's two primary characters, Genevieve and Renaud,

respectively. Further, the narrator sarcastically implies that such weighty reading

matter would not interest Renaud who prefers to escape into the domain of pulp


In reference to the two major characters in Rochefort's Le Repos du Guerrier,

both have quite distinctive Christian names, which catch the reader's attention more

than, say, Robert, Josiane and Celine. Renaud alludes to the great warrior hero of

Chanson de geste, Renaud de Montauban, and to his later incarnation as Rinaldo in

Tasso's "Gerusaleme liberata" where the warrior is tempted and provisionally

unmanned by the magician-temptress Armida. The leading 20th century reworking

of that theme is Cocteau's drama "Renaud et Armide." Genevieve would be

recognized by educated native French people as Saint Genevi6ve of Paris or Genieve

of Brabant, heroine of a children's legend. In both cases, she is sweet and innocent.

The figure of the writer that appears frequently in Rochefortian novels

provides an embodiment of a metatextual voice that often echoes Rochefort's own,

while additionally articulating issues of concern to writers in general, particularly

writers of this century. Renaud's destructive attitude concerning his writing, for

example, prompts an acquaintance to remark, "tes oeuvres ne t'appartiennent

plus,"(176) echoing Barthes' pronouncement of the death of the author in favor of

the concept of "scriptor." ("The Death of the Author," cited in Contemporary

Critical Theory by Dan Latimer) The scriptor, whose hand is detached from any

individual voice, merely mingles the writings of others resulting in the creation of a

text that is: "a fabric of quotations, resulting from a thousand sources of culture."(57)

Thus, as Barthes explains, the significance of any writing resides in the site where

this multiplicity is collected, the reader, and his unilateral response to the vehicle of

that writing, language itself.

In Le Repos du guerrier Renaud is a pseudo-writer: "parce qu'on le

rencontrait dans les milieux litt6raires, qu'il pdrorait et ingurgitait superbement, tout

le monde prenait d'embl6e Renaud pour un ecrivain."(174) Although his

acquaintances still adhere to the myth of the writer as originator, Renaud sees

himself as a sort of juggler or acrobatic trickster: "je ne suis qu'un bateleur." (181)

Unfortunately, Renaud's juggling act totally lacks creativity and only proves to be an

exercise in banality. When Genevieve finally has an opportunity to see some of the

writing that Renaud has carefully hidden in a drawer of his writing table, she finds

just a single page on which is repeatedly inscribed, "la marquise sortit A cinq

heures."(274) The famous phrase evokes the voice of Paul Valery, rejecting the

notion of a "realist" novel and insisting on the need to write .jliizenll:, Its inclusion

also allows Rochefort indirectly to voice her agreement with Valdry's concept and

force the reader's attention onto the act of writing and narration. In a later passage of

the novel, Renaud expounds on the subject of automatic writing in tones that echo

Rochefort's own:

l'automatisme en soi, c'est de la blague. C'est le contenu qui a fait le
surr6alisme. Voyez: maintenant qu'il n'y a plus de position politique
officielle parmi les artistes, autrement dit qu'ils sont tous
officieusement des bourgeois, I'automatisme, c'est du vent. La vertu,
c'etait la r6volte. Et maintenant, la r6volte est sans espoir.(199)

For Rochefort, the act of writing is part of a process of consciousness-raising. She

has said, "I think a writer is a kind of mirror and a vehicle which may provoke a

more widespread movement. (L 'Esprit Createur, 120)

The voice of an autodiegetic, female narrator again provides the narrative

thread for Rochefort's second novel, Les Petits Enfants du siecle. As in Le Repos du

guerrier, the narrator, Josyane, gives a retrospective account of people and events

that helped to shape her young life. Her non-conformist voice, characterized by

language that Rochefort has called "1'Ncrit-parlM," seems by its direct and familiar

tone to address those similar to herself in age and situation. In the following passage

criticizing older, married women, for example, characteristics of colloquial speech

are evident as the youthful narrator grumbles her mocking disapproval.

Bon Dieu ce quej'aimais pas les bones femmes! Comment une
chose pareille peut-elle arriver a exister? Pourquoi c'est pas dans les
zoos? Toute lajournde ca geint, qa se train .... Je ne connais rien de
plus inutile sur la terre que les bonnes femmes. Si. Ca pond. (91)

In imitating familiar speech, Rochefort frequently omits the negative particle

ne. Fractional syntax and ellipses also often represent particularities of this familiar

register of language. For example, inpourquoi c 'est pas dans les zoos? Josyanne

purposefully avoids inversion or the interrogative expression est-ce que, relying

solely on voice intonation to formulate the question. Repetition of the sarcastic tag

les bonnes femmes, as well as disparaging reference to them by repetition of the

uniquely condescending French pronoun (a, characterize popular or informal

language. To further mark and emphasize the intended irony in the narrator's voice,

Rochefort isolates (Ca pond. Combining the image of women as farm hens, whose

sole reason to exist is the production of eggs, more chickens, and more wealth, with

the capitalization of the derogatory Ca creates a tone of caustic sarcasm.

The narrator's satirical irony is not restricted to women, however. Derisive

irony surrounds all of the adults around her. Here the tone is much more light-

hearted and humorous than that which characterized Le Repos du guerrier, with its

underlying motif of death and disillusionment. The humor and irony function to

encourage complicity on the part of the reader, whether or not s/he is the implied

peer of the young narrator. Often humor results directly from Rochefort's skillful

handling of the youthful idiom, both in syntactical forms and vocabulary usage.

Josyane's language reflects a blend of the spoken and written styles, particularly as

the writer's own mature voice mingles with that of the child-narrator. The teacher in

Josyane's catechism class, for example, requires that she memorize certain "facts."

One of these is a statement offering an explanation or definition of God: "Dieu est un

pur esprit infiniment parfait."( 12) Although the other youngsters comply with the

teacher's wishes and simply parrot the statement when prompted, the bewildered

young narrator, resists.

Je n'avais pas pu r6pondre avec elles, je ne comprenais pas la phrase,
pas un seul mot. (a commenqait mal.... Je ne sais pas ce qui s'est
pass ce soir-lA a la maison, qui a gueul6 et sur qui, ce qu'on a mange,
et oa est passe la vaisselle. Je retournais la phrase dans tous les sens,
cherchant par quel bout la prendre; etje n'y arrivals pas. Blanc, lisse
et ferm6 comme un oeuf, le Pur Esprit Infiniment Parfait restait li
dans ma tete,je m'endormis avec sans avoir pu le casser. (12)

The sophistication evident in careful use of formal and complex verb tenses

(n 'avais pas pu rdpondre, m 'endormis, sans avoir pu), adherence to standard

syntactical structures, and comparison of the catechism phrase with specific aspects

of an egg all point to a mature, educated voice, jIildl. I:, for the young narrator. The

passage is sprinkled, however, with vocabulary and phrasing that could, indeed,

represent elements of unrefined teen-age speech. Some of these include the use of

the verb gueuler, the dangling preposition avec, and the oral-style phrasing of oi est

pass la vaisselle.

Other linguistic markers of conversational or familiar language are phrases

such as el puis zul, en some. c est-ct-dire, bref or liens and slang expressions such

as: taper dans I'oeil and dans le coup. Purposefully distorted spelling is used to

reflect careless pronunciation common among the uneducated inhabitants of the

HLMs. The use of these indicators, combined with formal verb tenses such as the

past historic and the literary past anterior, results in a subtle humor as the reader

notices the incongruity of their juxtaposition. The following sentence, for example,

illustrates Rochefort's technique: "t'as tape dans I'oeil a Didi, m'informa Liliane qui,

ayant un an de plus que moi, 6tait davantage dans le coup."(77) This blending of the

written and spoken, what she calls the ecrit-parle, characterizes much of the

narration in all of Rochefort's novels.

As in Le Repos du guerrier, and, in fact, in all of Rochefort's novels, the

narrative voice, which appears to be written in "conventional" free indirect speech, is

a heteroglossic amalgam of voices. In the passage that follows, for example, at least

three voices combine and overlap.

Chantal alors marchait et commengait a parler, elle tirait sur la robe de
ma mere et n'arr&tait pas de repeter: ou ti fere, o6 ti f6re? On le lui
avait promise. Ah! Laisse-moi done tranquille, r6pondait la mere
comme toujours, tu me fatigues! Donne ton nez que je te mouche.
Souffle. Chantal 6tait enrhumee: l'hiver, elle n'6tait qu'un rhume,
d'un bout a l'autre, avec de temps en temps pour varier une bronchite
ou une sinusite. Cette annie-IA les jumeaux avaient la coqueluche. (9)

Without indication by traditional markers, the voices of the narrator, of her baby

sister Chantal, and of her mother can be distinguished within the narrative flow.

Clearly, after the colon, are words that represent the baby talk of her sister Chantal.

Then breaking into the paragraph is the mother's voice, which the narrator indicates

with the tag: repondait la mire comme loujours. What follows, however, is another

instance of double-voicing, syntactically arranged in what Bakhtin refers to as a


What we are calling a hybrid construction is an utterance that belongs,
by its grammatical (syntactic) and compositional markers, to a single
speaker, but that actually contains mixed within it two utterances, two
speech manners, two styles, two 'languages', two semantic and
axiological belief systems. (The Dialogic Imagination, 304)

The statement could, syntactically, be attributed either to the narrator or to her

mother. It is a statement that typifies what Bakhtin further refers to as 'pseudo-

objective motivation.' That is, a formal marker, such as the colon in this case,

suggests that although the logic of the sentence is the narrator's, the utterance

following the colon signals the words or the belief system of another character.

Thus, hiverr, elle n 'tait qu 'un rhume, d'un bout I 'autre, avec de temps en temps

pour varier une bronchite on une sinusite represent words the narrator has heard her

mother repeat, probably frequently, and to whomever would listen. Tension is

generated as Josyanne's resentment of her mother's unsympathetic attitude toward

her own children is subtly mocked. The narrating voice of Josyane then resumes to

continue the irony by relating flatly that, cette annee-l lesjumeaux avaient la


Although, in general, Joysane proves a more reliable narrator than

Genevieve, problems may sometimes arise for the reader as inconsistencies creep

into the narrative voice. This happens, for example, in the following passage.

Pourquoi, avec Philippe, rien que de marcher l'un pres de l'autre, les
doigts emmel6s, c'6tait quelque chose de merveilleux? Pourquoi lui?
Et lui se demandait: Pourquoi elle? (115)

This autodiegetic narrator has no way of knowing what is in the mind of the other

characters. She has not established herself as omniscient and is therefore incapable of

reporting anything other than what the other characters do or verbalize. For the

moment, she has stepped beyond the boundaries of her position as narrator-

participant in the events she is recounting. Although she distances herself from most

of the other characters by her scorn and ironic mockery, they are still textually side

by side, and apparent to each other only by observable and audible means.

Occasionally, too, inconsistencies in the perspective of the narrating voice

may create difficulty. As Margaret-Anne Hutton suggests,

attempts to analyse the apparently fluctuating narrative point of view-
Josyane as spokeswoman for the author; Josyane as foil to the
author's own irony-are further complicated by the fact that the
focalization of the narrative shifts to embrace changes in Josyane's
attitudes: descriptions and comments, in other words, may represent
views which are subsequently superseded, a point underlined by
repeated references to Josyane's growing up.(The Novels of
Christiane Rochefort, 45-46)

At one point, for example, Josyane seems awed by the organization and construction

of the new housing development at Sarcelles thinking, "ca c'est de l'architecture. Et

ce que c'etait beau! J'avais jamais vu autant de vitres. J'en avais des

dblouissements. .."(95) Yet. only a short while later she already experiences the

emotional discomfort that this over-sized and over-organized community imposes on

the solitary individual. Without really understanding why she feels this way, she


il faisait trop clair, trop clair. J'6tais nue comme un ver. Je cherchais
de l'ombre, un coin, un coin noir, un coin oi me cacher, j'avais la
panique, une panique folle. ... D6sordre et te6nbres. J'aurais voulu
une cabane A outils, un d6barras, un placard A balais, une niche A
chien; une caverne. Desordre et t6nebres, desordre et t6n&bres,
desordre et t6nebres. (96)

Rochefort's artistry with language is discernable in this revealing passage as

Josyanne's language lexically and syntactically acts out or represents her experience

amidst these architectural behemoths. She is surrounded by rows of buildings, all

neatly constructed in the same pattern, their multiple floors of apartments all

c .0 1- LircJ with like floorplans, and standing starkly exposed on a site devoid of

trees or other vegetation. The unnaturalness (insanity) of this design is mirrored in

images of madness (desordre et itnebres) and in Joysanne's feelings of nakedness,

low self-esteem (comme un ver) and panic. The power of the sheer number and size

of the buildings surrounding her is recreated through repetition and intensification in

the passage: un coin, un coin noir, un coin oil me cacher and la panique, une panique

folle. The dehumanizing effect imposed by these massive structures is represented by

her desire to hide in any one of a series of small, dark places where things of little

value are placed.

As to the question of whether the narrating voice of Josyane functions as

spokeswoman for the author or as foil of the author's own irony, Rochefort has made

conflicting comments about having used the narrator as her mouthpiece. Talking

with Alice Jardine she insisted that, "the only material I took from my own

experience was that for a short time I actually did live-or let's say tried to live-in a

huge apartment complex when I was a sculptor. ... Other than that, I don't really

identify with the little girl in the story. I use my imagination instead." (Shifting

Scenes, 177) In another interview, however, with Marianne Hirsch, she admits that

there is, "in Les Petits Enfants du siecle, the little girl who is the narrator (and myself

at the same time). .. ."(L 'Esprit Createur, 112) That her own voice moves about in

the text as she uses one character or another as her spokesperson is well documented.

In reference to Les Petits Enfants du siecle Rochefort writes,

Bien sirje suis aussi quelque part la-dedans, mais of? C'est tres
variable.... La petite Josyane, je suis li6e A elle, par la compassion si
vous voulez. Et je suis aussi derriere elle, en train d'essayer (2) les
possibilities qu'elle a d'etre sauvee. Non, finalement. L' "amour"
(faux, illusoire) aura sa peau. Moi je constate avec tristesse la
puissance de l'oppression par l'urbanisme. On nous confond souvent
avec nos personnages. Comme si on oublait (?) que la litt6rature c'est
une transposition. (Ma vie revue et corrigee par I auteur, 277-278)

This apparent inconsistency, the :lu LIu JI IrI point of view with regard to the

Sarcelles community, parallels and underscores the irony inherent in the design of

modem architecture: the powerful allure of its modernity against the dehumanizing

effects of living within its stark and massive sameness. These residential

conglomerates that were constructed during the years following World War II, to

provide housing for lower and moderate-income families, were new, modem and

seductively marketed with the promise of a better life for their occupants. Yet, even

as they appeared superficially dazzling, (the narrator observes that, "c'6tait beau.

Vert, blanc. Ordonne. On sentait I'organisation. Ils avaient tout fait pour qu'on soit

bien, ils s'etaient demand: qu'est-ce qu'il faut mettre pour qu'ils soient bien? Et ils

I'avaient mis.") (97), they would prove later to be uninspiring and oppressive. As

Rochefort observed from personal experience, these "carcasses en beton" have a

depressing effect on those who live within their confines.

Ces trucs-lA le materiau? La forme? La pensee qui les a inspires?
Coupent radicalement toute vie interieure ... C'etait, cette pens6e
architectural. une machine diabolique, machine de mort mental.
(Ma vie revue et corrigde par I 'auteur, 257-8)

Rochefort's own experience of life in one of these concrete communities prompted

her to write the novel. She relates in her autobiographical Ma vie revue el corrigge

par I'auteur that she wrote it "d'une seule traite. Sur l'horreur."(260)

Rochefort's novel offers an inside-view of living conditions in these urban

housing projects through the perspective of her young narrator. Joysane's opening

statement, the now familiar "je suis n6e des Allocations et d'un jour f6rii."(7) refers

to France's family welfare system3 which was instituted to encourage families to

have more children by offering parents a financial reward for the birth of each child.

The aim of this incentive program was to reverse a population deficit experienced by

the country in the aftermath of two devastating wars. Rochefort's novel points up,

however, through the narrating voice of Josyane and through numerous

conversations among members of her family and other residents of the projects, that,

although the policy did indeed increase the number of French citizens, its effect on

their lives was in many ways adverse.

The intertextual voices present in Les Petits Enfants du siecle are less

remarkable than in most of Rochefort's other novels. The most notable are again

from the Bible (Josyane's catechism classes) and from various literary sources. Les

Petits Enfants du siecle alludes, of course, to "les enfants du siecle," the self-image

of the young Romantic hero, born too late to participate in the Revolution and

Napoleon's wars, born to dryness and passivity. The term was made famous by

Musset in "Confession d'un enfant du siecle." On the title page, the voice of

Rimbaud is summoned to forewarn readers that for the children of this novel (and, as

the title implies, of this century), "la vraie vie est absente." Another first novel by a

female writer will take up a similar theme six years later giving voice to the struggle

of France's immigrant workers in the city's automobile factories. In 1967, Claire

Etcherelli's Elise ou la vraie vie also won the Prix du roman populist. Thus, an

effective dialogue between these two novels is set up. Both deal with the plight of

the working class, one at home, the other at work.

Other literary allusions range from the mention of popular newspapers and

magazines and the comic strip character Tintin to the parodying of scenes from

Flaubert's Madame Bovary. In one part of Josyane's monologue, Rochefort

humorously drops the names of some of France's literary heavy-weights as street

names to emphasize the complexity for the narrator in attempting to find her way

among the maze of streets within the Sarcelles development:

j'6tais dans la rue Paul-Valery, j'avais pris la rue Mallarm6, j'avais
tourm dans Victor-Hugo, enfil6 Paul-Claudel, et je me retombais dans
Valery etj'arrivais pas a en sortir. (95)

Many readers have experienced Ji i;, iu:, getting through some of the texts of these

intellectuals. Apparently the streets of Sarcelles can be just as daunting.

The voices of the various characters set up several sites of tension in this

short novel as opposing ideologies come into conflict. Double standards between the

sexes prompts Josyane to protest that: "Patrick, lui il a le droit de trainer tant qu'il

veut!"(35) and to resentfully note that, "elle eut un gargon. Elle ne faisait que des

gargons, et elle en 6tait fiere."(66) Sibling rivalry is another source of tension, as

Josyane again reveals: "je leur donnais a manger rien que des trues qu'ils n'aimaient

pas, on se distrait comme on peut."(67) Socialist ideology is pitted against capitalist

materialism and selfish unconcern for others. In the following quote, the narrator

suggests that the school system under capitalist management works contrary to the

interests of students.

Elle me dit que dans un pays socialist on m'aurait fait poursuivre
mes etudes, mEme si ma famille etait encore plus pauvre; dans un
pays socialist. chacun faisait ce pour quoi il etait fait. (99)

Romantic fantasy and blunt actuality clash as exuberant youths and apathetic adults

understand differently what it means to live. For Josyane, the older generation seems

hopelessly paralyzed and incapable of enjoying life. She fears that becoming adult

will mean falling into what she perceives as a dead end existence. As she begins at

last to grasp the overwhelming odds against her being able to break economic, social

and political restraints, she concedes: "je devenais morte, c'est 9a devenir une grand

personnel cette fois j'y etais je commengais a piger, arriver dans un cul-de-sac et se

prendre en gel6e."(107)

Rochefort's narrative often works to take language apart in order to show

how it shapes consciousness and limits perception. Especially targeted is the

language of platitudes and ready-made cliches. One particularly derisive scene takes

place during a family holiday at a country inn when several low-income families

gather for an afternoon of leisurely conversation. The men engage in a kind of verbal

combat on the subject of cars. The child-narrator, Josyanne, notes that her father's

personality is transformed when he associates himself with his car: "mais question

voiture c'etait un autre homme: plein d'allant, de dynamisme. d'autorit6."(42) (This

fascination with cars and other modem consumer goods in post-war France, as

documented in novels by Rochefort and others, became the subject of Kristin Ross's

important sociological publication in 1995, Fast Cars. Clean Bodies). Their speech

is replete with pat phrases taken directly from the language of advertising: "une

voiture qui tient la route ... vous la sentez qui cole A la Chaussde" (49) and "vingt

ans d'avance sur l'Industrie automobile mondiale." (52) The language and spirit of

market competition invades the men's conversation to the point that their discourse

becomes contentious rather than communicative.

--La 2 CV c'est du vrai carton, y a qu'A y mettre le doigt pour faire un
trou, dit Chamier.
--Tiens, vous essaierez pour voir. On verra qui c'est qui fera le trou le
--La Traction, c'est du solide, dit papa. Un tank.
--Ca ne braque pas, jeta Charnier.
--Bien suir faut pas une fillette pour la manier, dit papa. C'est une
vraie machine, pas un jouet. Une voiture d'homme. Et Ca arrache.
Meme en c6te. (52)

The women's conversation centers on their self-sacrifice for the sake of their

children and husbands, adopting a language echoing that common in popular

romance magazines of the day: "on les met au monde et puis ...;" "c'est notre vie, a

nous les femmes;" "et pourquoi tant de souffrances, on se le demande" (54) Finally,

both groups, for lack of anything more interesting or important to discuss resort to

repeating familiar phrases first about the weather and then about their inevitable

return home. The narrating voice of Josyanne picks up their litany of cliches and

mockingly mimicks: "dommage que ce soit fini on commengait vraiment a s'y

mettre, helas! Les meilleures choses n'ont qu'un temps. D'ailleurs dans le fond on

aime bien retrouver son petit chez soi. On est content de partir mais on est content

aussi de revenir." (58)

In the last pages of the novel, Josyane's voice abandons its mocking tone.

She is pulled into the very mindset against which she has railed from the beginning.

In effect, Josyane has lost her voice. Pregnant with Philippe's child, she gives up her

rebellious sarcasm and begins to parrot Philippe by relating his fantasy of their future

life together, a virtual list of material "happiness." There is mention of la prime, un

pr&t, le Credit, echoes of her parents' existence which she has just sarcastically

ridiculed for the last one hundred and twenty pages, an existence marked by large

numbers of children and economic dependency. As a final irony, in the last sentence

she suggests to her fiance that they live in this new community: "je lui indiquai

Sarcelles." (122)

Rochefort has been criticized for what seemed to some the easy, "happy

ending" of this novel. But, in an interview with Ailsa Steckel, Rochefort argued,

Je me mefie des h'rpf.. endings". Dans Les Petits Enfants du siccle,
c'est une trag6die a la fin, c'est copies des magazines de femme, une
parodie de ca-gringante. Elle se sent pi6g6e. (149)

In her autobiographical text, she comments that, "on m'a reproch6 d'avoir fait une

fin optimiste. Ha ha ha. C'est un roman d'6pouvante si vous voulez savoir. Je

hurlais: CES MAISONS, VOUS VERREZ: (tA TUE."(Ma Vie, 260) Sarcelles, then,

serves as a fitting metaphor for the paradox of modernity with its potential for human

progress as well as deterioration.

Although Rochefort's third novel, Les Stances ai Sophie, also proceeds

primarily through the voice of an autodiegetic. female narrator, the reader again must

be alert to the shifts, layers, and multiple perspectives of that voice. As is the case

with the female protagonist in Rochefort's first two novels, a noticable schizophrenia

exists within the narrating voice. The plurality that characterizes Celine's voice,

however, is not only more complex than that operating in the previous novels, it

forms the basis for the novel's structure and theme as well. Speaking of Celine,

Rochefort remarked, "j'ai eu une idde de la schizophr6nie .. C'est-A-dire, toutes

les femmes, particulierement les femmes sont schizophrenes. Divisdes, d6chir6es,

quoi.... moi,je vois vraiment qa comme une chose social ... (Steckel, 174-175)

Early in the narrative C6line manifests the first signs of a split perspective

when her interior monologue abruptly changes course. After two and a half pages of

ruminating over past events, and including thoughts she addresses particularly to

Philippe, Celine's disembodied voice directs its attention to her unwilling flesh.

Allons, debout. Leve-toi. Tu entends carcasse. Mais elle ne veut pas.
Elle souffre la pauvre. Elle a mal. Gnagnagna. Ca y est voila qu'elle
pleure. Encore un instant elle dira papa maman. C'est fait elle parle;
elle dit: Philippe, s'il te plait. ...
Fatigant. La moiti6 de moi pour le moins voudrait 6tre a cent
lieues.... Mais l'autre moiti6 ne veut pas d&marrer d'ici. Pour rien
au monde. Ma moitie numero deux tuerait plutot ma moitid num6ro
un; c'est du reste ce qu'elle fait. Elle r6pete Philippe s'il te plait, il
parait que c'est tout ce qu'elle sait dire. (59)

The dilemma of C61ine's dual existence is humorously parodied in the

following chapter as she relates a shopping experience with the clerk in the

decorating department of a store in town. Lined drapes, in French "doubles rideaux,"

serve as a metaphor for her double self, the one that everyone sees and the one

underneath. Further, the equivocal rhetoric of the clerk, curiously reminiscent of

Philippe's bourgeois logic regarding her personal comportment, only increases her


"Mais Madame nous en vendons beaucoup", voilA l'argument-cld.
Eh, qu'est-ce quej'en ai a foutre de ce que les autres aiment?...

"Mais Madame, c'est ce qui se fait." C'est ce que les fabricants font,
ca oui, je le vois bien, mais ce que le client veut, on s'en occupe, ou
non? ... C'est de la dictature. (64)

The rhetoric continues and soon becomes a question of semantics that only

exasperates C61ine further. In a richly ironic passage of layered voices in free

indirect discourse, the narrator alternately addresses the implied reader and assumes

the voices of various clerks, mimicking phrases she hears repeatedly such as: "mais

ca Madame ce n'est pas du double rideau c'est de la doublure;" (65) "cela ne se fait

pas Madame;" (66) "parce que c'est comme ca que ca se fait Madame;" (66) "on ne

nous le demand pas Madame;" (66) and "on ne les fait plus Madame."(67) For

draperies, bedding, cookware, everywhere she goes to shop, a similar scene ensues.

C6line's narrative, seems intended to fix a complicity with her implied readers by

addressing them directly: "je ne sais pas si vous l'avez remarque, et si vous vous

reported a France-Femme vous verrez que ca fait rage a chaque page et si vous ne

vous y mettez pas vous aurez l'air d'une noix. C'est un ordre."(67) The narrator's

use of the formal pronoun would suggest that the narratee she envisions would be a

young, bourgeois housewife who has likely had a similar experience, who would

understand and share her feelings. The specific mention of France-Femme functions

as an ironic criticism of convention, the cookie-cutter pattern of existence effected by

the advertising and articles in the magazine.

The voice of Celine, similar to that of Genevieve in Le Repos du guerrier,

remains locked in the relative silence of her interior monologue during the early part

of the narrative. For the first one hundred fifteen pages, Cl6ine does little more than

indirectly report Philippe's words and silently react to them. The opening pages are a

veritable litany of"disait Philippe." As Celine notes, "il est fort Philippe, il est

solide, il est sir. II sait. II est la. Et moi je l'ecoutais, bouche bde.... "(12) She is

literally seduced by his voice and his rhetoric. "11 a une si belle voix," she sighs.(13)

Repeatedly, she refers to "ces belles paroles," "sa bouche," and "cette voix-lA." For

his part, Philippe is generally critical of any response that she ventures to proffer,

finally evoking her sentiment that, "j'ai fait une faute. Je me suis exprimee. Je

n'aurais pas di. Pourquoi ne puis-je tenir ma langue? Ce qu'il faut... c'est non

seulement des boules quies dans les oreilles mais du sparadrap sur la bouche."(18)

The narrator's silence, or inability to assert her voice, is a result of what

Michel Foucault has referred to as the principle of exclusion or prohibition that exists

in societies. He explains that,

in every society the production of discourse is at once controlled,
selected, organized and redistributed according to a certain number of
procedures, whose role is to avert its powers and its dangers, to cope
with chance events, to evade its ponderous, awesome materiality.
In a society such as our own we all know the rules of exclusion.
The most obvious and familiar of these concerns what is prohibited
We know perfectly well that we are not free to say just anything, that
we cannot simply speak of an. l in, when we like or where we like;
not just anyone, finally, may speak of just jn. riii.Ln ("The Discourse
on Language", 216)

Foucault has outlined "three great systems of exclusion governing discourse -

prohibited words, the division of madness and the will to truth. "(219) Celine falls

prey to all three. Her choice of words is frequently too coarse for Philippe, resulting

in an impression or image of her that he finds incongruous with the mythical

feminine ideal he desires. He chastizes her: "eh bien il faudra que qa te passe. Car

moi je ne supporterai plus tes manieres grossieres."(85) She learns to suppress that

part of her self in his presence. She confesses that, "quand on est avec son mari, on

ne dit pas les memes choses, on ne fait pas les memes choses." (103)

Categorizing Cl6ine as crazy, Philippe justifies his dismissal of her voice as

insignificant whenever it dares to contest his own. He retorts, "voyons, tiens-toi un

peu, on va penser queje suis avec une folle. Tu dis des betises." (26) Celine herself

relates that she has, in fact, recently seen a psychologist: "une femme qui vient de

faire une depression nerveuse et de cofiter deux cents mille balles de clinique se

manie avec prdcautions."(31) Soon, at Philippe's insistence, Cl6ine takes medication

to "control" her behavior and help her conform to more "appropriate" models.

C6line's voice originates in the margins, or even outside, of the sectors that

produce and impose the accepted discourses, outside of what she mockingly refers to

as "le machin."(7) She is female, atheist, uneducated, unemployed, and rather

bohemian. She opens by noting that,

on trouve le machine d6ji tout constitu6, en apparence solide comme
du roc, il parait que 9'a toujours &t6 comme ca, que 9a continuera
jusqu'A la fin des temps, et il n'y a pas de raison que ca change. C'est
la nature des choses. C'est ce qu'ils disent tous, et d'abord, on le croit.
... (7)

Celine's voice is constantly held in check by Philippe and members of his bourgeois

family whose attitudes and values represent the machine or the controlling

discourses of her day. Her desire for love and acceptance, combined with confused

bewilderment when confronted with these discourses, cause her to retreat into

passive silence or to numbly acquiesce. As she remarks, "nous dprouvons des

faiblesses qui nous brouillent I'esprit et nous jettent dans les contradictions, quand ce

n'est pas dans l'imb6cillit. ... pour rdaliser que c'est simplement, bete, ca demand

du temps, et une bonne tete. En attendant, il faut se le faire."(8) Precisely, Celine's

narrative will bring the reader along with her through this process of gradual

awareness and, finally, of self-actualization.

By page 115 of the novel, Celine has been seduced, at least outwardly, by the

power of Philippe's (and what Rochefort would refer to as bourgeois and materialist)

rhetoric. She relates: "eh maintenant, je ne contest plus. Je fais ... Tout ce qu'il

veut, il l'obtient. Tout ce qu'il attend. il I'a."(l 15-116) and "je ne dis plus merde

en public."(119) But, it is in this section of the novel that Celine experiences a

profound schizophrenia as she increasingly becomes aware of the discrepancies

between what is said and what is meant, between what people say and what they do,

between the way things are and the way they seem. She notes, "j'ecoute,j'6coute,

comment pourrais-je dire? Avec ma troisieme oreille .... Pas ce qu'ils disent (qui

n'ajamais aucun, aucun, aucun intiret) mais comme ils disent. Le rythme. Le son.

C'est curieux. Beaucoup plus intdressant."(l 19) (This theme of the non-dit, or

communicative silence, will be developed more fully in Rochefort's later writing.)

She experiences a sort of identity crisis as the loss of her familiar self becomes more

and more acute: "sans doute n'ai-je plus d'inconscient. Jappelle: pas d'6cho .... Les

miroirs me renvoient mon ombre au passage dans les corridors: qui est-ce? Je n'aime

pas cette dame lA-bas qui passe, don't le visage lisse et pile reflete une absence. Je

l'dvite."(123) She is on medication: "j'ai des pilules a prendre, calmantes; et des

remontantes."(126) designed to make her feel that she has a "normal" life. Her new

personality: "la fiddle Madame Aignan, c'est moi."(128)

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