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Christiane Rochefort and the dialogic

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Christiane Rochefort and the dialogic voices of tension and intention
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Thesis (Ph.D.)--University of Florida, 2000.
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Includes bibliographical references (leaves 233-242).
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Printout.
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Vita.
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by Pamela Fries Paine.

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CHRISTIANE ROCHEFORT AND THE DIALOGIC:
VOICES OF TENSION AND INTENTION


















BY
PAMELA FRIES PAINE
















A DISSERTATION PRESENTED TO THE GRADUATE SCHOOL
OF THE UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA IN PARTIAL FULFILLMENT
OF THE REQUIREMENTS FOR THE DEGREE OF
DOCTOR OF PHILOSOPHY




























Copyright 2000

by

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.














ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS


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.









TABLE OF CONTENTS

page

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

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

CHAPTERS

1 THE THEORETICAL QUESTION OF VOICE IN LITERATURE .................... 1
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

CHRISTIANE ROCHEFORT AND THE DIALOGIC:
VOICES OF TENSION AND INTENTION

By

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

perspectives.

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

characters.

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.














CHAPTER ONE
THE THEORETICAL QUESTION OF VOICE IN LITERATURE

"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

text.

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

individual.

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.
(332)

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

discourse,

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,
295).

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

pr6c6dentes").

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.








NOTES

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,
xii)

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





30


d'un systeme significant a un autre exige un nouvelle articulation du th6tique.
(59,60)

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
publier."














CHAPTER 2
OVERVIEW OF ROCHEFORT'S WRITING CAREER


"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

purposes.

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

category.

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,

185)

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

perspective.

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,
175)

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
aussi."








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

relations.

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

context.

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.








NOTES

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)














CHAPTER 3
ROCHEFORT'S EARLY NOVELS


"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

fiction.

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,

177)

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

all."

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

relates:

"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.
(284-285)

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

struggle.

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

develops.

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

with:

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,
30)

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...

."(244)

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

fiction.

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

hybrid-construction.

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

coqueluche.

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

gasps,








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
premier.
--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

frustration.

"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)




Full Text
CHRISTIANE ROCHEFORT AND THE DIALOGIC:
VOICES OF TENSION AND INTENTION
BY
PAMELA FRIES PAINE
A DISSERTATION PRESENTED TO THE GRADUATE SCHOOL
OF THE UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA IN PARTIAL FULFILLMENT
OF THE REQUIREMENTS FOR THE DEGREE OF
DOCTOR OF PHILOSOPHY

Copyright 2000
by
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.

ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS
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.
IV

TABLE OF CONTENTS
page
ACKNOWLEDGMENTS iv
ABSTRACT vi
CHAPTERS
1 THE THEORETICAL QUESTION OF VOICE IN LITERATURE 1
Notes 29
2 OVERVIEW OF ROCHEFORT'S WRITING CAREER 31
Notes 56
3 ROCHEFORT’S EARLY NOVELS 57
Notes 106
4 ROCHEFORT'S MIDDLE PERIOD 109
Notes 158
5 ROCHEFORT'S MATURE FICTION 161
Notes 222
CONCLUSIONS 226
REFERENCES 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
CHRISTIANE ROCHEFORT AND THE DIALOGIC:
VOICES OF TENSION AND INTENTION
By
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
VI

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
perspectives.
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
characters.
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.
vii

CHAPTER ONE
THE THEORETICAL QUESTION OF VOICE IN LITERATURE
“Et l’écriture 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
1

2
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 T\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

3
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
text.
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.

4
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

5
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 Gérard 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

6
as: extradiégétique (in which the narrator of the story does not figure in the diegesis),
intradiégétique (in which the narrator also figures as a character in the diegesis),
métadiégétique (in which there is a narrator whose story is embodied within another
narrative), and autodiégétique (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 basically 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, hétéro). 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 extradiégétique ne peut viser qu’un narrataire
extradiégétique”(.F;gwres 111, 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 differance. In Derridean poetics, any author or speaker
discerned in a work is a construction. Contrary to Plato’s conception of fictional

7
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 necessarily includes a discussion of Rochefort’s
use of language in character depiction and of the voices of the characters themselves
as they struggle against the power of language to influence their lives.
Since the 1970s, writings of theorists such as Luce Irigaray and Héléne
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 l '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 siécle, 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 écriture féminine as normative and essentialist.
Rochefort personally denied the concept of écriture féminine 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

9
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 compex 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 significant impact on a range of disciplines in the humanities.

10
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
individual.
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.
(332)
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

11
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

12
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," DI324)
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)

13
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,”
D/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.

14
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 modern 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

15
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 Prufungsroman, the Bildungsroman, the
autobiographical novel, the gothic novel, the sentimental novel, the picaresque novel,
the parodie 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

16
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 clichés, 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

17
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. Parodie 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
discourse,
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 equally, as a rule, in a single line of
dialogue ("Discourse Typology in Prose" as cited in Lambropoulos,
295).
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.

18
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 unintelligible, 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 Lévi-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

19
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 chéris le plus.
Nourriture de l’áme.
Et l’écriture méme, 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 manufacturé, usiné, prét á

20
cracher, qui s’écoule au dehors tel quel des qu’il y a un trou. La bouche par
exemple” (C 'est bizarre l 'écriture, 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 langage re?u tout armé - contre nous,
contre l’homme, et tant que nous Pusons sans examen ni révision
déchirante (pour lui) nous exprimons le mode régnant, mérne si nous
exprimons haut et clair une opposition á 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 les femmes4 Much of the criticism centered around
Rochefort’s bold and unorthodox use of language, as well as the sexual content of
her books.

21
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 Quand tu vas chez les femmes. Through comparative analysis of the essay C 'esl
bizarre l ’écriture and the novels Le Repos du guerrier and Les Stances á 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 les femmes is
an autobiographical text ("Le Chien n'aboie pas: Quand tu vas chez les femmes, Un
roman autobiographique de Christiane Rochefort analysé á partir de ses oeuvres
précédentes").
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

22
for Les Petits Enfants du siécle in 1961, and the Médicis prize for La Porte du fond
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 siécle 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 a 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. Fler books, Archaos ou le jardín étincelant and
Heureux qu 'on va vers l 'été, 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 Guerrilléres and Le
Corps lesbien. 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 Creation lexicale dans Une Rose
pour Morrison de Christiane Rochefort.” In her essay, Crochet categorizes and lists

23
numerous examples of morphological and syntactical innovations with which
Rochefort personalized her writing. Crochet rightly asserts that, “d’un point de vue
linguistique, la néologie revele, par T extreme diversité des procédés d’invention et
des sources Iangagiéres, le haut degré de maitrise de Rochefort, son érudition, son
imagination, son sens du comique, en un mot, son talent d’écrivain.”(394). Also of
note with regard to criticism of Rochefort’s fiction is the fine, detailed work done by
Isabelle Constant, Les Mots étincelants de Christiane Rochefort, langages 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 “although 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).

24
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’écriture méme, n’est-ce pas une conversation?”(25)
During an interview with Marianne Hirsch, she remarked about Encore heureux
qu 'on va vers l 'été 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.”(Z. ‘Esprit
Créateur 115) About Les Petits Enfants du siécle, she noted that “en faisant ce livre
ce queje visáis c’est, comment dire, écrire en polyphonie: trois voi x.”(Ma vie revue
et corrigée par l ’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 [’organisation.” (C’est bizarre
l'écriture 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.

25
In reference to Encore heureux qu 'on va vers l 'été, 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.”(l 16) As for meaning within the lexicon, Rochefort warned,
les mots sont á surveiller de prés. . . . Ils vivent leur vie. Ce n’est pas
aussi pute qu’on pense. Qa ne raconte pas pour l’étemité ce que le
Maitre est parvenu á leur faire cracher sous la torture. C’est branché
plus loin, vieux bateau qui á force de naviquer se convient de
coquillages et toutes sortes de concrétions des profondeurs. A plus ou
moins long terme ils refont surface et nous éclatent dans la figúrenle
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 écris tout naturellement le langage parlé.”(10)
For her, “l’écrit-parlé est tout ce qu’il y a de sophistiqué, en fait d’écriture.”(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
Celine 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’écrire comme Faulkner,

26
Kafka, et Joyce.'\Ma vie revue el corrigée par l'auteur, \ 17) As Georgiana Colvile
noteed 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 Lévy 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 Céline 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 Francois
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 Lacios.
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.

27
Chapter Three analyses the narrative treatment of voice in the first group of
novels, Le Repos du guerrier, Les Petits Enfants du siécle, 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 au parking, Archaos ou le jardín étincelant, and Encore heureux qu 'on va
vers l 'été. 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

28
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.

29
NOTES
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,
xii)
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 Tadié, in Le Roman au
vingtiéme siécle, discusses the association between Kristeva's concept of
intertextuality and Bakhtin's earlier theories. (193)
3. In her book La Revolution du language poétique, Kristeva writes,
Le terme inter-textualité désigne cette transposition d'un (ou de plusieurs)
systéme(s) de signes en une autre; mais puisque ce terme a été souvent
entendu dans le sens banal de "critiques de sources" d'un texte, nous lui
préférons celui de transposition qui a l'avantage de préciser que le passage

30
d'un systéme signifiant á un autre exige un nouvelle articulation du thétique.
(59,60)
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 "crudité de langage," adding that "á cóté de Mme Rochefort,
Mme Franqoise Sagan est un pensionnaire, et l'Histoire d'O une bluette.
J. Gregoire, in Europe Auto (January, 1960), wrote that "la tendance á tout
remaner au sexe et á ses manifestations est souvent le fait d'une impuissance
ou d'une ffigidité."
Clément Ledoux, in Le Canard Enchainé (September, 1958): "Cette
intelligence-lá n'est qu'une forme prétentieuse d'une certaine sottise."
The editors of Lumiére (December, 1958): "Le Repos du guerrier est un livre
immonde, piétinant toute dignité humaine et faisant aucunement honneur á
ceux qui le primérent, ni. . . aux Editions Grasset qui acceptérent de le
publier."

CHAPTER 2
OVERVIEW OF ROCHEFORT'S WRITING CAREER
“L’écriture, c’est insondable: plus on creuse, plus on découvre. La chose
qu’on ne sait pas qu’on cherchait est cachée á Tintérieur, 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 1950s1, Rochefort turned her attention to different
31

32
concerns even while adapting narrative and structural innovations to her own
purposes.
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 el corrigée par l 'auteur, Quand tu vas chez
les femmes, La Porte du fond, and Conversations sans paroles), she adamantly
refused to adhere to any particular mode, preferring instead to forge her own
particular ecclectic style. She once commented that,
en France on est terrorise par une certaine idée de l’écriture. Combien
de gens sont embrouillés lá-dedans, j’en suis süre, c’est le
structuralisme, combien de gens sont embrouillés lá-dedans, ils
croient que c’est 9a qu’il faut faire, done on ne se trouve pas soi-
méme sous ce terrorisme. Bon, il a fallu enlever tout le terrorisme
culturel. (Crochet, 431)
Indeed, analysis of Rochefort’s narrative reveals its refusal to fit neatly into any
category.
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)

33
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,
185)
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
ToumierfZe Vent Paraclet, 1977), Maryse Condé (Heremakenon, 1976), Natalie

34
Sarraute (Enfance, 1983), Marguerite Duras (L 'Amant, 1984), Alain Robbe-Grillet
(Le Mirroir qui revient, 1984) and Christiane Rochefort, (Ma vie revue et corrigée
par ¡’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 tmly
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

35
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 féminins, 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
Brée 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 natur e.(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 Deuxiéme Sexe, and
then worked to create novels illustrating theses introduced in her theoretical works.
Consistant with Germain Bree’s “new type 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,

36
therefore offering the reader a view of the world and its participants from a woman’s
perspective.
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 5a queje n’ai pas aimé 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 suggérée des femmes. Au fait, j’aime la
littérature de révolte, de résistance. . . .” (“Entretien avec Christiane
Rochefort” 428)
It is precisely that inherited “image suggérée des femmes” which piques Rochefort’s
ire and that Beauvoir had so thoroughly and convincingly deconstructed in her
treatise Le Deuxiéme Sexe.
Germaine Brée 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... .’’(Brée 58) These two concerns are pertinent to
Rochefort’s personal philosophy 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 language to perpetuate preconceived notions. She not

37
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’oú vient ie mot, qu’il est déjá la
et occupe le papier, et y a planté son petit drapeau. Nous n’avons pas
á chercher les mots mais á les perdre; á construiré les phrases qu’á les
démanteler; car ce sont des forteresses qui nous enferment dans le
mode de pensée regnant - sans que nous en ayons la moindre
conscience; et nous en font transporteurs. Ce n’est pas notre faute,
purée. C’est le dressage, nommé par antiphrase éducation. . . . Ecrire
vraiment consiste á désécrire. (C’est bizarre l’écriture, 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 pére était un petit télégraphiste de dix-huit ans quand il épousa ma
mere qui avait le méme age. Je suis presque une enfant naturelle, j’ imagine queje
suis née assez vite aprés le mariage.... Je me sens d’une généneration spontanée...
. "(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, refered
to it as “un peu bohéme et révolutionnaire.” (Voix defemmes, 81) Politically, the
quarter supported the Commune in 1871, Boulanger in the 1880’s, Vichy in World

38
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 Ecole 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 été une eléve douée, mais indisciplinée. J’étais clown, vous comprenez, et
j’avais toujours zéro de conduite.”(Visages d'aujourd'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 Lycée Fénélon 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

39
considered her decision to enroll an error. Talking with interviewer Denise Bourdet,
Rochefort remarked, “j’ai été á la Sorbonne. Je m’y suis promenée avec agrément,
mais j’étais incapable de m’insérer dans l’organisation administrative, de prendre
mes inscriptions en temps voulu, bref, je ne suis pas une carriériste (sic) et j’ai
renoncé l’agrégation.’YK/.vnge.v 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’été, 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’était mon époque gongoriste. . . . Plus tard j’ai fait de l’écriture automatique. J’en
ai des kilos. Une femme, n’est-ce pas, fréquente toujours ses arnés. Les miens étaient
des épigones du surréalisme. Mais j’ai vite été atterrée par l’absence de contenu de
mon écriture automatique, et j’ai cessé cet exercise.”(Bourdet, 37) Publicly, she
worked for a while as a newspaper correspondent. Later, she spent fifteen years as
press attachée 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 Cinémathéque. 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

40
proved too heavy an imposition on her time and writing efforts. She noted, “j’ai été
mariée, j’avais des préoccupations ménagéres, et je faisais de la littérature
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, 1 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 V\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
Mouvement de libération de la femme, or MLF, she wrote three strong articles
published in the feminist paper Le Torchon brille 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
écriture féminine, 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 méme sacrée histoire. Moi, j’aime pas 9a le style
féminin ce qu’on appelait comme 9a.”(“Entretien avec Christiane Rochefort”,
French Review, 428) She also expressed hostility toward Héléne Cixous’ theory of
feminine writing or écriture féminine, which purports that women’s writing emerges
from and celebrates female sexuality. As outlined by Diana Holmes, on a formal
level écriture féminine 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 écriture féminine, (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

42
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 “writing 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 I 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. ... 1 have a certain material to work
with. But that doesn’t mean that there's a specificity to the writing. I
could just as easily have given you the response you got from
Sarraute: “I’m not a woman writer; I’m a writer ."(Shifting Scenes,
175)
Rochefort’s formal writing career began with the publication of two short
stories: Le Démon des pincerna (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.

43
Rochefort’s second novel, Les Petits Enfants du siécle (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 “á toute oeuvre qui peint les gens du peuple et
les milieux populaires, á condition que se dégage de cette peinture une tendresse
humaine vraie.”(cited in introduction by Thody, xxiv) Another success, Les Petits
Enfants du siécle 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 fdm by Godard entitled Deux ou trois choses que je sais
d'elle. According to Rochefort, this film “n’a pas regardé mon livre mais les choses
posant les mémes questions á peu prés.”(C'eií bizarre l’écriture, 55) Les Petits
Enfants du siécle 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 siécle) 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

44
habitations á loyer moderé or HLMs of the then newly-constructed apartments built
outside Paris to rehouse inner-city slum-dwellers.
Les Stances á 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 á 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 qualilies.’XTwentieth-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

45
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, suggests another “beginning”—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'esl bizarre l'écriture. It was also
published in Canada in 1977 under the title Journal du printemps, récit dun 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)

46
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 bends, 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 jardín étincelant (1972) and Encore heureux qu 'on va vers l'élé (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

47
and institutions of a patriarchal culture.”(frenc/i 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 l 'été 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 book-length essay on the condition of children (Les Enfants
d’abord, 1976), a whimsical autobiography (Ma vie revue et corrigéepar 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 délire, 1981).
Crossing boundaries between fiction and non-fiction, Rochefort’s autobiographical
text was a kind of literary experiment with Maurice Chavardés at the request of the

48
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 Xaviére 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 Chavardés et moi avons passé ensemble une quarantaine
d’heures ríen qu’á parler, et bourré plus de vingt bandes. J’ose dire
qu’on ne se connaissait pas á la fin mieux qu’avant. Lui n’était 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 1’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 of thoughts, 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 (auto)biography ever could.”
(Women Writers Talking, 226)
Rochefort returned to the novelistic genre with the publication in 1982 of
Quand tu vas chez les femmes. In it, the dark, anti-hero of the novel, Bertrand, allows

49
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 he 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” demande á des écrivains d’écrire un texte que Ton
n’a pas coutume de lire sous leur plume. L’auteur le plus libre, le
plus accompli, semblerait avoir un enfant secret. Certains ont préféré
le garder dans le silence des mots, d’autres ont décidé de le mettre au
jour, d’offrir á l’étonnement de leurs lecteurs un “ce queje suis
aussi.”

50
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 U.S.A. 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 originel, " 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 étre, pleine
de traces et de cicatrices, á jamais imparfaite, mais moi je f aime car
je sais de quelle bataille tu es le héros vaincu et désolé. (220)
In 1988, Rochefort received aanother award of literary distinction, the Prix
Médicis for her powerful novel on incest and child sexual abuse, La Porte du fond.
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

51
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
relations.
After a hiatus of ten years, Rochefort published two additional texts in the
year before her death: Conversations sans paroles and Adieu Androméde, (1997).
Adieu Androméde 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.

52
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
parlé,” she continued, “et seulement avec Glissant qui soutenait que la poésie ne
devait pas se mélanger 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 á la terre, et mon esprit
Aux electrons qui font créé. (110)
Conversations sans paroles is cleverly subtitled roman, one of only two of her texts
to be so designated (the other being La Porte du fond). 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, si j ’y parviens, á travers ses divagations, et ses
émerveillements, l’histoire, autrement remarquable, bien que
beaucoup moins remarquée, de ce que portent les yeux, de ce qu’ils
délivrent, et échangent, au-delá des paroles, et sans elles.
Je ne sais pas si je 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

53
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 siécle,
1961; Les Stances á 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’était dans le temps de mon innocence littéraire
et d’un temps oil on raconte une histoire. . . . Et j’avais un style déguelasse. Et de
toute fafon, quand j’deriváis des livres á ce moment-lá, c’était ma période
d’étude.”(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

54
serving as authorial masks; complicity with the reader; and an overall dialogic
context.
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 le jardín élincelanl, 1972; and
Encore heureux qu'on va vers l’été, 1975; and Rochefort’s autobiographical
experiment, Ma vie revue el corrigée par l '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

55
novels: Quand tu vas chez les femmes, 1982; La Porte du fond, 1988; Le Monde est
comme deux chevaux, 1984; Conversations sans paroles, 1997; and Adieu
Androméde, 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.

56
NOTES
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
of Narratology (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, Chrétien 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 Cléves, 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 Prévost's Manon Lescaut, Marivaux's Le Paysan parvenu, Diderot's La Religieuse,
Rousseau's La Nouvelle Hélo'ise, 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 René, Adolphe, Indiana, Eugénie 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. Fie 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/Vérité/Psychanalyse." 96)

CHAPTER 3
ROCHEFORT'S EARLY NOVELS
“C’était dans le temps de mon innocence littéraire. . .
(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, Genevieve 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 délivrance d’accouchée. . . . Mon ventre me fait mal.
Une béte chaude y habite depuis une minute et déjá prend
57

58
place, ce monstre se dilate, et c’est moi. Le moi qui, toute ma vie, a
nié 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 posée la
ligne de force de l’amour, on voit que le monde est gouverné par la magie et non par
la raison.” (45)
In reference to Renaud, she notes that, “il n’écoute pas ce queje dis, il le
regarde; c’est une impression tres curieuse, comme si j’existáis acoté 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-lá, est
contre la porte, collé, il hurle, je hurle comme un chien. Je l’avais oublié celui-lá...
. C’est pourtant moi aussi cette chair douloureuse.” (72) The use of two different
subject pronouns, il and je, as well as the demonstrative celui-lá, 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 l’autre. Tu l’as chassé.. .. Tu as tout nié, tu Tas nié; tu t’étonnes
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 l'Amanl.1 Thus, Rochefort’s 1959 novel can effectively be read as opening

59
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 fossé creusé au
bulldozer; et puis la Maitresse de Sarti. Les deux ne se connaissent pas, se
méprisent, se renient. ‘Je suis une vraie femme’, dit Tune, et l’autre: ‘Tu es une
obsédée 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.
Schizophrénie! Bourgeoisie, voilá le nom de ton mal. Le réel,
connais pas: m’arrange pas connais pas. Veux pas le savoir. Et que
la féte continue. (278)
Renaud speaks in fragments, splitting apart sentences. He breaks the
negative form and verbalizes only pas. 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 réel, connais pas. .. . 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
fiction.
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,

60
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 donné ma tete á couper qu’il ne s’agissait pas de
l’amour, comme le croyait Simone, mais de quelque chose de
beaucoup plus trouble et indéfinissable, d’une échappatoire, toujours
la méme, ce désir de tourner le dos á la réalité, de se perdre, de se
détruire, et qui était peut-étre, tout au fond, l’attrait de la mort. (236)
The interior debate that she carries on with regal'd 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
légende je me mis en quéte d’Orphée. . . . Pour lyre, j’avais mon
propre coeur. . .. Eurydice emploierait tous les moyens. Elle
essaierait de séduire. . . . Orphée essayait de chanter les vieux airs
d’autrefois; mais c’était hideusement faux, hélas! II ne savait plus. La
voix d’Orphée serait déformée...inversée, dépouillée 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

61
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 revisied 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 oú il fut frappé d’une extinction de voix á
peu pres totale.”(253) (An earlier foreshadowing occurs at the end of chapter four in
Part One of the novel as Geneviéve notes to herself: "nous rentrámes en silence.
Renaud était frappé de mutisme.”)(l 18) 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

62
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,
177)
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 cigarettes 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 á la bombe
atomique, le corps définitivement irradié, Tame planant sur la face de Tabime des
molécules potentiellement désintégrées, sur le vide essentiel.”(76) As for Geneviéve,
he sarcastically belittles her naiveté and willing objectivity: “regarde-moi un peu,
sérieusement, c’est toujours toi que tu regardes, change l’objectif, mets un long foyer
. .. envisage oil tu fourres tes pieds. . . si tu crois que l’amour est un bouclier, tu te
trompes, c’est une bréche.”(77) Renaud’s speech is authoritative and replete with
metaphor. Like Rochefort whose voice he masks, he is a sensitive and intelligent

63
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
all.”
Reminiscent of Rimbaud’s famous “je suis un autre,” Rochefort has tried to
explain her narrative treatment of this character by saying,
ce queje voulais c’était montrer Je voyant II avec les yeux de
l’incompréhension. Bien qu’écrit á la premiere personne, ce n’est pas
du tout un roman autobiographique. Moi, c’est//. Ce qu’il dit, c’est
moi qui le dis. Comme lui, j’aime délirer verbalement. Maisjene
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 Geneviéve. Genevieve notes that, “elle lui
ressemblait comme une soeur”(204), and that, in fact, “c’était lui-meme.”(269)
Rafaele is a seductively androgynous figure whom the narrator characterizes by:
“son allure entre filie et garitón ou plutót 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, asexuée, soeur.fée, sorciére,
enfant, chevalier, copain, chat, bebé, bas-bleu, demi-folle, bouc égaré, chevreau,
agneau, sacrifice, ange, and muse. In a later interview Rochefort acknowledged that
her voice is masked behind this double as well.
Je voulais écrire 9a de mon point de vue á moi; celui qui est devenu
dans le livre Rafaele. (Hurtin, 9)

64
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
relates:
“Ce” Renaud écrivait. Etait gai. . . . Ce Renaud aimait la musique. . . .
“Ce” Renaud, en pleine santé physique sinon mentale, dévorait,
laissait du whisky dans ses verres.... II vivait.... Et ce Renaud
soudain révélé ce n’etait pas le mien, c’était 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 défaut du reste. Surtout quand c’est
flou. Flou, tout est beau .. .j’aime le flou, le vague, le brumeux,
Testompé, le on ne sait pas tres bien ce que c’est, alors rend-toi
compte du travail! Je gomme, je floute, je filoute, je file; á l’acide, au
couteau, á l’esprit-de-sel, á 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 prétendre ne pas savoir, et Renaud
s’agafait 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 trompé mon attention. “Tes mains.” -
“Qu’est-ce qu’elles ont mes mains?” Ses mains tremblaient. “Tu as
de belles mains”, soupirai-je, car je pensáis: quel dommage, de si
belles mains, trembler. . .. “Ah oui?” II suivait parfaitement tout
Tarriére-plan de cette conversation.(lOO-lOl)

65
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 liberté, de la liberté de rien ... je veux dire
Bonjour Comment allez-vous Trés bien merci et vous, je veux aller
moi aussi dans la grande Machine á Laver, aide-moi, toi qui sais cela.
Aide-moi á vivre. Force-moi á vivre.... Epouse-moi. S’il te plait.
(284-285)
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.

66
Geneviéve’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 légale dont il m’a munie, c’est lui seul qui en use,
comme d’une béquille pour s’aider á aller oü il veut aller. ... II a
besoin de cette machinerie, je ne suis qu’un instrument, jejoue le role
qu’il m’a donné. 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 Céline’s hedonistic friend Alex
who tries in vain to comfort her by saying, “allez viens, ce n’est tout de méme pas la
chaise électrique.”(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 láche. .
. . Je veux dormir-mourir, et pour 9a une femme c’est le meilleur systéme. 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)

67
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 mines” 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 brúler ce passé une bonne fois, comme de vieilles lettres, et
qu’on n’y pense plus; il faut que je quitte Renaud, puisque aussi bien
lui-méme s’est quitté. Et continuer. Dans le méme sens. Et vivre.
Avec ce que j’ai. Que j’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
struggle.
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

68
into her interior monologue. As she ruminates internally over the conversation that
has just ensued between them, their two voices become enmeshed.
voilá. Changeons le sujet. II ne l’avait pas connue elle, mais par
contre Charles, mon onde en somme, qui venait faire sa partie en
face, la vous voyez. II désignait le café de la Gare, 0C1 j’aurais pu,
aussi bien, descendre, pensai-je avec quelque regret. lis possédaient
des ¡mmeubles en ville, n’est-ce pas? Et puis cette maison; elle avait
un trés beau pare, que longeait malheureusement, á present, la
déviation des poids lourds. C’est par lá aussi qu’on allait faire le
motel, vous savez, ces casernes sur le bord des routes, la nouvelle
mode... .(23)
Slipping 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: II ne I ’avait pas connue elle, mais par contre Charles, mon onde en
somme, qui venait faire sa partie en face. Other parts of the narrative represent the
narrator’s own thoughts: oü j’aurais pu, aussi bien, descendre. Still others represent
the clerk’s exact words: la, 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 bord des routes, la nouvelle
mode. . . . Thus, the narrating voice is not as straightforward as it might at first

69
appear. It is a dialogic complex of voices from among which narrative tension
develops.
The voices of the text can be separated into two basic groups: those of the
bourgeois figures (Genevieve, her fiancé 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,Geneviéve’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

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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
with:
on survit á la bombe atomique, le corps définitivement irradié, l’áme
planant sur la face de Tabime des molécules potentiellement
désintégrées, sur le vide essentiel. ... II est temps que tu saches oú tu
es et ce que tu es en train de faire parce que jusqu’á présent tu n’y
comprends pas grand-chose il faut le dire. Car ils sont mortels pour
leurs semblables, que l’amour méme, Genevieve, ne protége pas. . . .
Ne protége pas. (76-77)
His disdain is relentless. He scornfully announces that, “un jour j’écrirais un traité. Je
l’appellerai ‘De l’Amour’... et je serai contre. J’y démontrerai que l’amour n’existe
pas.” (84)
Current ideologies also gain a voice in Rochefort’s novels as narrators and
characters repeat clichés. In Le Repos du guerrier, most of them come from the
acerbic mouth of Renaud. As Céline notices, “voilá Renaud. Sur le velours. Le beau
velours des formules avec un si grand air de vérité.”(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 clichés ils sont exprés,
mais si possible, ils sont pervertís . . . c’est la voix plutót de la société qui les dit,
pour beaucoup de ces clichés et généralités.”(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

71
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:
“regarde ta poutre avant d'óter ma paille.”(243) Another is used in reference to
Renaud’s double, Rafaele: l’Ange de la Resurrection. (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

72
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 Eurydice as a “mise 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,
30)
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 Filie 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 réjouir.. .. Et quand on fut á la mi-nuit/ le Roi
Renaud rendit l’esprit.”(262)

73
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 Lacios, Sade and Restif who 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 Geneviéve’s allusion to Antoin Artaud in her remark, “j’étais
assoiffée de vengance et je faisais mes classes de cruauté”(164) and in theatrical
metaphors such as:
cette dramaturgie chaotique qu’était la vie de Renaud Sarti et qu’il
croyait créer quand il la subissait. C’était une Commedia dell’arte, ou
plutót une Tragedia dell 'arte, ou mieux encore, les deux ensemble, lui
dans la comédie, moi dans la tragédie et jamais sur le méme ton,
j’arrivais dans un role une fois pour toutes fixé, Pantalón Boy-scout,
mais dont le texte restait á improviser en scene, de quoi Renaud se
chargeait, brodant et rebrodant selon la disposition du public ou celle
de son humeur.(l 15)
Renaud repeats the nineteenth-century romantic refrain “elle est morte en me
dormant la vie,”(89) and Genevieve alludes to Paul Verlaine’s “de la musique avant
toute chose.”(238) Genevieve reflects, “j’étais tout bonnement en train de claquer
mon héritage en debauches á la fapon d’un héritier romantique du XIXe siécle...
.”(244)
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,

74
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 ríen queje l’ai montré lisant
Don Quichotte. Renaud est un Don Quichotte rate, sur-raté. II n’a méme 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, “la joie de
Renaud me faisait Hercule... .”(255) By the end of the novel, Renaud admits, “je
suis tombé.... Toute l’affaire est queje me suis cru un dieu, queje bois pour
essayer d’y croire, mais c’est pas vrai, finissons-en avec ces fantaisies icariennes á 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 lá, 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 sentáis trés loin de lui. J’absorbai deux comprimes et je cachai
les tubes entre L 'Imaginaire et L ’Eire et le néant, un endroit oü
Renaud n’irait jamais 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

75
matter would not interest Renaud who prefers to escape into the domain of pulp
fiction.
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 Genéviéve 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

76
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 littéraires, qu’il pérorait et ingurgitad superbement, tout
le monde prenait d’emblée Renaud pour un écrivain."(174) Although his
acquaintances still adhere to the myth of the writer as originator, Renaud sees
himself as a sort ofjuggler 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 Geneviéve 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 á cinq
heures.”(274) The famous phrase evokes the voice of Paul Valéry, rejecting the
notion of a “realist” novel and insisting on the need to write differently. Its inclusion
also allows Rochefort indirectly to voice her agreement with Valéry’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:
Tautomatisme en soi, c’est de la blague. C’est le contenu qui a fait le
surréalisme. Voyez: maintenant qu’il n’y a plus de position politique
officielle parmi les artistes, autrement dit qu’ils sont tous
officieusement des bourgeois, Tautomatisme, c’est du vent. La vertu,
c’était la révolte. Et maintenant, la révolte 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 Créateur, 120)

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The voice of an autodiegetic, female narrator again provides the narrative
thread for Rochefort’s second novel, Les Petits Enfants du siécle. 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 “Técrit-parlé,” 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 que j’aimais pas les bonnes femmes! Comment une
chose pareille peut-elle arriver á exister? Pourquoi c’est pas dans les
zoos? Toute la joumée 9a geint, 9a se traine.... Je ne connais ríen de
plus inutile sur la terre que les bonnes femmes. Si. Qn 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, in pourquoi c ’estpas 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 ga, characterize popular or informal
language. To further mark and emphasize the intended irony in the narrator’s voice,
Rochefort isolates fla 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 Qa 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-

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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 repondré avec elles, je ne comprenais pas la phrase,
pas un seul mot. Qa commen9ait mal.... Je ne sais pas ce qui s’est
passé ce soir-lá á la maison, qui a gueulé et sur qui, ce qu’on a mangé,
et oh est passée la vaisselle. Je retournais la phrase dans tous les sens,
cherchant par quel bout la prendre; et je n’y arrivais pas. Blanc, lisse
et fermé comme un oeuf, le Pur Esprit Infiniment Parfait restait la
dans mátete, 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 repondré, 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, unlikely 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

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the verb gueuler, the dangling preposition avec, and the oral-style phrasing of ou esl
passé la vaisselle.
Other linguistic markers of conversational or familiar language are phrases
such as et puis zul, en somme, c 'esl-a-dire, bref or liens and slang expressions such
as: taper dansl'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 tapé dans l’oeil á Didi, m’informa Liliane qui,
ayant un an de plus que moi, était davantage dans le coup.”(77) This blending of the
written and spoken, what she calls the écrit-parlé, 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 commenf ait á parler, elle tirait sur la robe de
ma mere et n’arretait pas de répéter: ou ti fére, oü ti fére? On le lui
avait promis. Ah! Laisse-moi done tranquille, répondait la mére
comme toujours, tu me fatigues! Donne ton nez queje te mouche.
Souffle. Chantal était enrhumée: l’hiver, elle n’était qu’un rhume,
d’un bout á l’autre, avec de temps en temps pour varier une bronchite
ou une sinusite. Cette année-lá 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.

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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: répondait la mere comme toujours. What follows, however, is another
instance of double-voicing, syntactically arranged in what Bakhtin refers to as a
hybrid-construction.
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, / 'hiver, elle n était qu 'un rhume, d 'un bout á I 'autre, avec de temps en temps
pour varier une bronchite ou 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 année-lá les jumeaux avaient la
coqueluche.
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.

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Pourquoi, avec Philippe, rien que de marcher Pun prés de l’autre, les
doigts emmélés, c’était 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.(77te 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, “9a c’est de 1’architecture. Et
ce que c’était beau! J’avais jamais vu autant de vitres. J’en avais des
éblouissements. . . .”(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
gasps.

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il faisait trop clair, trop clair. J’étais nue comme un ver. Je chercháis
de l’ombre, un coin, un coin noir, un coin oú me cacher, j’avais la
panique, une panique folie. . .. Désordre et ténébres. J’aurais voulu
une cabane á outils, un débarras, un placard á balais, une niche á
chien; une cáveme. Désordre et ténébres, désordre et ténébres,
désordre et ténébres. (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
configured 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 (désordre et ténébres) 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 oit me cacher and la panique, une panique
folie. 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

83
Scenes, 177) In another interview, however, with Marianne Hirsch, she admits that
there is, “in Les Petits Enfants du siécle, the little girl who is the narrator (and myself
at the same time). . . ,”(L 'Esprit Créateur, 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 siécle Rochefort writes,
Bien sur je suis aussi quelque part lá-dedans, mais oh? C’est tres
variable.... La petite Josyane, je suis liée á elle, par la compassion si
vous voulez. Et je suis aussi derriére elle, en train d’essayer (?) les
possibilités qu’elle a d’etre sauvée. Non, fmalement. 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 littérature c’est
une transposition. (Ma vie revue et corrigée par l 'auteur, 277-278)
This apparent inconsistency, the fluctuating 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’était beau.
Vert, blanc. Ordonné. On sentait l’organisation. Ils avaient tout fait pour qu’on soit
bien, ils s’étaient demandé: qu’est-ce qu’il faut mettre pour qu’ils soient bien? Et ils
l’avaient mis.”) (97), they would prove later to be uninspiring and oppressive. As
Rochefort observed from personal experience, these “carcasses en betón” have a
depressing effect on those who live within their confines.

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Ces trucs-lá - le matériau? La forme? La pensée qui les a inspirés?
Coupent radicalement toute vie ¡ntérieure. .. . C’était, cette pensée
architecturale, une machine diabolique, machine de mort mentale.
(Ma vie revue et corrigée par ! '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 et corrigée
par l'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 née des Allocations et d’un jour férié.”(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 siécle 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 siécle alludes, of course, to "les enfants du siécle," the self-image
of the young Romantic hero, bom too late to participate in the Revolution and
Napoleon's wars, bom to dryness and passivity. The term was made famous by
Musset in "Confession d'un enfant du siécle." On the title page, the voice of

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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 populiste. 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 Tintín to the parodying of scenes from
Flaubert’s Madame Bovary.'1 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’étais dans la rue Paul-Valéry, j’avais pris la rue Mallarmé, j’avais
toumé dans Victor-Hugo, enfilé Paui-Claudel, et je me retombais dans
Valéry et j’arrivais pas á en sortir. (95)
Many readers have experienced difficulty 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 gar9on. Elle ne faisait que des
garqons, et elle en était fiere.”(66) Sibling rivalry is another source of tension, as
Josyane again reveals: “je leur donnais á manger rien que des trues qu’ils n’aimaient

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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 socialiste on m’aurait fait poursuivre
mes études, méme si ma famille était encore plus pauvre; dans un
pays socialiste, chacun faisait ce pour quoi il était 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 fa devenir une grand
personne cette fois j’y étais je commenpais á piger, arriver dans un cul-de-sac et se
prendre en gelée.”(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 clichés. 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’était un autre homme: plein d’allant, de dynamisme, d’autorité.”(42) (This
fascination with cars and other modem consumer goods in post-war France, as

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documented in novels by Rochefort and others, became the subject of Kristin Ross’s
important sociological publication in 1995, Fast Cars, Clean Bodies).5 Their speech
is replete with pat phrases taken directly from the language of advertising: “une
voiture qui tient la route . . . vous la sentez qui colle á la Chaussée” (49) and “vingt
ans d’avance sur Tlndustrie 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’á 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
premier.
—La Traction, c’est du solide, dit papa. Un tank.
~Qa ne braque pas, jeta Charnier.
—Bien sur faut pas une fillette pour la manier, dit papa. C’est une
vraie machine, pas unjouet. Une voiture d’homme. Etiaarrache.
Méme en cote. (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, á
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 clichés and
mockingly mimicks: “dommage que ce soit fini on commensait vraiment á s’y
mettre, hélas! 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)

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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
prét, le Crédit, 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 fiancé 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 méfie des “happy endings”. Dans Les Petits Enfants du siécle,
c’est une tragédie á la fin, c’est copié des magazines de femme, une
parodie de 9a-grin9ante. Elle se sent piégée. (149)
In her autobiographical text, she comments that, “on m'a reproché d’avoir fait une
fin optimiste. Ha ha ha. C’est un roman d’épouvante si vous voulez savoir. Je
hurláis: CES MA1SONS, VOUS VERREZ: £A 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 á 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

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exists within the narrating voice. The plurality that characterizes Céline’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 Céline,
Rochefort remarked, “j’ai eu une idée de la schizophrenic. . .. C’est-á-dire, toutes
les femmes, particuliérement les femmes sont schizophrénes. Divisées, déchirées,
quoi.... moi, je vois vraiment 9a comme une chose sociale... .” (Steckel, 174-175)
Early in the narrative Céline 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, Céline’s disembodied voice directs its attention to her unwilling flesh.
Allons, debout. Léve-toi. Tu entends carcasse. Mais elle ne veut pas.
Elle souffre la pauvre. Elle a mal. Gnagnagna. Qa y est voilá qu’elle
pleure. Encore un instant elle dirá papa maman. C’est fait elle parle;
elle dit: Philippe, s’il te plait....
Fatigant. La moitié de moi pour le moins voudrait étre á cent
lieues.... Mais l’autre moitié ne veut pas démarrer d’ici. Pour ríen
au monde. Ma moitié numéro deux tuerait plutót ma moitié numéro
un; c’est du reste ce qu’elle fait. Elle répéte Philippe s’il te plait, il
parait que c’est tout ce qu’elle sait dire. (59)
The dilemma of Céline’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
frustration.
“Mais Madame nous en vendons beaucoup”, voilá l’argument-clé.
Eh, qu’est-ce que j’en ai á foutre de ce que les autres aiment? . . .

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“Mais Madame, c’est ce qui se fait.” C’est ce que les fabricants font,
9a 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 Céline 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
5a 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 9a que 9a se fait Madame;” (66) “on ne
nous le demande pas Madame;” (66) and “on ne les fait plus Madame.”(67) For
draperies, bedding, cookware, everywhere she goes to shop, a similar scene ensues.
Céline’s narrative, seems intended to fix a complicity with her implied readers by
addressing them directly: “je ne sais pas si vous l’avez remarqué, et si vous vous
reportez á France-Femme vous verrez que 9a fait rage á chaqué page et si vous ne
vous y mettez pas vous aurez Fair 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 Céline, 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, Céline does little more than
indirectly report Philippe’s words and silently react to them. The opening pages are a

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veritable litany of “disait Philippe.” As Céline notes, “il est fort Philippe, il est
solide, il est sur. Il sait. Il est lá. Et moi je l’écoutais, bouche bée... ."(12) She is
literally seduced by his voice and his rhetoric. “Il 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 exprimée. Je
n’aurais pas dü. Pourquoi ne puis-je teñir ma langue? Ce qu’il faut.. . c’est non
settlement des boules quiés 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 anything, when we like or where we like;
not just anyone, finally, may speak of just anything. (“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) Céline 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 ¡1 faudra que 9a te passe. Car
moi je ne supporterai plus tes manieres grossiéres.”(85) She learns to suppress that

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part of her self in his presence. She confesses that, “quand on est avec son mari, on
ne dit pas les mémes choses, on ne fait pas les mémes choses.” (103)
Categorizing Céline 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 folie. Tu dis des bétises.” (26) Céline herself
relates that she has, in fact, recently seen a psychologist: “une femme qui vient de
faire une dépression nerveuse et de coüter deux cents mille bailes de clinique se
manie avec précautions.”(31) Soon, at Philippe’s insistence, Céline takes medication
to “control” her behavior and help her conform to more “appropriate” models.
Céline’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 machin déjá tout constitué, en apparence solide comme
du roc, il parait que 9’a toujours été comme 9a, que 9a continuera
jusqu’á la fin des temps, et il n’y a pas de raison que 9a change. C’est
la nature des choses. C’est ce qu’ils disent tous, et d’abord, on le croit.
... (7)
Céline’s voice is constantly held in check by Philippe and members of his bourgeois
family whose attitudes and values represent the “machin” 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 éprouvons des
faiblesses qui nous brouillent l’esprit et nous jettent dans les contradictions, quand ce
n’est pas dans l’imbécillité. . . . pour réaliser que c’est simplement, béte, 9a demande

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du temps, et une bonne tete. En attendant, il faut se le faire.”(8) Precisely, Céline’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, Céline 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 conteste plus. Je fais.... Tout ce qu’il
veut, il l’obtient. Tout ce qu’il attend . . . il l’a.;”(l 15-116) and “je ne dis plus merde
en public.”(l 19) But, it is in this section of the novel that Céline 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’écoute, j’écoute,
comment pourrais-je dire? Avec ma troisiéme oreiile.. .. Pas ce qu’ils disent (qui
n’a jamais aucun, aucun, aucun intérét) mais comme ils disent. Le rythme. Le son.
C’est curieux. Beaucoup plus ¡ntéressant.”(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. J’appelle: pas d’écho.. . . Les
miroirs me renvoient mon ombre au passage dans les corridors: qui est-ce? Je n’aime
pas cette dame lá-bas qui passe, dont le visage lisse et pále refléte une absence. Je
l’évite.”(123) She is on medication: “j’ai des pilules á prendre, calmantes; et des
remontantes.’’(126) designed to make her feel that she has a “normal” life. Her new
personality: “la fidéle Madame Aignan, c’est moi.”(128)

94
Not long afterward, Céline has a lesbian experience with Julia, the wife of
one of her husband’s friends. It is important to note, however, that Rochefort does
not include details of this episode in the novel. Those details would only detract from
the narrative intention, which is political and ideological rather than sexual. She
sparsely devotes only a few lines:
avec Julia, je revis un peu. Un jour, j’ai méme ressuscité. II faisait
chaud on venait de prendre une douche, tranquilles chez elle
personne. On a eu envie de se faire plaisir. On l’a fait. Comme 9a,
simplement. Juste pour le plaisir. (132)
The physical dimension of this sexual encounter is effectively cut out of the text.
This ellipsis or omission represents a stance on the part of the author to eliminate any
elements from her novel that could be construed as pornographic or voyeuristic and
thereby appeal to a reader looking for cheap thrills.6 In an interview, Rochefort stated
that, “because we don’t want men to look at what we do, I cut the intimate scenes
between Julia and Céline.”(Arséne, 108) Perhaps it is her way of indicating
indirectly that lesbian love is always in the margins or suppressed. Or perhaps, as
Margaret-Anne Hutton suggests, “the almost passing reference to the sexual nature
of the relationship might also be seen as a means of avoiding making an issue of
something which the author wishes to represent as normal, a point on a continuum of
sexual relations.”(77te Novels of Christiane Rochefort, 74)
Stylistically, ellipsis, or what Rochefort refers to as “coups,” are an important
narrative device that add interest to the novel by seductively drawing the reader
beyond the confines of the written narrative and into adventures of his own
imagination in a kind of game. She admits, “la, c’était conscient, ce truc, je crois, á

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part que j’ adore jouer, ce jeu-la.... ’’(Steckel, 177) It’s the same game of seduction
that Barthes describes in, Le Plaisir du texte:
le plaisir de la lecture vient évidement de certaines ruptures. . . .(14) il
produit en moi le meilleur plaisir s’il parvient á se faire écouter
indirectement; si, le lisant, je suis entrainé á souvent lever la tete, á
entendre quelque chose.(41)
As a consequence of this relationship, Celine is reawakened to a
consciousness of her former self: “je me suis regardée dans la glace. Je me suis
reconnue immédiatement. C’est moi, celle-la. Moi! Moi!”(132) More importantly,
she begins, again, to find and assert her own voice: “je chante. Depuis quand je n’ai
pas chanté. Philippe me regarde, surpris: II ne m’a jamais entendue, il parait que j’ai
une voix.”(134) In fact, for the first time, Céline’s voice engages in a lively
conversation with Philippe, in an effort to persuade him to let her drive his new car.
She prevails.
Les Stances á Sophie is also stylistically characterized by what Rochefort has
referred to as inserted dialogues. The conversation between Céline and Philippe over
who will drive is one example of many such mini-dialogues that punctuate the
narrative throughout the novel. Rochefort has commented that, “Il y a des sous-trucs
lá-dedans qui sont les dialogues insérés, que j’aime beaucoup faire, parce que c’est
une photographie en écriture, tu vois, tu dois avoir un truc. .. .’’(Steckel, 178) As a
narrative device, the insertion of these dialogues is an effective tool in the creation of
ironic humor and a sense of immediacy and mimetic realism. As Rochefort suggests,
they provide a break in the narrative and dramatically represent the tension resulting
from opposing ideologies and perspectives. The reader witnesses first-hand scenes
between characters, scenes illustrating the conflicts that thematically characterize the

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novel. Equally important, these numerous dialogic exchanges provide a medium
through which Rochefort can linguistically differentiate the voices of the novels’s
characters.
One cleverly worked dialogic encounter illustrates the total lack of
communication between men and women as each speaks “through” the conversation
of the other, seemingly oblivious to any comments other than those interesting to and
directed to him/herself. As two couples discuss plans for a mutual vacation,
Rochefort begins with the use of tags (disent les femmes, disent les hommes) to guide
the reader’s interpretation. The tags are soon abandonned, however, and the reader
must sort through the voices on his own to identify their origins by contextual clues.
—Tu verras que j’arriverai avant toi, dit Philippe.
—On veut un endrolt avec des rochers, disent les femmes.
—Ah ah! Dit Jean-Pierre. 220! Avec latienne tu les fais jamais c’est
un veau.
-On pechera des crabes.
—Un veau mon cul dit Philippe recourant dans sa fureur á l’argot du
Seiziéme, et de toute fa^on en rallye il n’y a pas que la vitesse il y a
aussi Tadresse.
—On prend les maillots? L’eau est surement encore bonne.
-Alors je crains pas grand-chose. Et avec son démarrage instantané,
ses reprises, ses
—De toute fafon on se fera arroser par les vagues méme si on ne se
baigne pas. (167)
And so on. For the men, the affair becomes a personal contest, a race: tu versus je.
For the women, it is a question of shared activites; the pronoun is always on. For the
reader the dialogue ominously foreshadows a tragic accident that will occur as a
result of this contest between belles bagnoles.
In another scene, Philippe and Celine discuss the practice among Catholics of
going to confession to gain absolution from the priest just prior to the event of their

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marriage. Céline resists what she sees as unnecessary and meaningless tradition.
"Qu’est-ce queje vais bien pouvoir lui raconter á ce type?"(37), she asks. When
Philippe does not respond adequately, she retorts: “bon, je lui dirais que j’ai maraudé
des pommes. ... Je vais lui lire Joyce. . . . Ca m’embéte d’aller la. Pourquoi tout ce
cirque?”(37) As the dialogue continues, Philippe becomes increasingly intolerant of
her defiance.
—Tu sais bien que c’est pour mes parents. Nous avons déjá réglé cette
question en son temps, je ne vois pas pourquoi tu la reposes
maintenant.
—Parce que je suis devant. Mais ils sont vraiment religieux tes
parents?
—Un mariage civil les embarrasserait. Or je ne vois aucune raison de
les embarrasser.
-C’est effrayant.
—Quoi effrayant?
—Alors si tu as des enfants ils se marieront á l’église pour ne pas
t’embarrasser? Et comme 9a le true continue jusqu’á la fin des temps,
Dieu personne sait plus qui c’est mais le true continue. Et tu ne
trouves pas 9a effrayant.
-Mais la question n’est pas la! II s’agit d’un bulletin de confession,
qu’il faut avoir. C’est tout simple. Ce n’est pas de la métaphysique.
Tu ne changeras done jamais? Entre, on ne va pas rester sur ces
marches jusqu’á ce que tu aies la révélation. Nous avons encore
beaucoup á faire aujourd’hui. (37)
Here the tension between Philippe’s bourgeois conservatism and Celine’s
defiant noncomformity is dramatically illustrated. Céline’s language is punctuated
with vernacular such as type, cirque, true, questions, and careless syntactical
constructions. Philippe, on the other hand, speaks authoritatively and
condescendingly, always carefully conscious of his “correct” grammar and
somewhat pompous choice of words intended to summarily dismiss Céline’s

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rebellious protestations. The “logic” of his statements relies on strict adherence to
convention, in language, attitude, and behavior.
Céline’s speech as a character is marked throughout the text by oral
syntactical constructions, fragmentation, repetition, slang, litote, and elipsis.
Although these same traits also generally characterize Céline’s narration, a second
personality or voice is interspersed with that of the character, one that seeks
complicity with the reader through metadiegetic distancing. This second narrating
voice finds its locus in neologisms, parenthetical remarks, and rhetorical questions
that become more frequent as Céline the character becomes increasingly aware of the
semantic barrier separating her from Philippe. While the primary narrating voice
functions as purveyor of the diegesis, this second narrator, represented as the voice
of Troisiéme Oeil, distances himself in order to look critically at the characters, their
actions, and their words: “il connait parfaitement son intérét, le mien, qui est
d’écarter de nous toute peine et en particulier la pire qui puisse étre faite á l’áme,
savoir la Connerie.”(89) He is particularly attentive to the vagaries of language.
When Philippe insists, for example, “mais moi je te parle réellement!” this narrator
silently reacts: “réellement. Troisiéme Oeil note le terme avec un grincement
sarcastique.”(90) Noticing that often people talk authoritatively beginning their
statements with “moi je,” this narrator observes, “ce qu’il y a de remarquable c’est
qu’une fois placé le Moi Je ils répétent mot pour mot ce qu’ils ont piqué á
l’extérieur, contenu, syntaxe et vocabulaire.”(120)
It is also this second narrating voice that speaks in parenthetical, interpretive
asides: (“il ne comprend pas”) (150), (“ravie elle aussi de me voir lancée dans les

99
travaux féminins”) (151), and in rhetorical questions scattered throughout the
narration: “et au nom de quoi, la repousser? La Liberté. La liberté de quo¡?”(19);
“Qu’est-ce queje peux faire d’autre? Vraiment. Qu’est-ce queje pouvais faire
d’autre?”(21); “Quoi c’est un choc de se marier non?”(55)
This second narrator finds further expression in occasional notations that read
like stage directions in a play, speaking from yet another position of distance. In a
particularly humorous passage, Rochefort creates a scene during which Philippe
speaks patronizingly to Céline while he indulges his appetite with a large serving of
raw oysters. His words, like the oysters he is eating, slide easily in and out of his
mouth. Like the oysters, served with little preparation and slimy in texture, his words
are thoughtless and difficult for her to grasp with any real meaning. As he sits
consuming the oysters, his repeated swallowing punctuates his rhetoric and, in a
sense, metaphorically illustrates the intended effect of his condescending discourse:
Céline should simply, and unquestioningly, swallow his words whole, (my italics)
J’essaye seulement de mettre un peu d’ordre dans cette petite
téte. II caresse ladite. C’est plein de fausses idees, qui te font du mal.
Qui cachent les vraies choses qui y sont. Et moi.. . .
Sa main enferme la mienne. Voilá les huitres, il la retire, pour
attraper son pial.
... et moi, vois-tu, il avale une huítre, ]e ne veux pas que tu
te fasses du mal; il avale une huítre. Inutilement. II avale. J’ai envíe
que tu sois heureuse. II avale. Méme malgré toi. II avale une huítre.
Et toi, tu pleures! Allez, mange, elles sont délicieuses. II avale. Tu te
débats comme si je voulais t’administrer du poison. Je suis du poison?
II avale une huítre. II soupire. La vérité c’est que tu ne m’aimes pas.
Oh Philippe! ...
II avale deux huitres.
Alors? Alors pourquoi refuses-tu de t’abandonner á tes
sentiments? Pour des principes? Lesquels? Tu ne le sais méme pas!
Pourquoi essayes-tu d’étouffer ce qu’il y a de meilleur en toi? Je le
sais, moi, ce qu’il y a de meilleur en toi. II avale une huítre.
Ah? Qu’est-ce que c’est?

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Tu es une femme. (22)
“J’ai horreur des mots qui n’ont pas de sens,” rails Céline. (68) She begins to
analyse the way people use words. Philippe’s statement that, “tu ne vas tout de méme
pas faire une telle histoire parce qu’on n’a pas trouvé ta peinture géniale!” (186),
prompts the following deconstruction by the narrator.
Analyse: “une telle histoire” - un, je suis simplement allée me
promener; deux, c’est toi qui me fais l’histoire en question moi je ne
Tai pas encore ouvert. “On”: qui on? Tout le monde selon la tournure
de ta phrase. . . . “Géniale”: mot exagéré jusqu’au mensonge, destiné
á dormer ¡’impression que j’ai nourri Tillusion que ma peinture
pouvait l’étre. . .. Enfin, Tensemble méme de la phrase... Tensemble
tend á faire accroire que j’aurais moi-méme recherché des louanges et
queje serais vexée de ne les avoir point recueillies. (186-187)
The continuing necessity of deconstructive analysis of people’s speech,
particularly Philippe’s, prompts Céline to create what she first calls a “Dictionnaire
Célino-Philippien” and finally a “Dictionnaire Sémantique Néo-Bourgeois.”(212-
213) As she exclaims, “il manque le dictionnaire qui nous permettrait de nous parler,
toi et moi. Mais je crains qu’il n’existe pas dans le commerce. Je vais le faire.
Demain, je m’y mets.”(199) Sample entries she suggests for this dictionary include
the following.
Hypersensible: susceptible de ressentir des impressions. Contraire
d’hypersensible: Normal. - Ne rien sentir du tout. Exemple: acheter
une radio deux cent vingt mille balles, Touvrir pendant qu’on mange
et ne pas entendre ce qui en sort. (215)
Amour. - A: pour une femme; consécration totale á la vie domestique,
avec service de nuit. B: pour un homme; étre content comme 9a.
(216)

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Finally, at one point Céline confronts Philippe directly and accuses him of using
reductive language to stereotype and silence her. She forces him to stop and listen to
the words he uses without thinking, pointing out the obvious bias they express.
—Tu es complétement tordue ma pauvre fdle, tiens.
—Exemple de coulage: tu es complétement tordue...
~..ce n’est pas mes malheureux mots qui pourraient “te couler”... tu
n’es pas solide.
—Top! Deuxiéme exemple. Semer le doute.
—Evidemment si tu t’arrétes á tous les mots! (¡la devient de la
paranoia.
-Top!
— Mais, tu es folie!
-Top!
-Oh, 9a va. (21B)
This time it is Philippe that is silenced. In the battle of words, this time, Céline wins.
Intertextual voices are integral to the narrative tension in Les Stances á
Sophie. As in Le Repos du guerrier, these borrowed voices include a variety of types,
including allusions to figures as diverse as Attila, Freud, Littré, Modigliani, and
Courbet and musical references ranging from Brassens and Cool to Vivaldi and
Beethoven. Most significant among the musical intertexts is the novel’s title. The
title derives from a bawdy song about a prostitute, a woman whom the lyrics depict
as a scorned and discarded sex object. By the end of the novel, Céline has decided to
leave Philippe because she has finally realized that her relationship with him had
been built on illusion and myth. She rejects her subservient role of wife/sex object,
writing in a “Dear John” letter: “je crains mon cher Philippe que tu ne te sois un peu
pris pour un Autre. Abandonnée dans tes mains je n’ai fait que descendre.”(241) She
acknowledges, however, that she has learned something from her experience about
how society works: “je pars sans regrets: ce n’était pas du temps perdu; grace á toi,

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par les hasards de 1’amour, j’ai pu approcher la Machine. ... II importe de la
connaitre, d’observer comment elle opere, afín de pourvoir s’en défendre, et se
garder en vie.”(241,2) Celine scornfully rejects the woman she had once tried to
become, the dutiful bourgeois wife and object of Philippe’s affection. She
anticipates, however, that Philippe will only interpret her departure as sexual and
view her as lacking in morals. Reciting the verse from Sophie’s song, she imagines
Philippe’s voice:
II n’aura qu’un cri Philippe: La Putain! Ah si j’avais su!
—Qu’elle n’était qu’une grue!
~J’ l’aurais fait passer par l’trou des goguenots!
“Ah, toi, que j ’aimais tant
J't 'emmerde, j 't 'emmerde,
Ah, toi, que j ’aimais tant,
J ’t ’emmerde á présent!"
Lá-dessus je crois queje peux fermer ce piano, ce sera son chant
d’adieu.(243)7
The “j’t’emmerde” can be understood to represent the voice of both Céline and
Philippe, though each rejects the “putain” for different reasons. The schizophrenic
tension that Céline has experienced throughout the novel is finally resolved as she
closes the door on that part of her life:
Je la refereme derriére moi. Je m’adosse contre. Je suis lá. Je regarde.
Je respire.
Enfin. Seule. (245)
Rochefort pointedly inserts Biblical intertext in Les Stances a Sophie, as she
did in Le Repos du guerrier, to strengthen the voice of her narrator and to draw
parallels with the characters and situations of the diegesis. As she gives in to
Philippe’s way of life, the narrator recalls verses from the Bible mumbling to herself

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that, “il faut accepter d’un coeur joyeux, pour la gloire de Dieu. Amen.” (115) To her
implied reader she challenges, “que celles qui ne sont pas tombées me jettent la
premiere pierre.”(l 15) In her effort to please Philippe, Céline recalls the Biblical
question, “qui peut trouver une femme vertueuse?”(l 19) She works on a tapestry that
has as its theme Adam and Eve, the Tree, the Serpent and the Apple. She weeps
empathetically at hearing on the radio Bach’s rendition of the Passion of Christ
according to Saint John (214) and is moved later to purchase a tape of the music.
(236)
Most frequently, Rochefort incorporates literary intertexts. These intertextual
voices cover a wide range of diverse literary personnae, each bringing specific
intention to the dialogic interaction already underway. Many of them are names that
evoke notions of romantic love and nostalgia, games of seduction and illusion, or
narratives of personal confession and reflection, all of which parallel experiences of
the narrator herself. Among these intertextual references are: Hervé Benoit,
(pseudonyme under which Rochefort wrote collaborative detective stories),
Casanova, Rousseau, Bovary, Villon (“Les Neiges d’antan”), Dostoievsky, Plato,
Romeo and Juliette, Saint Augustin, Lolita, Phédre, Pécuchet, the mythical Licorne,
and, again, Valery’s “Madame la Marquise."8 A recurring literary intertext is that of
La Princesse de Cléves that Julia reads aloud to Céline as Céline attempts to paint
her portrait. Mention of this seventeenth-century heroine suggests several
correspondences with the character and situation of twentieth-century Céline and
explains the novel’s appeal to these two women. Like the Princesse de Cléves,
Céline marries into a world of privilege. Like the Princesse, she dutifully conforms

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to the expectations of her husband and of convention, but feels stressed and repulsed
by the superficial, material glamor of society life. The Princesse’s shocking refusal
of marriage and decision to retire from the world, after the death of her husband,
function as prolepsis to Céline’s decision at the end of the novel to leave Philippe
and live for herself, alone: “enfin, seule,” she sighs.(245) Both women, in the end,
go against convention, rejecting what others might covet, a life of ease and comfort
as the wife of a man of financial means and social position.Both are characterized by
their willed opposition. Madame de Cléves was torn by love yet didn't leave her
husband. Rochefort's heroine leaves her husband for very good reasons that he
wouldn't understand (that is one of the reasons), and that specifically do not include
desire or affection for another man.
The autobiographical aspect of Les Stances ct Sophie is notable, not only from
specific comments made by Rochefort to that effect, but by evidence present in the
voices of the text. To Monique Crochet’s question, “Est-ce que le livre Les Stances á
Sophie est jusqu’á une certaine mesure autobiographique?”, Rochefort responded,
“oui, c’est le seul. J’ai été mariée quatre ans et c’était vraiment une erreur du méme
type que celle de Céline.” (Entretien, 432) To Alice Jardine she admitted, “what
happens in this book most directly ressembles my own personal experience: I
actually had that kind of marriage. . . . It’s part of my life experience as a woman.”
(Shifting Scenes, 175) Rochefort has stated, however, that she considers this novel
her worst work precisely because of its autobiographical content. “I have a concept
of what good writing is that has to do with the concept of distance, the concept of
internal structure,” she has insisted.(l 81) She has expressed a distaste for what she

105
calls “literature of experience” through which people simply “expectorate their
miseries.”(181) Looking back at that novel in 1983, Rochefort commented that she
no longer identified with Céline and was focusing more on the younger generation.
(Women Writers Talking, 219)
Rochefort chose Céline, whose rebellious attitudes and mocking criticisms
echo the author's own, as her mouthpiece. Rochefort’s condemnation of the
institution of marriage as well as the capitalist materialism in which it functions has
been well documented. On the subject of marriage, she declared, “I stopped writing
when I was married.’’(Hirsh, 109) On capitalist society she offers this:
the Western way of thinking may be considered a brain-washing. My
own mental structures have been greatly perverted by the dominating
discourse.... I myself was able to put all this mess into political
terms. That is, if as women we are not biologically inferior, then we
belong to an oppressed class. What is called culture should no longer
be seen as the culture, but as one of many possible ones. In the
present case, it is only the culture of the Western white male, a limited
one, and very, very, intolerant. It leaves us very few options. You can
try to be like the oppressor or like the image the oppressor has of you,
or finally, you can try to be something else, to find yourself. (Ill)
In Les Stances á Sophie Rochefort represents, through the narrative experience of
Céline, a woman working her way through this situation.

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NOTES
1. In Enfance, Sarraute divides the narrative voice into three aspects of the
author/protagonist. This multiplicity of voices attests to the author’s belief in the
complexity and plurality of an individual’s identity. First, there is the voice of the
child of the past who is evoked. Then one also hears two distinct voices of the adult:
the present one that is remembering and the one who interprets the scenes, the events
and the people who traverse her memory. Sarraute chose to represent the analytic,
authoritative voice as a masculine personality and the nostalgic voice of memory and
imagination as feminine, further distinguishing the two different aspects, (see also
Philippe Lejeune’s essay, “Paroles d’Enfance" in Revue des Sciences Humaines. 93
(1990:23-38). Verena Andermatt Conley in “Duras and the Scene of
Writing ’’(Remains to be Seen: Essays on Marguerite Duras. Sanford S. Ames, ed.
Peter Lang Publishing, Inc. NY, 1988) writes that in l'Amant, “Duras as author,
actor, divides herself into je and elle without a proper name. She alludes to a
triangular relationship which breaks out of the narcissistic mother-child dyad less
perhaps in an effort to accede to a symbolic than to open to an endless series of
subsitutions” (185). Janine Ricouart (Ecriture Féminine et violence: une étude de
Marguerite Duras. Summa Publications, Inc. Birmingham, 1991) comments, “dans
“l’autobiographie” de Marguerite Duras, L 'Amant (1984), le probléme de
l’énonciation se traduit dans l’altemance d’une premiere personne et d’une troisiéme
personne. . . . L’emploie systématique d’ne premiére personne ou d’une troisiéme
personne dans la naration n’est pas origínale en soi.. .. Mais elle alterne ce je avec
elle, tout en référant á la méme ‘personne’, somme si une narratrice omnisciente ne
pouvait pas étre l’objet de son propre discours, comme si elle ne pouvait renoncer á
son habitude de dire elle en racontant son histoire, comme s’il lui fallait garder une
certaine distance par rapport á son texte autobiographique.” (125,6)
2. Rochefort makes reference in her autobiographical Ma Vie revue et corrigée par
Vauteur to her admiration for classical music, particularly for Bach (32) and for
German, English, and Spanish vocal music (46-48).
3. In Thody's introduction, he notes that between 1914 and 1918 1.4 million French
men were killed in the war. He relates that, “lit is estimated that the first world war
reduced the French population by 3,170,600: 1.4 million soldiers killed, 1,770,600
babies not born because the men sho should have fathered them were away from
home at the front or dead”(ix). He continues by noting that the French government
felt compelled to take measures to reverse the trend of declining French population
by instituting incentive measures specifically aimed at encouraging population
growth. He further notes that, “ In 1920, the French government had banned the sale
and advertisement of contraceptives. This law remained in force until 1967, and
abortion was not legalised until 1975. However, repressive measures were clearly not
enough. People had to be encouraged to have babies, and a first step was taken in the
Code de la famille in July 1939. Then, in 1945 and 1946, a much more generous
system of family allowances was introduced, and it is these which are evoked in the

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first sentence of Les Petits Enfants du siecle" (ix). (Some of these include the
allocation de salaire unique and the allocation de logement.)
4. Margaret-Anne Hutton establishes a parallel between Emma and Josyane
reminding readers of the misplaced love affair between Emma and Rodolphe and
scenes in Madame Bovary that are similar to the ones between Josyane and Guido.
During one scene the couple utters sentimentalities and ends by each simply
repeating the name of the other over and over. Both young women spend hours
sitting by the window gazing out and wistfully awaiting any event that might break
the monotony and boredom of their lives. In both books, the narrative experiences an
accelerated passage of time. Both women are influenced by their reading of romantic
novels and magazine stories.
5. In her introduction, Ross states that, “French people, peasants and intellectuals
alike, tended to describe the changes in their lives in terms of the abrupt
transformations in home and transport: the coming of objects - large-scale consumer
durables, cars and refrigerators - into their street and homes, into their workplaces
and their emplois du temps"{5). In numerous instances, Ross refers to Rochefort’s
texts Les Petits Enfants du siecle and Les Stances á Sophie (along with novels by
Beauvoir, Perec, Etcherelli, Sagan, Triolet, and others) as literary documents that
support her findings and theories. For Ross, “Rochefort is one of the most
unequivocal voices of the period at work debunking the way in which the state-led
modernization drive is ideologized. . . . Read today, her work can almost be taken as
a textbook illustration of sociologist Luc Boltanski’s theory that...ideology can be
traced in the various imposed comportments such as driving, the links created
between individuals and society by the merchandise created by that society.”(61)
6. With regard to her reader, Rochefort once commented in an interview with G.
Griffin that, "je supprime tout ce qui pourrait lui plaire, tout pretexte qu'il
6. In a 1975 interview with Ailsa Steckel, printed as part of Steckel’s doctoral theses
“Narration and Metaphor as Ideology in the Novels of Christiane Rochefort”,
Rochefort sang a verse of the song about Sophie. She insisted, “Tu connais les
stances oil la femme est objet sexuel qu’on jette:
Quand j 't ’ai rencontrée, un soir dans la rue
Que tu dégueulais dans tous les ruisseau
Ah si j ’avais su
Que tu n ’étais qu 'une gruel
Je t ’aurais fait passer par le trou des goguenots!
Ah.toi, que j’aimais tant
J’ ’t ’emmerde, j't ’emmerde,
Ah, toi, que j 'aimais tant,
J't 'emmerde á présent!
1. References to Valéry's famous line occur twice in Les Stances á Sophie. On page
146: "C'est moi, Celine Rodes. Et oil est Madame Philippe Aignan? Madame est

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sortie. A cinq heures. Elle est sortie, á cinq heures, elle est allée chez Madame Jean-
PierreBigeon (Julia Morelli)." And again on p 225: "Comme adresse j'ai donné celle
de Thomas, j'allais parfois chez lui. Madame est sortie á cinq heures." In both
instances, the citation serves as a reminder of the subtle power of narrative to create
the illusion of reality and of the illusion of the notion of reality itself.

CHAPTER 4
ROCHEFORT'S MIDDLE PERIOD
“II faut ré-inventer. Ecrire, bref.”
(Christiane Rochefort, C 'esl bizarre l 'écrilure, 50)
As Christiane Rochefort continued writing novelistic fiction during the 1960s
and 1970s, her narrative style as well as her thematic focus began to evolve. This
chapter addresses some of those developments concerning the tensions and
intentions created through dialogic interaction of the textual voices fundamental to
Rochefortian narrative. As centers of authority shift among these textual voices, at
times even breaking down into what can seem chaotic, ludic mayhem, and as norms
and conventions are called into question, analysis turns to Mikhail Bakhtin's concept
of the carnivalesque and its insistence on the parodie and even the ribald.
In contrast with Rochefort’s earlier texts, this second group of novels is set in
a different historical time in French society and departs from her earlier penchant for
first person narration. More open-ended narratives focus on plurality existing within
specific social groups. Rather than concerns of an individual, the utopian chronotope
figures importantly in two of the novels where tension is set up among the multiple
voices as they present visions of a desired, imaginary society and, at the same time,
recognize the impossibility of actually realizing it.
Further tension arises as various voices, often including the narrative voice,
issue from indefinite pronouns, underlining the anonymity of the individual often
109

no
lost in meaningless group activity, and as openness to progress and the future are
counterbalanced with sameness and anonymity. With regard to the narrative voice,
the Bakhtinian concept of heteroglossia is particularly helpful in examining the
blending of narrative voice with that of various fictional characters in continuing
instances of double voicedness. Finally, discussion examines the self-conscious
voice of the narrative itself as it considers its own activity during increasing
instances of metatextual musing.
Rochefort's second group of novels documents, in fictional format, the
space/time defined by a liberated, post World War France of capitalist consumerism,
as well as by the events and conditions of those months preceding, and immediately
following, the social and political upheaval of 196S. The novels recreate, through
their fictional voices, the tension resulting from the co-existence of conflicting
ideologies marking this period of French history.
In spite of underlying uneasiness regarding contemporary social and political
issues, (such as fear of nuclear destruction, problems of pollution, decolonization and
an influx of immigrants to work in French factories), the general mood of the country
was one of optimism about the future and about increased opportunity for everyone.
Hardy economic growth begun in the 1950s continued into the 1960s and brought
with it rising standards of living and an expanding labor market. At the same time,
there was a growing sense of frustration, disappointment and discontent as disparities
in aspirations and actual living and working conditions became more and more
apparent. Years of economic growth that had brought rapid industrial and urban
development had not produced corresponding improvements in education, working

Ill
conditions, or family life, areas of focus in Rochefort's fiction. The image of a
unified France supported by adjectives such as libérée, honorable, and éternelle,
perpetuated by the rhetoric of Charles de Gaulle as he sought to re-establish his
country's grandeur, was beginning to collapse.
It was in the context of these paradoxical conditions that the events of May
1968 exploded and that Rochefort's second group of novels was created. In these
texts, youthful visions of a possible new society convey an attitude which one critic
has referred to as “revolutionary utopianism."(Fallaize 5) Optimism, vision and
hopeful potentiality are pitted against pessimism, static resistance, and the harsh
realization of the enormous difficulty of effecting any significant change.
This second group of novels, published in the 1960s and 1970s, includes:
Une Rose pour Morrison (1966), Printemps au parking (1969), Archaos ou le jardin
élincelanl (1972), and Heureux qu'on va vers l’été (1975). Prescient in its depiction
of activities surrounding a growing attitude of discontent within the youthful
university community in France, Rochefort's Une Rose pour Morrison marks the
beginning of a change in her narrative style as well as a shift in thematic interest.
Published shortly afterward, Printemps au Parking continues the focus on concerns
of youth as they struggle to break through established social barriers. For the
protagonists, a measure of confidence that results from confronting taboos
surrounding homosexuality encourages them to question other restrictive social
attitudes. Begun before the outbreak of 1968 and completed after those events, the
novel provides a testament to a changing mindset as it developed within a certain
sector of 1960's French society. This same focus on the voice of rebellious youth

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continues in Encore heureux qu'on va vers l'été. Here, an entire classroom of
children venture off in defiance of restrictions and demeaning attitudes imposed by
the adult community. Their insistent voices suggest utopian visions of a new social
order. A fourth novel, Archaos ou le jardín élincelanl, depicts an imaginary utopia,
this time set up through a Rabelaisian juxtaposition of two opposing medieval
kingdoms.
In Bakhtinian theory, the utopian novel, or any form of utopian thought, is
understood as monologic in that it tends to claim a final truth and thereby deny any
dialogue with opposing views about people and the world in which they live. In
Bakhtinian thought, as a chronotope, the utopian novel is viewed rather negatively. It
is perceived as finalizing time and place, thereby rendering impossible any real sense
of historical moment and rejecting the significance of the future as open to change.
Bakhtin discusses two kinds of utopian chronotopes in his essay “Forms of
Time and of the Chronotope in the Novel”, both of which effectively renounce the
present moment in favor of a fantasized and enriched past or future. (The Dialogic
Imagination, 148)' For him, utopian thought is a still further negative concept
because, if the prescriptive utopia were ever to prove true, life would be reduced to
uncreative behavior that could be determined in advance by a set of accepted theories
or patterns.
In Rochefort’s novels, however, the utopian chronotope takes a somewhat
different twist and appears to have other intentions. Her utopias are somewhat
unconventional in that they don't finalize or totalize. As she once remarked, “alors,
bon, écrire est un des moyens de poser le possible. . . ,’\C'est bizarre l’écriture,\0\)

113
In both novels, children are the chosen vehicles for instituting changes that will bring
about other possibilities. Children, and the young in general, represent hope and
potentiality for change. Children, in fact, play a major role throughout the majority
of Rochefort’s fiction. It is their actions of putting ideas, relationships, hierarchies,
and institutions into question, and their desire to experience a different way of being,
free of restrictions and taboos, which motivate these narratives.
As Ruth Levitas points out in The Concept of Utopia, utopias tell us much
about the experience of living in the contemporary society from which they
originate. They tell us what lack or absence people feel in their lives that the utopia
offers to fulfill through its creative fantasy. She explains that,
utopia is a social construct which arises ... as a socially constructed
response to an equally socially constructed gap between the needs and
wants generated by a particular society and the satisfactions available
to and distributed by it.(l 81)
Thus, in Archaos ou le jardín étincelant, the two over-riding principles governing the
new society — tout est gratuit and tout le monde fait ce qu 'il veut — reveal a sense of
powerlessness among people, a fear of condemnation, a desire for the right to self-
actualization, and a feeling of impoverishment with regard to material benefits. In
Encore heureux qu 'on va vers l 'été, the issues are similar, although this time the
focus is on the particular situation of children. Specifically, the novel points to their
desire to break free from pre-determined and socially engineered concepts of their
identities as human beings and their subservient roles in a society dominated by
adults. Their desire to experience their sexuality, to vote, to enjoy “égalité devant la
loi,” to have “libre choix de [’orientation” and “participation á toutes les décisions”
in school, “plein salaire aux apprentis,” (220) and so on, points to the denial of these

114
rights by contemporary society. Their action of running away from school, and from
home, implies the existence of undesirable and unacceptable constraints imposed by
these traditional institutions on French children, at a time contemporary to the
writing and publication of the novel. That is to say, then, these were the conditions
within 1960s and 1970s France.
Rochefort’s decision to depart from the realism characterizing her earlier
novels in favor of a utopian motif, directly relates to the changing social context in
twentieth-century France. New prosperity following the war years brought with it a
growing fascination with emerging modern technology and material possessions, a
blatant consumerism. Many saw this trend as modernity á I'americaine and
responded with hostility, giving rise to opposition groups on both the right and the
left who wished to defend France's traditional identity and cultural values. Forbes
and Kelly note, in particular, the populist movement of Pierre Poujade, whose image
of the petit-commergant made a powerful appeal to traditional nationalism.2 In the
arts, two phenomena were at work. Popular culture flourished: anarchic
chansormiers and agressive, rebellious rock singers dominated the music scene; and
a profusion of mass circulation weekly magazines (including such titles as Elle,
Marie-France, Femmes d'aujourd'hui, Paris-Match, L 'Express, and Le Canard
Enchainé) was launched to respond to special interests and to challenge the more
traditional, broad-spectrum press. Then, too, there were efforts within high culture to
make it available to the masses, hence, the Livre de Poche collection was launched
and inexpensive prints of fine art were made available through mass-production.
Forbes and Kelly explain that,

115
one of the most characteristic aspects of modernization is that, in
marginalizing all of the social and cultural elements which do not
correspond to its modernizing project, it constructs an image of those
elements as its Other. While this Other may be despised and excluded,
it may also become a focus for the loss and mourning which
accompany any process of change, and for any opposition to the
direction of change. Invested with the nostalgia of lost innocence or
the power of a radical alternative, the primitive and the exotic are the
atavistic shadow of the modern. (French Cultural Studies, 150)
Responding to an interviewer’s question about this thematic and stylistic
departure, Rochefort commented, “I think I finally succeeded in building a utopia
because there were seeds outside at that moment - the communes and new ideologies
of how to live together. I think it gave me the food I needed.”(Hirsh, “An Interview
with Christiane Rochefort,”114) “I think I’m always sensitive to the environment,”
she insisted, “I am a sponge plunged in a liquid.”) 116) And, as Margaret-Anne
Hutton has pointed out,
true to the agenda of the New Left with its focus on individual
lifestyle and personal relationships, this is a text which suggests that
political change, the transformation of the structures of society, are
dependent upon a change of consciousness at the level of the
individual. (Christiane Rochefort: Countering the Culture, 132)
Heureux qu 'on va vers l 'été is based on actuality. As Rochefort related to
interviewer Georgiana Colvile, the book was based on a real fact: “a schoolteacher’s
repeated putdown of her class.”) Women Writers Talking, 223) It fictionalizes the
plight of children in contemporary French society that Rochefort describes and
documents in her theoretical text, published the following year, Les Enfants
d’abord.( 1979)3 Despite the variance in their dates of publication, Rochefort worked
on the two books during the same time period. She, reportedly, interrupted the
writing of her novel to compose the book-length essay, feeling an increasing need to

vent her anger as the novel got underway. It is not surprising then that the two books
share a significant amount of material.
Rochefort’s Archaos ou le jardín étincelant, rather than fantasizing past or
future, posits a vision of an alternative society in which past, present and future
voices collide to suggest a possible harmony in which individuals might live
together. Her own opinion of the book is that it is “the most positive of my books.
The other ones criticize; this one is a suggestion of a world ... of the irrational and
the other way of thinking and feeling.”(Hirsh, “An Interview with Christiane
Rochefort,”(114) “Archaos is a work about groups,” she explains.(l 15)
By structuring the novel into three sections, Rochefort sets up tension among
those voices representing three different visions of society. The first section
introduces the repressive kingdom of Avatar, “le Roi Pére;” the second presents the
more progressive regime of Govan, “le Roi Fils;” and the third describes the utopic
new society of Archaos, a kingdom without a real “king.” Effectively, the novel
juxtaposes voices of the past, present, and future. In a mimetic “showing” of all
three, the anonymous, heterodiegetic narrator would leave their evaluation or
interpretation to the implied narratee. In a metatextual moment, that implied narratee
is even reminded, by a final exchange among the novel’s characters, that the
narrative to which he has just been exposed is, indeed, a fantasy.
Sus á Archaos! Dit le général.
-- Chut, il ne faut pas prononcer ce nom.
— Pourquoi?
— Archaos n’existe pas, monsieur. (442)
In this same exhange, opposing voices point again to the tension between those
groups who are able to envision this new utopian society and those who not only

deny its existence but who refuse even to allow the possibility of its existence to be
acknowledged by the mere articulation of its name.
Mirroring the context from which they evolved, the novels of this second
group are more complex than Rochefort's earlier ones. Their focus on tensions within
society, and particularly group movements toward subversion of existing political
and social order, also allies these novels to the Bakhtinian concept of the
carnivalesque. In reference to this preoccupation with group dynamics, Rochefort
explained that,
we must first recognize that things are as they are. After acknowledging the
situation, we can try to work on the problem in groups. For instance, we can
gather individual personal experiences and try to find solutions together. I
don’t think a person can do it alone. (Hirsh, “An Interview with Christiane
Rochefort,” 120)
As Bakhtin notes in his essay "Forms of Time and of the Chronotope in the
Novel," the image of man is always intrinsically chronotropic. In defining the term,
Bakhtin states that it is "the intrinsic connectedness of temporal and spatial
relationships that are artistically expressed in literature."(7%e Dialogic Imagination,
84) In other words, the chronotope functions as the organizing center for narrative.
Additionally, like most terms characteristic of Bakhtinian dialogism, chronotope can
be understood to function at different levels: as a lens for close-up analysis, and as an
optic through which to observe at a distance. In this latter sense then, chronotope can
function as a means for studying the relation between text and context.
Pausing to consider the concept of chronotope as a means for examining the
relation between text and context, it is not surprising to note affinities between
Rochefort's literary aesthetic and other popular artistic trends of the twentieth

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century. Responding to transformations experienced by the novel and other art forms
during the twentieth century, changes which in turn reflect movements or shifts in
society, Rochefort's fiction begins to move away from its earlier basis in mimetic
realism toward less narrative coherence and more fantasized images of an
unfmalizable future. As the next chapter will illustrate, this aspect of unfinalizability,
or becoming, will be even more significant in Rochefort's final group of narratives.
Although Rochefort's novels cannot be classified as belonging to any
particular aesthetic group or literary movement, the influence of postmodernism is
perhaps particularly evident in her later narratives. For the most part, these novels
tend to stray from traditional patterns of characterization or of story and resolution.
Language, with its attendant supposition, suggestion, allusion, inference,
connotation, nuance, ambiguity, and intention, is foregrounded for its role in social
conditioning and in communicative breakdown. It serves as an organizing focus for
Rochefort's novelistic narrative. As Michael Holquist aptly points out,
there is not only a 'political unconscious,' but what might be called a
'chronotopic unconscious,' a set of unspoken assumptions about the
coordinates of our experience so fundamental that they lie even
deeper (and therefore may ultimately be more determining) than the
prejudices of imposed ideology. In fact, the two may be coterminous.
(142)
These assumptions organize behavior on a level as fundamental as when and how to
eat, sleep and perform daily routine. Therefore, and as Rochefort's fiction illustrates,
beliefs about the nature of time/space itself condition the very language people
speak.
Rochefort's characters existentially resist prescriptive thought and behavior,
struggling to create and redefine themselves through their acts and their words. They

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experience a kind of alienation, a sense of disharmony or disfunction within what
often seems an absurdly organized world. Kristin Ross, in Fast Cars, Clean Bodies,
asserts that the pervasive phenomenon of capitalist modernization accounts for this
modem sentiment of estrangement. Ross argues that major intellectual productions
of the 1950s and 1960s, as well as fictional literature of the period, reflect attitudes
and reactions to the influences of American-style capitalist modernization that
dominated French society at that time. She contends that the process of modernizing,
at all levels of economic and social life, resulted in a general consensuality (evident
in new norms of regularity, conformitity, and homogeneity). Precipitation to accept
and incorporate new technology and new ways of thinking, to modernize or adopt an
American life-style, however, resulted in a general sense of powerlessness and lack
of individuality.4
Among the artists and thinkers who "historicized their era at the time and
who gave full voice to the debates and controversies surrounding modernization,"
(13) Ross specifically notes novelists Simone de Beauvoir, Georges Perec5 and
Christiane Rochefort. Even in Rochefort's earliest novels, characters struggle against
trends in society toward homogenization and depersonalization. Ross further remarks
that theirs was a new kind of realist mode that attempted "to come to terms with, or
to give an historical account of, the fatigue and exhilaration of moments when people
find themselves living two lives at once ... a voice to those who live in a different
temporality, who follow a pace of life that is nonsynchronous with the dominant
one."(13) This last reference would appropriately be associated with the elementary

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school children of Encore heureux qu'on va vers l'été and the restless university
students of Une Rose pour Morrison and Printemps au parking.
As the four novels of this period move toward plurality and group dynamics,
they tend to introduce a notably increased number of characters. The characters make
up a number of disparate groups including, for example, adults, children, males,
females, administrative figures, politicians, students, working-class citizens,
deviants, conformists, stasis seekers, rebels, mythological figures, "real" people or
actual individuals contemporary to the writing, and even mysteriously undesignated
or anonymous voices. There are twenty-five specifically named characters in Une
Rose pour Morrison, plus a number of anonymous voices. Sixteen named characters
appear in Le Printemps au parking along with, again, a number of nameless voices.
In Encore heureux qu ’on va vers l 'été no less than seventy-one names figure as
participants. Some of these characters “become” other characters (as they role-play,
for example). Some are called by several names (as their experiences cause them to
change, a new name seems only an appropriate reflection of that). Some are
occasionally referred to as animals (perhaps some affinity can be suggested here as
well). This novel, too, incorporates a significant number of undesignated voices. In
Archaos ou le jardín étincelant, a troupe of eighty-six characters, all meticulously
listed at the beginning of the novel like a cast list prefacing a stage play, share in the
dialogic interaction.
Stylistically, and in direct relation to the multiplicity and anonymity, a
significant increase in the appearance of indefinite personal pronouns marks the

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novels of this period. In Perec-like style, passages structured through anaphoric
entassement like the following in Une Rose pour Morrison are common.
Quelqu'un craqua une allumette et demanda si quelqu'un avait une
cigarette. lis étaient en effet dans la cave du Tu Bar, et pas propres.
Quelqu'un tendit une cigarette. Quelqu'un d'autre en voulut aussi.
Quelqu'un donna du feu. Quelqu'un proposa des cigarettes au
gingembre, et il y eut un petit silence. Quelqu'un accepta. Chaqué fois
que quelqu'un donnait du feu, on voyait un visage. C'était tres joli.
Quelqu'une dit d'une voix éfffayée. On est en prison! On la rassura.
(41)
Voices often issue from these pronouns, setting up tension for the reader who must
try to determine both the source and importance of the voices in question. In this
same novel, for example, one early chapter begins with an anaphoric alternation of
the indefinite pronouns quelqu 'un and on, interspersed with tags such as, “dit une
voix,” “dit une autre,” and “dit quelqu’un” or "quelqu'une." (Whether the gender
difference evidenced by the change in the last pronoun, "quelqu'une," is intended to
indicate separate voices or whether the occurrence is an intentional grammatical
transgression is not clear. In any case, the insertion functions as a marking of the
feminine.) Two pages later this scene is repeated, with the nameless visage coming
more clearly out of the shadows.
Quelqu'un demanda si quelqu'un avait une cigarette. Quelqu'un en
offrit. Quelqu’un proposa au gingembre. Quelqu'un accepta.
Quelqu'un donna du feu, et chaqué fois, un jeune visage sort de
l'ombre, beau et silencieux. (43)
In this scene, no words are actually spoken or even indirectly stated. The entire
"conversation" takes place in the shadows, among nameless figures, in an ambiance
of silence that is valorized by the words “beau et silencieux.” Where, in Perec, an
empty-headed accumulation of material things is seen to drive the characters, here

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the accumulation of indefinite pronouns tends to underscore the loss of personal
identity among characters who seem lost in meaningless activity.
Anonymity in the novel extends beyond the vagueness of pronouns to include
voices mysteriously originating from unexpected places. These curious voices often
emerge, through the combination of their messages and the context from which they
issue, as symbolic of groups toward which the narrator is sympathetic and mark
shifts among centers of narrative authority. In a concretization of metaphor
reminiscent of Beckett's Fin de parlie, one of these is the little voice from within the
trashcan or poubelle (146). It can be understood to represent youth, discarded,
mistreated, undervalued, and ignored. When the child within finally emerges, he
explains, “C’est pour 9a queje suis venu.... Pour causer avec une autre génération.
On se sent tout seul. Personne ne sait rien.”(l 64)6 Once out of the silence and
isolation of the garbage can, he still stinks to the others, but he can finally breathe.
He optimistically senses that his experience has been instructional: “<^a valait la
peine de rester des heures lá-dedans avec des vers et la trouille que le broyeur passe
avant toi. Putasse, j’étais pas bien. Maintenant je respire.”(164) The message seems
clear: that to assert one's voice, to speak and be heard (even though one's words may
be regarded disdainfully) is to breathe and to live. The speaker's use of the slang
putasse indicates a regional voice or accent typical of the inhabitants of southern
France or the Midi. This regionalism would oppose the speaker to the more dominant
Parisian voice where the slang would have been putain or even the abbreviated pule
rather than putasse.

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Another shift in narrative authority occurs as the mysterious voice emanating
from behind the wall and ceiling attempts to impose itself authoritatively into the
diegesis (169-173). This voice behind the wall represents any faceless authority that
would silence individual resistance to the status quo or independent thought that
might question or usurp that authority. It drones:
il n’y a qu’á te laisser faire, nous pensons pom- toi. Ne résiste plus.
Viens avec nous, nous sommes tes amis. Abandonne-toi. Laisse-nous
faire, nous sommes tes amis. Ne résiste pas. Si tu resistes tu tomberas
malade et tu feras entrer en toi les forces de désordre qui tentent de
détruire. . .. (170)
The anonymity suggests simultaneously conformity (within the anonymous crowd)
and subversion. The seductive rhetoric seeks to impose its will to control any hapless
listener. In a tone of familiarity and in pretense of friendship established through the
use of the personal tu form, the voice cajoles: nous sommes les amis. . . . Laisse-nous
faire. It invites the listener to relax and “be himself’: abandonne-toi. . . . Ne résiste
pas. It threatens illness and destruction for non-compliance: si tu résistes tu tomberas
malade et tu feras en toi les forces de désordre qui tentent de détruire. To whom the
personal pronoun tu is addressed is unclear. It could, then, possibly implicate not
only a character within the diegesis, but the implied reader.
Only the character Pina dares to resist this incessant attempt at indoctrination
by reacting both verbally and physically. Shifting the center of authority back to a
representative of the victimized youths, she retorts,
ne les écoute pas ce sont des vieux. Vieux vieux vieux sales vieux.
N’écoute pas la voix, n’écoute pas la voix.... Elle chercha le trou du
mur.. . . Elle trouva dans sa poche un vieux haricot. ... Elle écrasa le
vieux haricot dans le trou. La voix disparut.(172)

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Still other anonymous voices seeded throughout the novel are present in the
clichés that represent, as Rochefort has noted, prevailing “truths” or ideology that by
virtue of their familiarity and claim of universal truth would force a silence of
unquestioning acceptance. At one point in the text, in an lonesco-like exchange
reminiscent of surrealist absurdity, Philibert has the following camivalesque repartee
with the authorities who arrive on an unannounced raid.
—On ne joue pas avec le feu sans se casser les oeufs
—II n'y a pas d'omelette sans feu
-11 faut casser l'oeuf quand il fait chaud
—Qui chasse deux liévres a la foi (sic)
—Qui veut ravager loin menace la nature
—Un bon tiens vaut mieux que ceinture dorée
—A bon char bon roi. (101-102)
In this scene, ludic play with accepted "truths" again sets up tension between facile
conformity and underlying subversion. For the reader, who is assumed to be familiar
with the original proverbs7, the characters' distorted versions satirically point to the
essential meaninglessness of any such attempts at prescriptive dogma. Perhaps even
more significantly, the series of "cracked clichés” effectively stops any further
interrogation or communication. It silences the participants, leaving them speechless.
As the narrator notes, the police, left with no idea how to follow up or even to
conclude what they themselves have initiated, simply turn around and leave. What
does one say after an exchange of this sort?
Silence, too, can function as a means of authoritatively imposing one's voice.
At times silence is a conscious refusal to enter current discourse or debate. Single
and group voices participate in this willed silence. One of these is the character
ironically named Sereine: "Sereine ne répondit pas. Elle avait ses raisons, de faire

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9a. "(3 8) Sometimes it represents the pleasure of private reflection, "ensuite, ils
restérent silencieux, á penser ensemble."(105) Sometimes it functions as a way of not
saying something undesirable: "Théostat ne répondit pas car il était occupé á faire
l'exercice de non-réponse."(28) The unspoken, however, can be discerned. Sereine's
smile in the following passage indicates that she understands the message "spoken"
by their silence.
-Avez-vous bien fait vos devoirs mes enfants? dit-elle.
La réponse fut un silence total. Elle sourit. (64)
To draw attention to moments of communicative silence, Rochefort makes
simple use of blank textual space. A page and a half of blank space represents the
unspoken enigma within a character, and the narrator follows his introduction into
the narration with these words:
il n'etait pas du tout celui que l'on croyait. II s'appelait Druise. II allait
faire son rapport. Qui l'eüt regardé de prés eút aper9U sur sa lévre
errer un léger sourire silencieux et fort. Mais il n'y avait personne á
faire 9a, par bonheur. Le secret de Druise ne serait pas percé ce soir-
lá. (39)
To fully appreciate the extended silence provided by the writer in the large textual
space that follows, the reader must be attentive to this carefully constructed passage
that precedes it. The passage is replete with mystery and seduction. Tenses reserved
for the indefinite and the elusive, the imparfait and the subjonclif as well as
indefinite pronouns predominate: celui, on, qui, personne. The little smile
"wandering" lightly over the character's lips is teasingly emblematic of his interieur
rumination. His name, Druise, recalls the ancient Celtic priests or Druids, believed to
be possessors of knowledge and oracular powers. The character does not speak; his
silence is resolute and taunting behind the little smile. Yet, no one even sees him, or

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the little smile. No one, that is, except the implied reader. The darkness of the night
setting easily hides his movements and the secret he does not wish to reveal. After
the page and a half of blank textual space, the narrative resumes with quelqu'un,
prolonging the tension and mystery created by the silence surrounding this character.
Sometimes the fullness of the silence in textual space is symbolically
indicated by the image of a sphere drawn in the center of the space, as is the case
after an allusion to a sexual encounter between Sereine and Calande (45), and
another between Triton and Chantal.(135) Occasionally, the sphere added to the
blank space serves to emphatically punctuate the end of a narrative insertion in
which the voice of the implied author has authoritatively intruded to offer comments
or observations such as, "l'education des enfants est trés tres difficile."(l 30) Other
times, it prompts the reader to pause and silently visualize suggested images, such as
the following:
la photographic en 21/27 d'une filie blonde, aux cheveux courts, avec
une point devant chaqué oreille (60)
Senile remonté de frais se presenta devant les caméras, afin de
rassurer le peuple (93)
Et elle était si belle qu'elle faisait peur (159)
Mais Ruines ne répondait pas. Ruines était sous son bureau, avec une
petite ficelle autour du cou (242)
Another novel in which anonymous voices and silences figure importantly is
Rochefort’s utopian Encore heureux qu ‘on va vers l 'été. Frequent here too are
narrative tags such as: “elle se tut” (68), “elle resta sans voix” and “Régina qui se
taisait”(69), and “hurlérent quelques-uns”(220). Sometimes, particularly at the
beginning of the novel, the self-imposed silence results from the children’s lack of

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confidence in their own voices of rebellion. Other times their silence stems from the
inadequacy of language to express feelings and the recognition that deeper
communication is achieved through other means: “A ce moment-lá, Manuel et Jean-
Marie ne s’étaient pas encore dit un mot. lis étaient parfaitement au-delá du
langage.”(152) Still other times, the silence is enforced. The vague pronoun ils has
no specific antecedent and evokes the notion of institutional forces or malevolent
hierarchical powers that would suppress individuality or dissent. Perhaps the
character Druise sums it up best when he remarks, “lis ont volé nos mots et ils les
ont tués.... Et á nous il reste ce qui n’a pas de mots. Ce qui est. L’inexprimé....
Ce qui est clair, ce n’est pas ce qui se comprend.”(62)
Frequently the anonymity occurs in encounters among unidentified
participants, (usually the voices of children). At times the voices of the different
participants are indicated only by a dash at the beginning of each utterance. Other
times, even this marker is omitted, allowing the voices to meld obscurely into the
narration, and giving them an ubiquitous quality.
Le soleil se leva devant elles comme elles arrivaient á découvert.
Leurs yeux contemplaient un paysage antique, verdoyant, vallonné de
vergers et de prés oü trainaient des brumes, la prairie scintillait, un
ruisseau coulait en bas. Et pas une ame en vue.
Je ne savais pas que 5a existait encore des choses pareilles. Comme
dans les peintures... tu crois queje réve?
C’est merveilleux, moi aussi. Sans arret. (71-72)
Here, unnamed voices (identified only by the personal pronouns je, lu, and moi) pick
up the narrative thought and, unhesitatingly, permit its continuation by revoicing it.
Noticeably absent in this novel are the parents of the children. Only near the
end of the book do the parents' voices directly insert themselves as a boisterous

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group on television. In a kind of reversal of traditional roles, the parents, sounding
like spoiled children arguing possessively over their toys, selfishly demand, "rendez-
nous nos enfants!"(213) Even here, however, adult voices are muffled by those of
youthful agitators who mimic adult behavior and shout contrary demands. Little
textual space, in fact, is directly given over to any adult voices, even undesignated
ones. When it is, their person is often derogatorily reduced to the status of object in
tags such as "dit un passant chenu" and "dit le béret" (52), or "dit l'homme dans un
genre d'uniforme" and "dit le garde, figure de bois."(109)
Adult voices, however, do enter the dialogic mix obliquely as the children
take turns at role-playing. Bakhtin's concept of double-voicedness, another form of
heteroglossia, is useful here in reading "through" the intentional hybrid of discourses.
In a humorous layering of voices, the errant children parody adult attitudes by
refracting recalled adult utterances through the optic of their youthful lenses.
Le mien suce tout le temps son pouce je suis désespérée Madame.
Mettez-lui de la moutarde dessus.
Hélas, il aime 9a.
De l'ipéca alors, c’est tres mauvais.
II aime 9a aussi, quel malheur!
11 aime trop de choses votre bebé Madame il risque d'etre heureux
plus tard c'est affreux, il faut lui donner des fessées. (91)
As Morson and Emerson explain, double-voiced words allow us to "sense the
discourse of the other" and, by introducing into that discourse an opposing intention,
create "an arena of battle between two voices." (Mikhail Bakhtin: Creation of a
Prosaics, 152) This is particularly evident as the children spontaneously take turns in
a series of camivalesque role-reversals by echoing a litany of "typical" adult remarks
that would make any child cringe.

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—Nous sommes incomprehensibles. Ma pauvre filie je ne te
comprendrai jamais, tu l'as pas entendue celle-lá?
—Je me demande, parfois, comment tu as pu sortir de moi. (A vrai
dire moi aussi je me le demande, entre parentheses.)
—Les enfants sont d'étranges petits animaux.
—Aussi faut-il les dresser, des leur plus jeune age.
—Sinon la vie s'en chargera tu vas voir ma filie!
—Je crois qu'en ce cas je préfére la vie, papa.
—Toi on ne te demande pas ton opinion. (37-38)
These vignettes also recall Bakhtin's concept of carnival folk humor during
which participants mimicked serious rituals, imposed forms of protocol, and any
other aspect of officialdom by participating in derisive role-reversals. As Bakhtin
reminds us, "carnival is not a spectacle seen by the people; they live in it.... carnival
is the people's second life, organized on the basis of laughter." (Rabelais and His
World 7,8) In these ironic passages, mocking voices of role-playing youngsters
deride the haughty authoritarianism of absent parents by reiterating their demeaning
and condescending phrases. One could imagine that these same adults may have only
been repeating, in their turn, what previous adults/authority figures had said to them
and wonder just how deeply the layers of voices might be stacked.
In a self-reflexive moment, a letter is abruptly inserted into the narration,
calling the reader's attention to the fact that we too, as readers, are drawn into a novel
in a willing suspension of disbelief, in a universe that is imagined yet based on the
real. In the letter, adult voices appear to obliquely enter the dialogic mix as its
anonymous authors. The letter is enigmatically signed as being from “une partie de
la population." The center of authority shifts again as this assemblage of
unacknowledged voices expresses alliance with the children’s cause:
nous faisons savoir aux tenants de l'autorité, officiels ou non, que
nous nourrirons, cacherons, et protégerons contre toutes leurs

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aggressions les enfants qui ont eu I'esprit assez droit pour leur
échapper.
Vous nous excuserez de ne pas vous donner nos noms et nos
adresses. (223)
Interestingly, the letter is not addressed to anyone. It begins, as in medias res,
with a question: "la vraie question est: préférons-nous nos enfants loin et vivants, ou
avec nous et morts?"(223) At the end of the letter, the narrator informs with the tag
"lut la vieille dame” that this letter has just been read aloud by an unnamed woman.
Very shortly afterward, however, through a series of exchanges, s/he reveals that the
letter and the woman reading it, both, exist only as part of the character's childish
dream. Reacting as though she has just seen a bubble burst, or has just pulled herself
suddenly out of reverie or a day-dream, Grace abruptly remarks:
—Ce coup-ci alors vraiment je reve, dit Grace, dégoütée. Ce n'est pas
vrai je n'y crois pas, méme en reve 9a n'est pas possible.
Elle se leva avec gravité.
—Est-ce que vous étes un reve? dit-elle á la vieille dame.
—Evidemment que j'en suis un, as-tu déjá vu une chose comme moi
dans la réalité? et au vingtiéme siécle? (224)
Dreams are, in fact, another important narrative development introduced into
Rochefort's fiction of this period, specifically in her two utopian novels Encore
heureux qu'on va vers l'été and Archaos, ou le jardín étincelant. The incorporation of
dreams for narrative development has a long history in world literature. As Bakhtin
has pointed out in his discussion of Dostoevsky’s work,
the dream is introduced there precisely as the possibility of a
completely different life, a life organized according to laws different
from those governing ordinary life (sometimes directly as an "inside-
out world"). The life seen in the dream makes ordinary life seem
strange, forces one to understand and evaluate ordinary life in a new
way (in the light of a glimpsed possibility). (Problems of Dostoevsky's
Poetics 147)

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Presentation of alternative possibility is, in fact, the significance of Grace's dream
incident in Encore heureux qu'on va vers l’été, a desired or utopian scenario.
Dream occurences in Archaos ou le jardín étincelanl are enigmatic and often
are also referred to as visions. The characters who experience these dreams or
visions are themselves puzzled by them. The role, then, of interpreter of dreams is
turned over to the implied reader of the text. For the characters, these dream/visions
function to blur distinction between "reality" and illusion. Govan, the new king, for
example, remarks at a meeting of his advisors, "je révais. Ou bien c’est maintenant
queje reve, car vous me semblez tous trés étranges... .(160) Another character,
Héliozobe, has a similar experience. She tells Govan, "en réve, je me suis revu la,
comme si c'était un étranger." (355)
Other times, the character's unconscious fears are played out in brief dream
segments. Again concerning the king Govan, the narrator relates that,
il réva qu'on le couronnait et il n'arrivait pas á se rappeler la devise
sacrée d'Archaos. Enfin elle lui revint, et s'éveillant en sursaut il
s'entendit prononcer á la place la formule magique. 11 se precipita vers
ses appartements, sür d'etre horriblement en retard á la cérémonie.
(160)
Later, he wonders aloud to his companions, "ai-je révé queje révais?"(162)
A particularly enigmatic dream is experienced by one of Govan's men,
Ganidan. The narrator informs that, "Ganidan eut une vision: il vit un chat sur le
cheval de Govan." (159) This symbolism of the cat continues to recur throughout the
rest of the novel as Govan responds with miaou to various queries by other
characters. The cat seems symbolic of enigma itself. Long associated with sorcery

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and unaccountable feminine wiles, the king/cat proves not only self-centered but a
little crazy. The narrator intones,
Qu'un chat folátre füt le roi véritable d1 Ardíaos ... le secret en fut
gardé avec soin par les témoins, avec l'aide de la providentielie loi
contre les visions, qu'Avatar avait oublié d'abroger.
Ainsi entra Govan, sous le nom public d'Eremetus Premier, dans son
régne par le bas, environné d'un parfum de scandale, de déraison, de
vin, et de diverses autres sortes de liqueurs car il n'avait pas eu le
temps d'un bain. (165)
Indeed, it is Govan's penchant toward seeming folly that distinguishes his reign from
that of his father. All the logic that ruled the former kingdom now seems
unacceptable to Govan. He announces to his advisors that "la logique n'est pas
logique. II faut changer 9a."(168) This problem of logic is directly related to
language. To Ganidan, his newly appointed sénéchal, he says, "si tu as une vision de
chat, pince-moi.... Je n'entends plus le langage humain."(169) "C'est symbolique,"
the minister responds.(169) When Govan reminds Ganidan that he has promised to
work for the good of the people, the minister responds again, "c'était symbolique."
(171) They agree and decide to get drunk instead. Throughout the second section of
the novel, Govan continues to metamorphose between human and cat forms.
Several other characters also experience symbolic dreams that result in a
blurring of identities and questioning of existing situations or "realities." In the case
of Jérémias, for example, a dream graphically enacts in sexual terms the forceful
submission of one ideology to another. A naive society ruled by an economy of
shared labors is overwhelmed and repeatedly raped by a drunken, selfish economy
ruled by the idea that everyone should have everything s/he wants for free.
La nuit il révait qu'il tannait. Economie de Gratuité, putain ivre,
s'introduisait chez Economie de Partage, la jeune vierge, et la

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pénétrait de partout dans un enlacement immonde. Réves odieux, dont
Jérémias s'éveillait brisé plus que s'il n'eüt dormi du tout." (305)
Incorporation of the dream element, introduced in these two novels, will be further
developed in Rochefort's last group of novels where the unconscious, the unspoken,
and the dream play primary roles.
The narrative voice, in this novel, is often problematic. A risk in novelistic
fiction is that these frequent narratorial intrusions can become bothersome for the
reader and tend to shift authority away from the characters. This criticism has been
directed at Rochefort's style, particularly with regard to the children in Encore
heureux qu 'on va vers l ’élé. As Hutton has pointed out, "Rochefort's desire to
represent the child as subject may be considered to be partially undermined by
intrusive narratorial comments which recur throughout the work." (The Novels of
Christiane Rochefort 172) In fact, the repeated narrative intrusions do tend to shift
the focus of attention away from the children as speaking subjects in their own right.
The problem is more complex, however, and can perhaps be elucidated by
returning again to Bakhtinian concepts that were discussed earlier. This blending of
voices or incursion of one voice into another that can be discerned within the
content, style or tone of the character's utterance, are instances of what Bakhtin has
refered to as double voicing, a kind of dialogism or polyphony. As he explains in
"Discourse in the Novel,"
for the prose writer, the object is a condensation of heterological
voices among which his own voice must also resound; these voices
create the background necessary for his own voice, without which his
literary nuances would not be perceived, and without which they 'do
not sound'. {The Dialogic Imagination, 91-92)

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This intrusion of one voice into another, a kind of usurping of authority, can be seen
as transgressive. These instances, then, also figure importantly as yet another
manifestation of the general carnivalesque spirit that marks the novel as a genre in
Bakhtinian thought. Whether these polyphonic or heteroglossic instances result in
loss of individual voice, shifting of authority, or blending of individual voices into
group ones, the aberration, transformation, and general ambiguity characteristic of
carnival are important.
Speech acts, or utterances, are never objectively neutral, never free from the
aspirations and evaluations of others, never without the influence and/or presence of
other voices. For Bakhtin, the word is "the eternally mobile, eternally fickle medium
of dialogic interaction." (Problems of Dostoevsky's Poetics, 202) At the base of
dialogics, is double-voiced discourse or the word with "its intense sideward glance at
someone else's word. "(203) Bakhtin offers this explanation:
this "sideward glance" manifests itself above all in two traits
characteristic of the style: a certain halting quality to the speech, and
its interruption by reservations. (205)
This sideward glance at socially alien discourse determines the style and tone of the
speech utterance, as well as a maimer of thinking and understanding. The
consciousness of one self is perceived against the consciousness of another. These
sideward glancing words are often accented by syntactical markers or breaking
points: italics, underscoring, quotation marks, parenthesis, interjections, ellipsis,
separation by commas. They can appear as "loopholes," interruptions, repetitions,
reservations, and, occasionally, long-windedness. These loopholes only contribute to

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the overall ambiguity of the character and, particularly with regard to the voice of the
author/narrator, tend to make all of his self-assertions unstable.
As in Rochefort’s earlier novels, the narrating voice is fractured. In these
novels, however, the splitting results not from a schizophrenic struggle for identity as
in her earlier novels, but from the narrator’s multiple roles as both purveyor and
interpreter of the diegesis and as philosopher offering intermittent observations and
comments on life in general. At times, the narrator slips into an almost breathless
harangue in frustration with what s/he considers unacceptable social condition
affecting the characters. In the following quote, this extra-diegetic narrator adopts a
complicitous mode by combining on and vous to voice discontentment with regard to
police activity toward the general citizenry. S/he pits a faceless yet powerful
establishment against the youthful characters of the diegesis as well as against
implied extra-diegetic, and also youthful, readers. During the narrator's digression,
verb tenses slip into present tense, contributing further to a sense of urgency with
regard to the state of affairs. The situation, like the run-on sentence, appears out of
control.
AriaBelle et Galice, voyant qu’ils ne pouvaient rien pour lui, dirent au
revoir á Théostat, et les jeunes gens partirent de leur cote, pas plus de
trois ensemble car sur la voie publique c’est mal vu, pas vraiment
interdit mais on peut vous demander ras papiers et on n’est jamais sür
d’etre en régle sur les derniers arrétés préfectoraux qui changent tout
le temps et ils peuvent vous emmener et vous garder á vue sans avoir
besoin de vous accuser de quelque chose de précis ni de vous faire un
procés ni de vous dormer un avocat ni rien . . . et si vous vous plaignez
vous n’aurez pas raison au contraire ii peut vous arriver encore pire.
(47)
Throughout the entire passage following the comma (after "et les jeunes gens
partirent de leur cóté"), the narrator looks sideways toward the implied reader.

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Other times, the narrator offers comments on the actions or attitudes of the
characters themselves. The commentary of the implied author in the next citation, for
example, is again separated from the more straightforward narrative purveyance of
the diegesis by a comma (my italics).
puis voyant bien lá qu’elle n’avait pas entravé leurs hautes
discussions il ajouta qu’on n’était pas lá pour la concerner et conclut
que le travail avant tout, conclusion peu en rapport avec la lascivité
des évenements récents.(5%)
Here, as in the following passage during which Grace and Regina pose as boys,
repeated interjection of interpretative remarks tends to draw attention away from the
children's voices and give the "punch lines" to an omniscient narrator (my italics):
-- Oui monsieur, merci, dirent les gars, ils trinquérent et levérent le
coude, dans le fond c 'est pas dur d avoir l 'air d 'un garlón, c 'est une
question de gestes, y a qu’a en faire trop et parler plus fort. (99)
And again, with reference to a narrow-minded store guard, the narrator intervenes to
offer a critical opinion (my italics):
Interdit aux enfants non accompagnés, dit 1’homme dans un genre
d’uniforme, devant l’entrée du super-marché.... Pourquoi? Dit
Agnes. C’est comme qa, dit le garde, figure de bois, on n a pas á
donner de raisons au peuple, pense sans penser le garde n 'ayant pas
en tete, que la mission dont il est investí et qui constitue la totalité de
son sentiment d exister. . . .(109)
Parentheses provide another "sideways glance" or venue for extradiegetic
commentary, particularly in Encore heureux qu 'on va vers l 'été. Again, the narrator's
words seem to look sideways toward the implied reader in search of complicity of
opinion, desirous of understanding. The opposition of the two voices, character and
narrator, gives an ironic tone to the passage. The parenthetical remarks attached to

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the following citations function as humorous asides directed at the various
characters’ utterances.
—Je me demande, parfois, comment tu as pu sortir de moi. (A vrai
dire moi aussi je me le demande, entre parentheses) (37).
—Hier autrefois, j ’ai piqué une boussole, juste pour me marrer. Eh
bien si je piquais une boussole maintenant, 9a aurait un sens (le nord).
(42)
Sometimes the parenthetical remarks are obtrusively inserted as little tags
attached to the characters' utterances with the intention of pointing out the bias of
those voices represented. In the following excerpt, for example, the tags glose the
content of each remark as to its support or non-support of the children’s actions.
—Les enfants sont indóciles, c’est leur nature, alors est-ce qu’il va
falloir les enfermer á cié? Moi je m’y refuse!
—Qa oui, dit une autre mere (alliée).
—Qa va les rendre fous.
—On sígnale déjá plusieurs cas, qu’on a dü mettre á l’hópital (allié).
—Mais 9a ne peut tout de méme pas continuer comme 9a il faut que 9a
cesse! (non allié).
-On ne peut quand méme pas les laisser faire ce qu’ils veulent (non
allié).(237)
In Printemps au parking and Archaos ou le jar din étincelant, these
parenthetical asides also occasionally slip into both narration and dialogue. Beyond
their satiric humor, now and then these remarks extend metatextual explication. For
example in this passage:
ce queje veux dire, ce qui est intéressant (je ne prétends pas que le
reste ne le soit pas (dieu non) (il l’est, c’est un ravissement) j’essaye
seulement d’etre un peu pudique, dans la mesure du possible, qui
n’est pas grand je le reconnais, dés l’instant qu’on a résolu de tout
dire) c’est qu’ensuite, une fois fait, on en avait encore plein la figure
et déjá on se demandad: Pourquoi avoir fait une pareille histoire? On
ne le comprenait plus du tout. (Prinlemps, 208)

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Not infrequently, the narrator’s and implied author’s voices blend on
occasions when s/he simply inserts his/her philosophy directly into the narration as a
separate, but related thought. At one point, in an optimistic mood, the narrator of
Une Rose pour Morrison offers the optimistic prediction that, “á l’Avenir les choses
seront plus fáciles, l’Avenir a toujours toutes les veines, le temps et la science
travaillent pour lui.”(126) A little later s/he drily observes that, “Péducation des
enfants est tres tres difficile”( 130) and that, in fact, “la vie est difficile, voilá
tout.”(139)
Occasionally, authorial intrusions take the form of rhetorical questions. For
example, after relating that Théostat is in love with Sereine (as well as with Amok),
the situation receives the following commentary:
II l’aimait.
(,’a voulait dire quoi?
Peu importe.(135)
In other words, the implied author suggests through the narrator’s comments: what’s
the big deal about someone being bisexual?
In Encore heureux qu'on va vers l'été, Rochefort's narrator, although
speaking as omniscient purveyor of the diegesis, seems to slip circuitously into that
diegesis upon occasion. Early on, the slippage of pronouns makes the narrator's
position unclear. Out of the silence, as the group of children embark on their mass
exodus, the narration begins with on: "ils seront tous sürs qu'on est en sortie
officielle."(13) From on, the narration slips into nous: "Quand ils nous verront
couverts de poils il nous reconnaitront plus."(13) While the combined use of these
two subject pronouns is not particularly unusual in itself, here their already

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somewhat ambiguous reference sets up further uncertainty as both give way within
the passage to yet another undesignated pronoun, creating moments of chaos of
identity. In the next sentence, for example, on and nous become je\ "je dirai: je suis
débile qu'est-ce que vous voulez faut pas me demander la lune.''(13) Who is speaking
here, and to whom, is unclear.
The following paragraph, again made up of shifting voices, reintroduces on,
yet continues to intersperse je and poses questions to undesignated interlocuters,
using both lu and vous forms. Then, shortly afterward, the narrator announces,
je suivrai l'esprit de Regina. Nous dormirons ensemble, enroulées
dans le méme couverture. Nous nous tiendrons chaud. On n'a pas de
couverture. Boff. On a l’esprit. (14-15)
This shifting of pronouns, combined with the direct statement that the narratingye
and the character Regina will be "under the covers" together, suggests that the two
voices will meld as the novel continues to unfold. Further contributing to this
suggestion, toward the end of the novel, when Régina orders loudly, "arrétons!", the
narrator interjects that "9a s'arréta, car elle avait une voix spéciale." (my emphasis
222)
Throughout the novel, the speaking voice within the narrative drifts artfully,
and at times even guilefully, among instances of direct and indirect speech utterances
of the characters, narration of the diegesis, and the free indirect discourse of the
characters' unvoiced thoughts. Often, the source of the flow of words is not noted in
any explict fashion. In a characteristic breakdown in unity of voice, the following
passage depicts a dizzy moment of instability during which the character experiences
a splitting of self as both subject and object. The constant shifting among the voices

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in free indirect discourse represents the character's non-verbalized perceptions as
they occur in his consciousness. The exchange, melding with instances of authorial
or narratorial mediation, sets up tension among the voices and can be difficult for the
reader to follow, as in the following passage of what appears to be mostly internal
monologue.
Tournant en rond comme un fou comme un rat dans le labyrinthe,
gémissant, cirant presque, Mann, au croisement de deux chemins
balisés, des baguettes sous le bras, s'arrachait les cheveux, oil est-elle?
Je suis peut-étre alié trap vite je l'ai dépassée il faut queje retoume en
arriére que je sillonne tout le pays, je ne veux pas qu'ils la traquent
comme un gibier! il faut queje la retrouve et comment tu esperes la
retrouver une aiguille dans une botte de foin, pas aiguille, diamant, je
suis givré moi.
Mais il faut queje la sauve!
Tu es vraiment givré.
Il remonta vers le nord. Tourna vers l'ouest. Repartit vers Test.
Redescendit vers le sud en faisant des zigzags. S'assit sur une pierre
moussue et se mit á pleurer. (203-204)
The reader too must make her/his way through what may seem, at times, like a
labyrinth of words in the text. Because Rochefort frequently omits visual markers or
tags that would indicate the entrance of a different voice into the narration, it is not
immediately clear that Tu es vraiment givré, for example, is not the utterance of
another character.
Also characteristic of the novels in this second group is intentional authorial
distancing. Breaking the pattern of first-person, or autodiegetic, female narration
used in her earlier novels, Une Rose pour Morrison, Archaos ou le jardín élincelant,
and Encore heureux qu ’on va vers l ’été proceed through the voice of a third-person,
extradiegetic narrator. (In a fourth, Prinlemps au parking, the homodiegetic narrator
is a young male.) Asked about what constituted “quality” writing, Rochefort once

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commented, “I have a concept of what good writing is that has to do with the concept
of distance. . . "(Shifting Scenes, 183) She explained, “there was a period during
which everyone had to expectorate their miseries, you know what I mean? And this
literature of experience was abominable . . . not lacking in interest, if you will, but. .
. when it’s not art, then it’s nothing. The effect is lost.”(181) During this same
interview, responding to queries about the progression of her own writing, she
responded, “what happened after Les Stances á Sophie? 1 don’t know anymore. In
any case, from then on I did not write from personal experience.”(178) She has noted
in C ’est bizarre l 'écriture, in reference to Une rose pour Morrison, that: “je sortais
du circuit - ENFIN!”(89) Emphatically denouncing the tendency to write
autobiographically as a weakness, she continued, “le moi est détestable.. le moi, cette
canaille, ce hátif, ce bourbeux ce confus, le moi écrit comme un cochon, il écrit avec
délacolle. . . .”(103)
Although Rochefort succeeded in stylistically distancing herself from her
characters, she continued to live in a kind of symbiotic rapport with them, often
marking their voices with traces that tend to give form to authorial perspective. As
she states in C ’est bizarre 1 ’écriture, “il vient un moment oh on se mélange
complement avec le livre, oh on vit dedans, d’une vie souvent plus réelle que la
vraie, et, pa ce n’est pas tine blague, au point de la préférer, et d’etre tenté de
basculer dans une complaisante schizophrénie. C’est lá une des joies de l’écriture.”
(125,6) As for speaking through the characters, Rochefort commented, “mes
personnages et moi nous sommes maintenant bien ensemble. Pas confondus, je ne

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suis pas dans leur peau ... nous sommes tout proches. Mes personnages sont des
gens. Le rapport est d’altérité, tout simplement.”(103 )
In C'est bizarre I'écriture, Rochefort admits that her own voice continued to
be notably present in the characters of her novels during this period. She states that,
"des adolescents sautaient dans chacun de mes projets á l'époque, pleins d'intentions
belliqueuses . . . mes demons adolescents déferlérent. . . dans Une Rose pour
Morrison." (31) She further notes that "le recul [du moi] n'est jamais complet, méme
tapé le papier écrit garde le reflet de Narcisse...." (37) It is perhaps because, as she
admits "il y aurait entre mon inconscient (!) et mon écriture ... un trafic compliqué."
(86) With regard to her moi, Rochefort confesses that, "en fain de compte il adore
étre un autre." (104) In Printemps au parking, for example, Rochefort allows
Christophe to mask her voice. As she reveals, "comme Christophe ne disposait pas
du vocabulaire adéquat, je lui dictai ma phrase ... et il la récita gentiment." (109)
In Une Rose pour Morrison, it is the voice of Sereine, ludicly referred to as a
young university professor of “téléologie,” whose intellectual speeches and sarcastic
commentaries regularly punctuating the text are reminiscent of Rochefort’s own
derisive and rebellious voice. A primary target of Sereine’s criticism is the tight
control of French society under what is viewed as the manipulative, autocratic, and
essentially unparliamentary government of the Gaullist regime. In a heteroglossic
instance of humorous and generative language play, parodying perceived presidential
pomposity, the voices of author, character and contemporary figure overlap. Sereine
mockingly announces,
tout d’abord et prologalement. . . le president se représidentera. Il
n’y a en effet d’autre téléologie á l’exercice du pouvoir que l’exercice

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du pouvoir. . . . Durant son nouveau mandatement, ayant renforcé
dans le précédent ses pouvoirs légiférants, il fera
anticonstitutionnellement des ordannancementations
présidenstabilisatrices qui seront référendomisées auprés de la
surpopulation hyperconditionalisée. (22)
Here her sarcasm ¡s directed at De Gaulle’s repeated attempts to hold onto political
power through intimidation, mandates, public referendums, and tight control of the
media through the Ministry of Information. Specifically, reference is made to a
speech De Gaulle made just prior to the 1965 election in which he threateningly
declared that without his leadership the French Republic would collapse into “une
confusion de l’Etat plus désastreuse encore qu’elle ne connut autrefois.”(D«couri et
messages. Vers le lerme, 401) Sereine’s language is characterized by a feigned
seriousness, lofty phrasing, and formal syntax intended to mock the character's
negative estimate of what she considers De Gaulle’s own ponderous rhetorical style.
Her language is replete with an abundance of mocking neologisms aimed at
satirizing De Gaulle’s political maneuvering as well as his penchant for
grandiloquent oratory. It is also language that is self-generating and subversive,
calling attention to itself as language.
The narrating voice further joins that of Sereine to deliver pointed criticism
of De Gaulle, and other government figures, with regard to their manipulation of
language. S/he refers to them as “verbologues” who deliberately attempt to sway
popular opinion by masking reality through the invention and use of euphemisms.
Les Verbologues étaient tres forts, ils avaient une longue pratique. Ils
avaient inventé le Mot Espaces Verts pour supprimer les libertes, le
Mot Stabilité pour se maintenir au pouvoir, le Mot Prospérité pour
faire croire que c’était celle de tout le monde, le Mot Matemité
Volontaire pour avoir des tas de lardons, le Mot Pays pour nier les
citoyens, le Mot Monde Libre pour cogner sur le reste, le Mot Sous-

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Développé pour faire croire qu’ils l’étaient et le Mot Bonheur pour
endormir le désir. Et cetera. (217)
The words highlighted by ironic capitalization are all Gaullist terms associated with
his special brand of propaganda. Another voice, that of Amok, also blends with that
of the narrator. Amok “translates” dissimulative phrases, particularly those used to
deflect attention from the horror of war, such as: “aider les gouvemements amis.
Appliquer le Cessez-le-Feu. Défendre la Liberté” and “Protection de la Paix.”(l 18)
He continues: “nous avons établi la paix sur des foréts entiéres avec du napalm. . . .
La paix s’étendait partout oil nous passions, la paix étemelle.”(l 19) Thus alerted to
this sort of Orwellian “Newspeak”, the reader is left to interpret other anesthetized
terms for him/herself.
Further linguistic subversion takes place in the form of parody as the
character Sénile, whose voice represents that of De Gaulle in Rochefort’s novel,
prepares for and practices one of his speeches. With regard to the notion of parody,
Bakhtin clearly divides it into two different types: stylization (or what may also be
referred to as allusion, quotation, or metafictive intertextuality), and ironized parody
(which references and mocks previous texts). Both of these types rely upon double¬
voiced discourses, or the intersection of two voices with opposing points of view.
Speech becomes a kind of battlefield for opposing intentions. For Bakhtin, then,
parody of this type is implicitly transgressive and subversive. Its success, that is the
ability of the listener or reader to discern and appreciate the mockery or argument
being presented (to "get the joke"), depends on his awareness of the previous text at
which the mockery is directed. In the manner of the roman á clef, the texts of De
Gaulle's speeches, as well as his rhetorical style in general, are assumed to be

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familiar to the implied reader of Rochefort's novel. The text can best be appreciated
in terms of its context.
Rochefort related during an interview that she sometimes transcribed sections
of De Gaulle’s actual speeches directly into her text from radio emissions that aired
as she worked on the novel. (Hurtin, 11) In fact, as she notes in her own Ma vie
revue et corrigée par l 'auteur, her novel Une Rose pour Morrison began as an
automatic writing experiment in 1966. For twenty-four days, during which she wrote
almost incessantly, news of the Vietnam War and the anti-war music of Bob Dylan
(to whom the book is dedicated) provided an almost constant background. She
relates:
je me consoláis avec l’écriture automatique, en écoutant Dylan et en
inventant des mots. Et qu’est-ce qui se passe? Voilá Norman
Morrison qui se fait brüler devant le Pentagone, la guerre qui fait rage
au Vietnam entre les mangoustes et les serpents najas, de Gaulle qui
fait un discours dans le poste, ils viennentjusque dans mes bras,
s’infiltrent dans mes phrases et en font autre chose, on ne peut jamais
étre tranquille méme en vacances. (Ma vie revue et corrigée par
l 'auteur, 269)
(Norman Morrison was a Quaker, an American who committed suicide by setting
himself on fire on the steps of the Pentagon in 1965 as a gesture of protest against
American involvement in the Vietnam War.)
In yet another instance of heteroglossic layering of voices, this time including
those of the diegetic character, the implied author or narrator, and De Gaulle himself,
Sénile echoes some of the president's favorite phrases and images. He refers, for
example, to France as a ship with himself at the helm: “nous avons pris la vitesse de
croisiére” and, he adds, “qui mieux qu’un capitaine peut diriger le bateau?”(91) He
speaks of France before his tenure using words such as: anarchie, tátonnements,

146
erreurs. France under his guidance, however, is described as “Maítre de son Destín
et sur la voie du Développement Intérieur et de l’Harmonie Extérieure Stable et
Efficace engagé dans la Grande Oeuvre de Renovation Permanente de la Prospérité,
de l’Expansion du Progrés, de la Revalorisation du Travail, dans un élan
Nouveau!”(91) His speech is characterized by the use of anaphoric pronouncements,
rhetorical questions and exclamations of grandeur: “quelle anarchie . . . quelle
méconnaissance . . . quels tátonnements . . . quelles erreurs . .and “qui mieux . . .
qui mieux ... qui mieux... .”(91) He vigorously exclaims intermittently: “des
touches á touts! (sic)” “tout le monde y gagne!” and “c’est l’équilibre!”(92)
Rochefort’s derision of this political figure disintegrates into absurdity in a
later passage in which the actual broadcast of Sénile’s speech is filtered through the
voice of the narrator. In a totally self-centered address, the president appears on the
screen of the mégavision to deliver his state-of-the-union remarks. Since he
considers himself “the state” (much in the manner of Louis XIV’s “l’Etat c’est
moi”), the remarks all concern his personal physical condition.
II allait bien merci. Ses peuples pouvaient étre tranquilles, il leur
restait. La semaine derniére il avait failli avoir un petit froid, il avait
éternué le matin, mais il avait remis son fourré et 9a s’était passé. Son
bouton sur la joue avait aussi disparu. Ses selles étaient normales, hier
peut-étre un peu dures mais ce matin il était alié tres bien, plutót mou,
d’une belle couleur manon. (94)
In Bakhtin's notion of the camivalesque, the essential nature of the popular
voice is laughter. Laughter is essentially an interior form of truth. It resists praise,
flattery and hypocrisy and serves to liberate from fear, fear of prohibitions, of the
past, of the mysterious, of the sacred, and of power. One of the sources of the
laughable is the body, particularly any ludicrous celebration of bodily functions. In

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his analysis of Rabelais's work, Bakhtin explains that "the material bodily lower
stratum is needed, for it gaily and simultaneously materializes and unburdens. It
liberates objects from the snares of false seriousness, from illusions and sublimations
inspired by fear ."(Rabelais and His World, 376) "This lower stratum is mankind's
real future," he adds. "At the same time the author mocks the pretenses of the
isolated individual who wants to be perpetuated and who is ridiculous in his
senility."(378)
As Bakhtin has pointed out, scatological references and expressions, intended
as a means of besmirching, degrading, and debasing, probably can be found in every
language. Excrement, Bakhtin asserts, "is the most suitable substance for the
degrading of all that is exalted ."{Rabelais and His World, 152) The French language,
interestingly, has a particularly well developed lexicon in the area of excrement.8 In
the passage quoted above, the character Senile's self-absorbed fascination with his
own fabrications, in this case his bowel movements, the scatological imagery works
to accomplish several ends: to point to the general lack of important substance in the
public pronouncements of the country's leader; to besmirch and demystify the power
of both the office of president and the perceived pomposity of its incumbent; and to
generate ironic laughter that would replace awe with a sense of empowerment. After
Sénile finishes with an authoritative and fatherly, “je vous souhaite une bonne
nuit”(94), the narrator cynically interjects, in a flat tone of voice, that the French
people were not favorably responsive: “dans toute la ville, aprés le discours de
Senile, les gens se lavaient.”(95) Not only have they not been seduced either by this
rhetoric or by its egotistical locateur, they are disgusted.

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Uncertainty surrounding the voices in the novel is compounded by the
confusion involving the characters’ names. Names and naming, generally, function to
define, delimit and identify characters, providing a stable and dependable reference
for the reader. Rochefort, however, subverts that process by using the absence of
names or variation in names to encode multiplicity, change, instability, freedom and
spontaneity. Except for the teachers, Mademoiselle Bell and professor Tchouk, only
the young people have names. School administrators are referred to with stylized
names in capital letters, such as: le Pouvoir, la Conseillére, and Amére, la Directrice.
They are "typed," seen as rigid categories or symbols of authority rather than
individuals. Rochefort's choices of names for the children are always laden with
unspoken commentary. One child, for example, answers to "Qui-9a." His name, an
indefinite pronoun, suggests that he is regarded as insignificant by others
(particularly by adult "others" who would have had the privilege of naming him that,
or by condescending adult "others" who perhaps would not have even noticed him or
bothered to learn his name). The pejorative use of ga in reference to a person reveals
a condescending attitude on the part of the speaker who, by denying the person's
name, positions him as an object and intentionally refuses to acknowledge that
person's existence as a subject in his own right.
Reader disorientation can also result from shifting identities due to the fact
that the names of the children vary. Generally, naming becomes a means of
controlling or possessing. Again, however, Rochefort undermines this traditional
intention, rendering her narrative richer and more complex in the proliferation of
voices and, at the same time, making the reader's role more important as s/he is given

149
the opportunity to interpret the changes and to "see things differently." Already a
numerous group, the children assume nicknames, label each other, role-play, try out
new identities. There is, for example, "Julius, qui s'appelait Charles," "Steve qui
s'appelait René," and "Jams qui s'appelait Colette"(l 16). Assuming roles in a fantasy,
Grace becomes "ma chére confrere Grancianapoula" and Regina is referred to
variously as "chére professeure Reginaldski"(90) or "proffesseure Reginakatiki."(91)
Without any explanation, about halfway along their misadventure, the characters
take on pseudonyms like: Chal, Frédérico, Tulipe, Ours, Nounours (129-154).
Apparently, the children are used to being called by different names. In a scene near
the end, Alice is called Prosperine by her own mother who is only irritated that Alice
has been away without asking permission and without telling her mother where she
was. The police had called her a number of other names, to which she had responded
only because she was aware that they were talking to her. The narrator tries to
explain:
C'était 9a le truc qui avait pris en fin de compte, spontanément,
appeler tout enfant en difficulté par le premier nom qui tombe sous la
main. lis pigeaient immédiatement.
—Bibi! Marthe! Euffaise! Arséne! Douille! Chrysalide! Toto!
N'importe quoi. (235)
Rochefort's narrative would seem to suggest, again, with all of this insistence and
fluidity among names, a determined resistance to imposed identity. Her young
characters sense the importance of the individual's power to create, or re-create, the
self.
Just as Rochefort's novels demonstrate the mechanism of naming as a means
to determine identity, they repeatedly point to the power of language to control

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thought and impose ideology. This is cleverly brought out in Chapter IV of Archaos
ou le jardín étincelant in imagery recalling the Biblical tower of Babel. The chapter
begins, in fact, with the words:''d'une tour assez haute, Babel par exemple. . . ."(321)
The narrator relates that neighboring kings were looking jealously at the freedom and
prosperity enjoyed by the citizens of Archaos and, feeling threatened, were
vigorously seeking ways to create scorn among their own people for the Archaotes
and their community. A major propaganda campaign is launched, through a barrage
of rumors and pamphlets, to disseminate misinformation and to prejudice public
opinion. As the narrator relates, "il y avait dans les palais des concours de venin, oü
le texte le plus chargé de poison se voyait payé de son poids d'or."(323) The
principal theme of all of this invective, the narrator reveals, was the existence of
widespread disorder and immorality in the neighboring kingdom.
Although the novel has a cast of more than eighty specifically named
characters, it is anonymous voices, here representing the general public, that reveal
the success of the campaign of rhetorical excess and half-truth (vérité infléchie)
generated by these hired prevaricators. The source of all this rumor and
misinformation is, of course, never revealed to the unwitting public. The mere fact
that the claims had become so widespread and so frequently uttered and/or printed
reinforced their popular acceptance. Following the propaganda campaign, a mocking
comedy ensues as a series of undesignated individuals voice their newly formed
opinions concerning conditions they now believe to exist in the neighboring
kindgdom. Their attitudes and opinions clearly demonstrate the success of this
crusade of seductive rhetoric. In heteroglossic layering, these voices, one after

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another, articulate as fact what those rumors, pamphlets, and works of art had
alleged. The different accounts, in their anonymity, exaggeration, and distortions,
demonstrate the power of language and art in the creation of myth as the imagined
becomes the real. Fantasy, embellishment and aggrandizement characterize excerpts
of their invective inspired by the persuasive discourse used in the propaganda
campaign.
Les fous se hissent au pouvoir á la suite d'un concours public de
performances sexuelles. .. . (324)
Les gens sensés sont enfermés dans des cages. . . . (324)
Les paysans envahirent la ville . . . et en déportérent les avocats, les
juges, les scribes, les docteurs, et autres clercs qu'ils attachérent aux
charrues. . .. (324)
Tous les enfants sont faits par le roi. . . . Les produits de cette
copulation immonde sont évidemment tous des monstres orange et
rouge á plusieurs tetes. .. . (325)
Le roi, constamment ivre ... se livre á la magie. (325)
Ce pays n'est rien autre que la plate-forme du démon.... (326)
lis accordent une importance extreme á leur anatomie, et en utilisent
la partie médiane antérieure comme moyen transactionnel. . . . (327)
Et personne ne travaille. Tous les habitants sont assis devant leur
porte au soleil, fumant des tiges de canabe. . . . (327)
Livré au vice, á la décadence Tivrognerie la veulerie Tabomination la
décomposition sociale, ce peuple s'enfonce dans un océan de stupre,
et disparait de l'horizon civilisé. (328)
("Stupre," not a word in French, occurs here as another example of Rochefort's
intentional misspellings and neologisms. It ironically reemphasizes the mindless
stupidity of the people.) And on and on, it goes. The foolishly gullible people parrot

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these lies and fail to observe or criticise their own kingdom and leader, "c'est un
vieux true," the narrator points out, "qui marche á tous les coups."(328)
The ultimate response to these negative voices is the distortion rendered by
local historians. They record, for posterity, events and people as the kings would
have them remembered. Historical speech is supposed to be anchored in fact, but,
since the 1960s, scholars are aware that historians also emplot a slant to their
narratives. Recalling the discourse of critics such as Paul Ricoeur, Hayden White,
Dominic LaCapra and Jean Luc Nancy, for example, Rochefort's narrative questions
passive acceptance of traditional recorded history9. The voice of the narrator
sarcastically intellects, “telle se dessina devant THistoire Timage d’Archaos, et resta
seule accréditée, la vraie n’ayant pas été fixée, faute de parchemin.”(328) Here,
taking advantage of a form common to non-fictional texts, the implied author of
Rochefort's novel uses the footnote as a forum to obliquely voice his/her attitude
toward the notion of history in general and toward its imposed, arbitrary selectivity.
The footnote reads drily, "ce qui n'a pas facilité nos recherches. (Les
historiens.)."(328) An almost identical footnote also appears on page thirty-five of
the novel, with reference to the ballads sung by Ezéchias, tutor to the king’s son
Govan. The ballads, relates the narrator, “sont malheureusement le seul témoignage
écrit de la poésie archaote.”(35) The footnote, here too, sneers, "cela n'a pas facilité
nos recherches. (Les historiens.)." (35) Later on, this same footnote appears twice
more, and on the same page. The first footnote references two separate narrative
statements. One statement concerns the language of Archaos, that it is “bourrée de
sens variables jusqu’á Tantinomie selon la circonstance, Thumeur, le temps qu’il

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fait, la personae á qui on parle (espions par exemple)... .”(331) The second footnote
refers to the narrative remark that, “une opposition secréte revendiquant le Tout est
Gratuit. . . fat écrasée avec sauvagerie, ainsi que des sectes diverses á tendances
édénistes parousiques chiméristes et autres dépravations de 1’áme, dont il ne resta
plus trace dans PHistoire.”(331) The repetition of the footnote on this same page
refers to yet another intrusive narrative comment concerning history and its willed
silence with regard to certain voices. In this comment, the narrator has posed the
rhetorical question, “ou finissaient-ils par arriver, ces parias dont l’Histoire perd
alors la piste?”(331)
The novel ends poetically with a series of ambiguous utterances by a number
of unidentified voices that speak of themselves alternately as a collective nous and as
moi. The implied narratee is addressed both singularly as tu and plurally as vous. As
Diana Holmes aptly noted,
Archaos has above all put an end to hierarachies, to rigid oppositions
and divisions between categories of people as between the sexual and
the spiritual, the real and the imaginary. It is appropriate therefore
that the final words should be addressed by an undefined Nous (We)
to an unnamed, ungendered - linguistically signified as both
masculine and feminine - lu/vous (you): here theme and form are
indistinguishable. (“Realism, fantasy and feminist meaning: the
fiction of Christiane Rochefort”, 35)
The characters and narrator, however, are not the only vehicles that allow the
author to impose his/her own voice. Another means is through the novel’s structure.
Referring to Prinlemps au parking, Rochefort recalls that she divided the novel into
chapters, each preceeded by a series of phrases ironically summarizing the content of
the chapter. Chapter two, for example, begins with the following heading.

154
Le monde appartient á ceux qui se lévent tót, mais quel monde? *
Habitudes et Imagination * La navigation á voile * Les Livres
n'enseignent pas de méthode pour devenir intelligent * Comment
supprimer le biftek et faire aimer les ministres * Les reves 9a se plante
comme des radis * Qui vole un oeuf vole de ses propres ailes * (33).
These remarks do at least reference the essence of the chapters that follow, but
within the chapters themselves there are no divisions to indicate where one section
would end and another begin. The overall diegesis proceeds largely in chronological
fashion. Sequencing, however, is interrupted by frequent analepsis, dream, and mise-
en-abyme. The frequent use of textual space to indicate temporal pause or, most
often, to draw attention to unspoken significance is thwarted by the implied
author/narrator when, near the end of the text s/he tires of the practice and announces
blatantly to the implied reader.
Lá il y eut un temps de pause. (175)
Pause, bis. (176)
Pause, ter. Maintenant je n'indiquerai plus, vous n'avez qu'á mettre les
blancs oú il faut. (176)
The solitary voice of the first-person narrator in the opening pages, who declares in
the first sentence that "ils me font tous chier''( 15), joins, on the last pages of the
novel, the voices of a group of youthful agitators who shout their defiance in unison
from the rooftop.
Si on sautait? dit Fabrice, au bord du toit. C'est si beau. Justement
queje suis presqu'heureux.
Justement que t'es presqu'heureux, saute pas dit Thomas, tu peux
commencer á vraiment les faire chier.
Voilá exactement pourquoi il faut vivre, dit Zélie. Il n'y a pas
d'autre vraie raison.
Merde, dit Nicolas, mais c'est le printemps!
Merde dit tout le monde, c'est le printemps, merde, merde, merde!
et tous en haut du toit on s'est mis á crier, comme des fous. (230)

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Effectively, they have reversed the situation from "ils me font chier" to "les faire
chier.” They have found a new sense of empowerment through their group's
solidarity. In reference to textual structure as a frame for her own voice, Rochefort
comments in C'esl bizarre l'écriture that,
peut-étre que j’en avais assez du champ limité de Christophe et j’ai
sauté dehors. Ou je ne me trouvais pas assez present dans le livre
(Tauteur! l’auteur!). II y a une sorte de fil du rasoir, qui est la place de
Tauteur dans son livre: une fois le moi éliminé ¡1 faut revenir comme
écrivain, par une autre porte.. . . (177)
Structure can function as an outlet for the writer’s voice, an expression of
attitude about the way novels (or life) should or should not be ordered. Through its
unconventional, seemingly spontaneous organization into a labyrinth of eclectic
content, always presented with mocking humor, Rochefort’s autobiographical work
Ma vie revue el corrigée par 1'auteur, for example, physically and philosophically
"speaks" Rochefort’s language. Rochefort was well aware of the ambiguities
surrounding the status of the subject, as is apparent in the play of first and third
person pronouns in the title of her book. The book was an experiment. In it,
Rochefort edits, or re-invents her own taped voice. “II faut réinventer. L’écrire, bref.
L’information directe, 9a ne va pas,” she insists in C’esl bizarre !’écriture(50). She
also commented that, “le sens n’est pas dans le mot il est dans Torganisation.”(69)
Both C 'est bizarre l 'écriture and her autobiography Ma vie revue et corrigée
par l ’auteur are works that aim to demystify. She uses the genre of autobiography to
point out, indirectly, the concoctions of lies and half-truths we tell ourselves about
our selves, about life, and about literature. She points out the processes, artifices and
limits imposed on our perceptions/conceptions of all of those. The act of writing,

156
according to Rochefort, is, even with conscious effort, only partially free of the
powerful influence of convention. She insisted that,
le stylo . . . recrache avec adjonction de résidus culturéis, en grec ou
pas, déposés dans les reservoirs, et selon un ordre lui aussi
manufacturé. . . .‘bien écrit’, le ‘beau style’ . . . c’est l’image
culturelle du systéme en vigueur, et par laquelle il se perpétue quel
que soit le ‘contenu’ du moule. (133)
It is precisely that “systéme en vigueur” that Rochefort’s texts consistently tend to
challenge. Her autobiography deliberately blurs the boundaries between herself and
the world. Into the conglomeration making up the text are musings, facts, personal
arguments and criticisms, excerpts of correspondence, fables, poems, word games,
mock interviews, recipes, numerous intertextual instances such as lists of
remembrances (in imitation of Georges Perec's "Je me souviens... ."), and
metatextual commentary on the writing of others, advice to would-be writers, and so
on.
As mentioned at the beginning of the chapter, although metatextual elements
are present throughout Rochefort's fiction, her novels of this second period begin to
evidence a growing reflexivity. Increasingly, as the act of narrating is brought to the
attention of the reader, s/he is reminded of the power and play of narrative. In this
group, the novel having the strongest metatextual voice is Printemps au parking.
Hutton astutely notes that the homodiegetic narrator, Christophe, "defines himself
and his life in terms of mass-media culture which he professes to despise, no longer
telling his tale, but told by it."(7Vie Novels of Christiane Rochefort, 89) Admitting
that he is, for the most part, making up his life as he goes by telling himself stories,
he confesses, "la vie. Je me raconte des histoires."(147) He repeatedly compares his

157
life and situation to film with references such as: "et merde je me sentáis redevenu
adulte et contemporain et méme en train de jouer dans un film."(23) He sees his story
first as "juste une reverie en l'air . . . dans mon cinéma."(53) The stories he tells first
become clear in his mind, "nette comme un film."(170) Life, as Christophe
understands it: "c'est une longue, longue, longue histoire." (Printemps au parking,
191) Thomas, Christophe's scholarly friend and figure of the writer, observes that in
the art of story-telling Christophe excels: "ainsi tu devenais un héros comme dans les
livres, et voilá une histoire d'un plus haut niveau dramatique, et plus facile á digérer
car cathartique, conjuratoire, transgressive et expiatoire. . . .”(199) These
camivalesque traits were also important to Rochefort as writer and storyteller. They
define, in large measure, her novelistic fiction. As Rochefort must have sensed, and
as Hutton has correctly pointed out,
what the text does not spell out, but what the reader can perceive, is
that stories are linked to society's desire to label and control the
individual. .. . Christophe's role as storyteller ... is a complex one: he
spins tales to others, yet is himself a victim (at least initially) of
society's more pervasive master-narratives. (91)
The development of self-reflexive narrative, as the next chapter will
demonstrate, becomes increasingly notable in Rochefort's last five texts as the
novelist approaches the end of her life and her writing career. As the narrating voice
returns again to its earlier penchant for first person expression, a preoccupation with
death and a lingering concern with issues of identity thematically combine with
interest in the act of writing as an extension of self. As analysis will discover,
however, the dialogic and the camivalesque remain intrinsic to Rochefortian fiction.

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NOTES
1. Gary Saul Morson and Caryl Emerson, in their Mikail Bakhtin: Creation of a
Prosaics, suggest that Bakhtin's comments regarding utopia may have political
implications referencing the Russian society of his day. They write: "Because Soviet
Marxist-Leninist ideology is itself a form of utopian thought, which officially
acknowledged the entire tradition of utopian thinking as its predecessor, Bakhtin's
comments would appear to constitute a critique of some aspect of Soviet ideology.
The precise implication of this critique remain unclear, however, and it seems more
prudent to stress the general anti-utopianism of the chronotope essay than to
recommend a specific political reading." (398)
2. In their book French Cultural Studies: an Introduction, Jill Forbes and Michael
Kelly include a photograph of a popular actor of the 1970s, Michel Colucchi, known
to the French as Coluche. Coluche made his reputation with one-man shows and a
television series built around neo-Poujadist monologues "which became celebrated
as expressions of the feelings of the ordinary French bloke, "le mec," a man who was
worried about his job and his wife, and who thought France was being overrun by
foreigners." (249)
3. In this 188-page, controversial "essay," Rochefort vigorously argues for the right
of children. In it, she describes children as an oppressed class that has not been
allowed a voice in society. She describes children as victims of capitalist
consumerism and hierarchical social structure that profit from their docile passivity
and helpless dependence. She contends that families, as well as medical, psychiatric,
educational and legal institutions all devise and employ mechanisms of control and
oppression in their relationships with children, for their own benefit. She advocates
that adults stop defining children as "des humains inachevés mentalement et
physiquement." (48) Rather, she insists, they are "solides, héroíques, (voir á quoi ils
insistent!), adroit, capable, graves, profonds, leur intelligence est vaste et déliée, ils
sont subtils et malins, ils savent se débrouiller...." (49) It is this image of children
that her fictional Encore heureux qu'on va vers l'été attempts to represent.
In a characteristic play on words, Rochefort's bibliography for this book is
captioned by the phrase Des livres pour les enfants. Among her reference sources
she lists: David Cooper, Mort de la famille; Gilíes Deleuze and Félix Guattari,
L Anti-Oedipe; John Holt, Escape from childhood', Ivan Illich, Une Société sans
école', R. D. Laing, La Politique de la famille', Frérérick Leboyer, Pour une
naissance sans violence', Gerard Mendel, Pour décoloniser I'enfanP, and Wilhelm
Reich, La Révolution sexueUe.
4. In her book Fast Cars, Clean Bodies: Decolonization and the Reordering of
French Culture, Kristin Ross states, "the French social sciences we are familiar with
now were thus a postwar invention, and like all aspects of French modernization
after the war, their ascendancy bore some relation to U.S. economic intervention. To
a certain extent, the turn to this kind of study was funded and facilitated by the

159
United States in a kind of Marshall Plan for intellectuals.... By expanding the social
sciences in Europe, Americans sought to contain the progress of Marxism in the
world; a science of empirical and quantitative sociology—the study of repetition—was
erected against the science of history, the study of the event." (186-7) Ross
specifically lists financing granted from the Rockefeller Foundation and the Ford
Foundation to establish the Ecole pratique des hautes études, the Ecole des hautes
études en sciences sociales.
5. George Perec in Les choses, for example, portrays the focus on things,
materialism, that is duplicated in his run-on style of entassement or accumulation.
6. Rochefort's interest in and empathy for children and minors, whom she saw as
basically voiceless in society and consequently misunderstood and mistreated, is
evidenced by their presence and importance in the novels of this period. All of these
novels were published between 1966 and 1975 (except her autobiographical
experiment, Ma vie revue et corrigée par l'auteur, 1978). These years correspond
with the student rebellion of 1968 and the attempted reforms in the interest of
children and students that were to receive attention in the years following. Her
sympathies, fictionally supported in this book as well as in Encore heureux qu'on va
vers l'été and in Printemps au parking, were soon given a more direct forum. In
1976, Rochefort's lengthy argument for the rights of children and minors was
published as the non-fictional Les Enfants d'abord.
7. The original proverbs to which this exchange refers are: "on ne fait pas d'omelette
sans casser les oeufs;" "il n'y a pas de fumée sans feu;" "il faut battre le fer quand il
est chaud;" "un bon tiens vaut mieux que deux tu l'auras;" "á bon chat bon rat.” The
pronouncement that "qui chasse deux liévres a la foi" contains a play on words with
the expression a la foi, which can be interpreted orally as either a la foi (has faith) or
as á la fois (at the same time). Thus, again, Rochefort would seem to be pointing to
the breakdown in communication that results from ambiguities inherent in language.
8. Forms of the word merde in French include nouns, adjectives, adverbs, verbs and
occur in standard speech as well as in slang expressions and oaths. Some common,
and colorful, uses of the word include: merder (in the obvious sense as well as in the
slang expressions, for example, merder son examen or l'affaire a merdé), emmerder,
s’emmerder, merdoyer, se démerder, foutre de la merde, merdeux(se), merdique,
emmerdement, merdier, des mouches a merde (very large flies), and merde! (as an
expression of good luck). It also occurs in numerous expressions such as: avoir de la
merde dans les yeux, un temps de merde, semer de la merde, il ne se prend pas pour
de la merde. The importance of the word in the French language is underscored by
the existence of two separate words for the concept: merder and chier. Chier, too,
has a long list of colorful variants. Verb forms include: faire chier quelqu'un, se
chier, and en chier. Some noun forms are: chieur(se), chierie (as in "Quelle
chierie!"), chiotte (as an irritation or as another word for toilet), and chiée (as in "il a
une chiée d'amies"). It is also used in expressions such as: pa me fait chier (that bores
me), chier dans son froc, y a pas a chier (that's inevitable), ga va chier (it's going to

160
fail), <;a chie pas (that's not important), and ce film est a chier (that film is terrible).
The French have been and continue to be quite creative in the use of these
expressions.
9. Notably Paul Ricoeur's three volume Temps el récit, Hayden White's Metahistory,
and Jean Luc Nancy's The Birth to Presence (particularly the essay in this book
entitled "Finite History"). The focus of the thought by these scholars is that history is
emplotted narrative, necessarily requiring a point of view. They point out that
historical narratives are, in fact, not objective, but constructed.

CHAPTER 5
ROCHEFORT'S MATURE FICTION
"Mon inconscient doit le savoir, lui. Elle. Mon inconsciente.
Etje lui fais une sacrée confiance. Elle est ce queje suis."
Christiane Rochefort
(Ma vie revue et corrigée par Vauteur, 268)
Rochefort's third and final group of fictional narratives, as outlined earlier in
this study, includes: Quand tu vas chez les femmes (1982), Le Monde est comme
deux chevaux (1984), La Porte du fond (1988), Conversations sans paroles (1997),
and Adieu Androméde (1997). These later works evidence a return to first-person
perspective and concern for the plight of the individual, in particular, issues of self
and identity. Not surprising in the work of a mature writer, a preoccupation with
death and an increased focus on the act of writing as an extension of self contribute
not only new themes but a sense of immediacy and intimacy. In addition, the
tensions of polyphonic interplay in these texts lure readers into confrontation with
language that examines preconceptions, values and beliefs, and toward a
consciousness of "truths" and a consciousness of self, both the narrator's and his/her
own.
These later novels tend to showcase language as they seek to rewrite and
problematize history, self, story and gender. The illusion of truth created through
mimetic tradition is rendered suspect as the lines between fantasy and physical
reality become blurred. Their self-conscious writing tends to conflate story, history
161

162
and metatextual comment as the narrative slides between fact and fiction, between
true and false memories, between conscious and unconscious voices. With this
penchant for fantasy and the imagined, language and form also incline toward the
poetic.
Rochefort's last group of fictional narratives can also be associated with what
Philippe Lejeune has referred to as "l'áge de l'autobiographie. "("Nouveau Roman et
retour á l'autobiographie" VAuteur et le manuscrit, 51) Whatever the reasons, the
last fifty years has produced a notable proliferation of first-person narratives,
autobiographies, autobiographical novels', and what has been referred to by Serge
Doubrovsky as "autofiction."
L'autofiction, c'est la fiction que j'ai décidé, en tant qu'écrivain, de me
donner de moi-méme et par moi-méme, en y incorporant, au sens
plein du tenue, l'expérience de l'analyse, non point seulement dans la
thématique mais dans la production du texte.
("Autobiographie/Vérité/Psychanalyse", 96)
In this new autobiographical "space," the subconscious or inner workings of
the mind and the linguistic exploration of the unspoken and the imagined take
precedence over history or story in assigning "meaning" to the text. The text then, in
essence, creates fictions of a self. Raylene Ramsay, in her book The French New
Autobiographies (1996), comments that the most distinctive feature of this new
genre is "a telescoping of personal story and history and a reversible movement
between inside and outside that is 'complementary."(48) She contends that,
This is art, seeking not Truth but truths and aware of the impossible
nature of its enterprise. It is the act of the (im)possible moving
between life and language, and toward a new autobiography
(self/body/writing) out of (but not erasing) the old. (47)

163
For Ramsey the blended approach to writing the self becomes an emotional tightrope
between the concept of a single Cartesian subject ("I think therefore I am") and an
endlessly elusive identity deferred through slippages of language, caught between
"the 'wild territories' of the unsayable (the presymbolic) and the (symbolic) linguistic
order that constitutes the social self." (54)2
Rochefort's last group of novels/texts can be read as her own version of
autofiction. They seem to adhere to the notion put forth by Sidonie Smith that,
the autos, shattered by the influence of the unconscious and structured
by linguistic configurations beyond any single mind, may be nothing
more, and certainly nothing less, than a convention of time and space
where symbolic systems, existing as infinite yet always structured
possibility, speak themselves in the utterance of a parole. (A Poetics
of Women's Autobiography, 5)
The autobiographical text then becomes "a narrative artifice." (5) In these post¬
modern versions of first-person narratives, in which notions of authoritative speaker,
intentionality, truth, meaning and generic integrity are rejected, tension is created
"between poetics and historiography." (7) With an increased concern for the
"graphia" or writing, these intimate narratives seem more intent on creating fictions
of "the" self, however, rather than of "a" self. That is to say, these narratives are
concerned more about the ways identities of the self are constructed than the
construction of specific identity. The multiple voices and fictional characters in
Rochefort's novels, while at times bearing resemblance to the voice, personality and
life of the author herself, implicitly function rather as illustration that each
"self'exists as multiplicities, or other selves. An overarching theme in each of
Rochefort's last group of novels is a desire for totality in the inherently divided and
conflicted human being. They are studies in the workings of the unconscious, as each

164
different narrator struggles with the voices within and without in an effort to cope
with and understand his/her existence.
One of the figures in many of Rochefort's novels, and in her autofiction, has
been a recurrent theme in literature in general, that of the double. Appearing in
various guises, doubles put into relief the complexity of the personality at the interior
of the character and add dimension to the narrative. Just as time can be transformed
in narrative to permit reflection of the past within the present or a vision of the future
in the present (or past), doubles allow similar expansion of character. Doubles permit
the writer to describe the duality between body and spirit, between the sacred and the
profane. They are a means for an individual to look within, in a quest for identity and
personal subjectivity. They can function as an escape, a kind of exoticism or fantasy,
or as an expression of another reality, a blending of dream or vision and more
immediate physical circumstances. They can even serve as a doubling of the author,
a sort of shadow of an interior "muse" to whom s/he addresses questions. As in
Rimbaud's famous "je est un autre," the "I" becomes that "other" in order to become
spectator of his own thought.
Doubling can be understood as a form of reversal, of complementary
opposites; it too functions within the logic of carnival as Bakhtin explains it:
all the symbols of the carnival idiom are filled with this pathos of
change and renewal, with the sense of the gay relativity of prevailing
truths and authorities. We find here a characteristic logic, the peculiar
logic of the "inside out" (á l'envers), of the "turnabout," of a continual
shifting from top to bottom, from front to rear, of numerous parodies
and travesties, humiliations, profanations, comic crownings and
uncrownings. (Rabelais and His World, 11)

165
Doubling then, and carnival, embody relations and are a means for displaying
otherness.
Further linking the two, doubles and carnival, is the notion of theatricality or
spectacle. As Bakhtin notes, "because of their obvious sensuous character and their
strong element of play, carnival images closely resemble certain artistic forms,
namely the spectacle. "(7) Doubles permit display or exhibition of self as other, often
revealing an aspect of self that may otherwise be unrecognized or unacknowledged.
Use of the device functions as a kind of unmasking that can permit a sense of unity
or totality by identifying an aspect of the self that had not previously been
recognized. Bakhtin explains that,
we are constantly and intently on the watch for reflections of our own
life on the plane of other people's consciousness, and moreover, not
just reflections of particular moments of our life, but even reflections
of the whole of it.... If, however, these reflections do gain body in
our life, as sometimes happens,. . . they may condense to the point
where they deliver up to us a double of ourselves out of the night of
our life ("Author and Hero in Aesthetic activity," Art and
Answerability, ¡6)
The double, based on difference, is by nature duplicitous, dialogic, and
relative. The figure can take on many different forms. It may be evidenced by
variations in a character's name through the addition of suffixes that would suggest
the diminutive, the feminine, the precious or the grotesque. It may be assumed
behind a mask or other costume. Doubling may also be represented symbolically by
an animal, a mythical figure such as an angel, or a simple mirror image. Doubles can
also function as concrete representation of abstraction: wishes, fears, thoughts, or
associations. Often associated with theater, the double, like theatrical representation,

166
takes the form of spectacle. It presents illusion as reality, like the magic mirror of the
stage or film.
Doubles may exist in opposing relationships such as brother/sister,
mother/daughter, father/son, husband/wife, master/slave. Sometimes these opposing
relationships assume the form of androgynous couple. Tied to the desire for totality,
the fusion of opposites in this divided couple would aspire toward the creation of a
more original or ideal sexuality in which each sex would complement the other.3
The image of androgynous double also connects the desire for totality with that of
impossibility or infinity because it represents a quest for an elusive state to which an
individual aspires but can never achieve.
This chapter focuses on two particular aspects of Rochefort's final group of
novels: first, the novels as examples of the hybrid form of autofiction; and second, to
the double as a mechanism for exploration of issues of selfhood and identity in these
first-person narratives. In addition, the novels are read as examples of "carnivalized
writing" that is, as expressed by Simon Dentith,
writing which has taken the carnival spirit into itself and thus
reproduces, within its own structures and by its own practice, the
characteristic inversions, parodies and discrownings of carnival
proper. (65)
As autofiction, these novels refuse the parameters defining either novel or
autobiography, demonstrating instead an original blend of new and traditional forms
in the creation of a personal fictional voice. They enter the realm of carnival by this
spirit of "uncrowning" or refusal of authority set by existing norms of genre.
Because attention has already been given elsewhere to Rochefort's novel
La Porte du fond1, treatment of this novel is limited. Discussion of Quand tu vas

167
chez les femmes, a pivotal work in which Rochefort's fiction makes a leap into
metaphorical representation of reality, phantasmagoria and figurations of the
unconscious, precedes that of the last three texts on which little, if anything, has
been written or published: Le Monde esl comme deux chevaux, Conversations
sans paroles, and Adieu Androméde5.
Quand tu vas chez les femmes is a novel that can be read as an "acting out" of
the narrator's desires and fantasies. In it, Rochefort recreates an imaginative, dream¬
like world of reversals where no one and nothing are what they seem. As if in a hall
of mirrors, full of illusions, distortions, and contortions, the characters often seem
exaggerated versions of themselves. They are participants in sado-masochistic
games, in a world where reason and restraint give way to perversion, fetishism,
excess and dissimulation. The narrator's remark that, "la question c'est les limites et
moi je n'en ai pas"(35) applies not only to him, but to the narrative itself. In general,
the novel refuses markers that would delimit time, voice, and structure or separate
performance from illusion. Among the puns that playfully abound throughout the
text, the narrator's statement that, "l'interdit, voilá mon territoire"(47) is relevant to
both his perversely neurotic behavior and to what is going on and being said (dit) on
the inside, or at the (inter)ior of his subconscious, the territory of the narrative action.
Thematically, the narrative is directed at displaying and dispelling myths of
identity constructed within the human psyche. In particular, myths attached to gender
identities and the roles humans play as a result of these constructions. The female
characters take shape as embodiments of the many, long-standing fears and
misconceptions that some males have harbored with regard to women. Referring to

168
the explanation of this phenomenon in "The Uncanny," Freud states that "neurotic
men declare that they feel there is something uncanny about the female organs. This
unheimlich place... ,"(245)6 Women, it seems are ambivalent in the minds of some
men; their womb represents the original home or heim and is therefore associated
with familiarity, comfort and pleasure, yet it is hidden, mysterious, and therefore also
representative of danger. Freud goes on to say that, "the unheimlich is what was once
heimlich, familiar; the prefix 'un' is the token of repression."(245) The narrator of
Quand lu vas chez les femmes conjures up visions of these mythically ambivalent
women, struggles to cope with his perceptions, and in the end laughs derisively at the
existence of the whole, absurd situation that has caused him to experience feelings of
self hate and to endure tormented relationships with members of the opposite sex.
The narrating voice in Quand tu vas chez les femmes belongs to Bertrand, a
male psychoanalyst and writer, as well as masochistic exhibitionist, whose story here
takes on the tone of intimate journal, a literary form often associated with women.
He struggles to relate the disjointed and conflicted existence of his double life,(the
conventional aspect of his public life as psychoanalyst versus the unconventional and
private world of his sexual fantasies), in what he refers to as, "mon livre ... toumant
décidément au journal intime (tres) — qu'ai-je désormais, á perdre? En vérité au point
oü je suis je devrais dire: au testament. Que vous avez présentement sous les
yeux."(181)
The narrative opens with a heteroglossic allusion to Rimbaud's "Le bateau
ivre" as Bertrand reminisces:
Aux deux tiers du chemin de la vie, á peu prés, je ne me sentis plus
tiré par les haleurs.

169
On ne hale plus, énoncérent-ils dans leur langue. Vous n'avez
qu'á vous haler vous-memes. (7)
Rochefort's characteristic "ils" (a pronoun she uses without any specific reference,
like the vague English usage of "they" which would point to unidentified and/or
imagined power structures) is still present, giving out orders, and "dans leur langue,"
one that seems flawed with misrepresentation and misunderstanding. The narrator
recalls that pronouncement, and concedes that, in fact, at a certain juncture in life, he
finally did set out to "se haler" or "row his own boat" on what was left of the voyage
of his life. He would not be towed along by others: "done, nous nous dérivámes. . . .
(8)
The nous here is a significant shift from the je of the opening sentence. As
the narrative unfolds, and the doubling begins, the narrator's self is indeed laid open
as diverse. In addition, the statement could be read as an instance of double-voicing,
that is an autobiographical blending of Rochefort's own life experience and attitude
with that of the narrator. She, too, set herself apart from society and decided to live
by her own rules. Again, like the narrator, Rochefort once expressed a penchant for
"la vie á la derive." She commented that, "mon reve littéraire e'est la dérive totale.
C'est lá qu'on est vraiment branché." (Ma Vie revue el corrigée par i'auleur, 268)
From that abstract memory, Bertrand moves abruptly to a more physical one,
"je me retrouvai une fois de plus rue Saint-Denis"(8). And thus begins a weird tale of
sado-masochistic relationships which, at tale's end, turns out to have been a
concoction, a cocktail littéraire,7 representing the fantastical workings of the
narrator’s subconscious as he struggles to "see" and understand himself, and
particularly his relationship with women, through scenes drawn from both memory

170
and imagination. Typical of a dream-like experience, the tale moves between
memories and the flights of imagination they inspire. The adventure of sado¬
masochistic sex ends when, near the end of the novel, the narrator again finds
himself at the same spot, "je me dirigeais vers la rue Saint-Denis. "(174) In an ironic
rereading, reversing the redemptive moment of happiness that involuntary memory
recaptures through episodes of the madeleine and paving stone, in Proust,
Rochefort's narrator attempts to erase and leave forgotten fearful and unpleasant
memories:
Refaisant l'itinéraire de mon bonheur perdu, mes pas dans mes pas.
Une petite madeleine sous chaqué pavé. Ici, j'ai laissé mon offrance,
les pluies font effacée. (174)
Bertrand makes it clear that, as he has walked the streets of Paris, he has mentally
worked through deep-seated fears and subconscious fantasies. Through this
imaginative fantasy, he has finally come to understand himself and to derisively
reject previous misconceptions regarding women and his relationship to them. This
time, when he "goes to see the women," it is because he seeks and expects love.
—Tu n'en as pas encore assez pris? dit Macha, voyant mon
état, qu'est-ce que tu veux done encore?
—De l'amour.
—£a tombe bien, j'en vends. (174)
At this point, the narrative jumps abruptly back to Bertrand's life as
psychoanalyst. Having just worked through the entire, painful fantasy in his head as
he walked along the streets of Paris, he now goes back to his office. Late for work,
he washes off his face, and takes a dose of aspirin to try and chase away a terrible
headache, "je souffrais d'une atroce migraine—visiblement á peine extrait d'une vie

171
personne!le."(175) He is indeed weary, and tired of the book he is trying to write as
well.
Ne parlons pas de la vie qu'on appelle nórmale: il faut tout de mente
se montrer, parait-il. Ni de mon livre, qui n'avance pas vite, j'aimerais
pourtant qu'il soit fini avant moi. Je sens bien queje faiblis.. . . mes
forces me quittent. Le mal volupteux qui va m'emporter me ronge,
mon corps révolté ne tardera plus á me lácher et je connaitrai la paix
enfin. 6 Seigneur. (176-177)
The series of doubles that Bertrand encounters through the course of his lived
and fantastical experiences in the novel is closely linked to his doctoral thesis, Un
Oedipe dans une société matriarcale (59), inserted into the novel as mise-en-abyme.
The thesis was inspired by the sadistic fantasies of a female patient. Bertrand, too,
suffers miserably among women, "moi négligé répandu dans ma sanie, jejouis de la
jouissance noire et trés ancienne de n’etre rien dans un monde de femmes affairées..
. ."(15) The combination of the device of mise-en-abyme and the particular naming
of the main character in Rochefort’s novel is an instance of intertextuality or dialogue
with André Gide's Les Faux monnayeurs. In Gide’s novel, the principal character,
similarly named Bernard is writing a book called Les Faux monnayeurs. Both
novels deal with construction of reality.
Early on Bertrand experiences an identity crisis and expresses desire for his
own death:
Je suis ailleurs. Je ne vois plus rien, devant mes yeux tout est rouge
sombre, je suis empli de rouge sombre, empli de ma mort et n'est-ce
pas ce queje cherche si douloureusement, l'ápre mort depuis toujours
promise. Je vais l'avoir á la fin. (12)
He imagines his death as, "un maso trouvé mort dans un hotel de passe. Non
identifié. Sans identité, sans identité."(13)

172
Rochefort's narrative recalls Jung's explanation of the phenomenon of the
double as archetype of the shadow8. As the narrator's thoughts turn to death, his first
Biblical double emerges as a Christ figure:
Je pleure, je me mets á pleurer. Maman. Warum hast du mir
verlassen. Mais, c'est fini maintenant Mére chérie, nous allons nous
retrouver tous les deux. Aux enfers. (13)
The roles here are reversed. The role of God belongs to a woman. It is not God the
father, but God the mother. In the reenactment of the crucifixion, God and the Christ
figure will meet, not in heaven, but in Hell.
In another form of doubling, this suffering Christ figure appears in the form
of a dog. Collared and leashed, with a whip inserted in his rear as a tail, Bernard
walks on all fours down a public street,
je marcháis mon chátiment, je portáis ma croix oil il fallait et dans la
rue Saint-Denis. Vers le Golgotha des Lombards, avec mes deux
larronnes, parmi la foule des incroyants.(29)
The "tail" effectively becomes the "tale" that the narrator tells, as well as the tale or
story that those who observe him invent about him in their own minds. Macha, one
of the prostitutes that he has gone to visit, puts the whip in, humiliates and degrades
him, and orders him to behave like a dog. (Macha, her name a shortened form of
machoire, a menacing allusion to powerful biting or crushing, and a figure of a
castrating woman, is also doubled in a reference by the narrator to her as "l'énorme
serpent.")(l 1). She beats him repeatedly with the whip before inserting it and tells
him, "tu sais que des choses comme toi 9a ne devrait pas exister?"(l 1) She is a
symbol of death as she threatens his very existence.

173
Other Biblical figures also emerge as doubles. The narrator sees his evil self
in Satan, for example:
Je le savais! Satan avait sommeillé en moi jusqu'á cet instant, II
s'éveillait, II se manifestait enfin dans la Réalité, s'incamait, et c'était
moi. Moi! O hypostase, moi, tel queje suis des avant ma naissance.
J'avais trouvé mon visage originel, j'eus un éblouissement -- le
sartori? (31)
The spectacle of his costume and dog-like behavior on a pubic street silences the
crowd and causes the people to stand aside and stare. Their behavior permits the
narrator to think of himself as powerful, controlling their reactions. Yet another
double comes to his mind, the figure of Moses parting the waters: "Je fais le partage
du silence, tel Moi'se celui des eaux. Orgueilleuse puissance, payée du sacrifice de
ma dignité, l'exaltant paradoxe."(37)
It is always in his role of dog that the narrator becomes an exhibitionist, a
spectacle. The spectacle is a means of increasing his degradation. He relates, "Je me
livre á une véritable danse du cul sous leur nez, réclamant leur attention --j'ai tous
les droits, par-dessus tout celui d'aller jusqu'au bout de mon ridicule, de mon horreur
de moi."(16) He confesses to being an exhibitionist and to having "le vague reve
jadis caressé de passer devant les caméras."(44) Again on a public sidewalk, on all
fours and licking the boots of the woman he refers to as "l'Ange Exterminates9," he
relates,
Je m'y trainai comme au pélerinage, aprés elle. Nous avions a present
un modeste public de trois personnes — ils nous prenaient pos un
théátre! les niais. Si bien piégés dans le spectacle qu'inaptes désormais
á en distinguer la Réalité nue sous leur nez.... Notre public se
demandad sans doute quel était le sujet de la piece. (75)

174
When Macha orders him to expose himself, he gladly complies, "J'ótai le manteau, et
je me déployai devant la foule dans ma splendeur (j'avais bien sur remis le pantalón
décousu) et... j'étais la risée générale, j'étais au comble...(79) Often the
spectacle is purely in his mind, a kind of interior movie in which he is the star
performer: "je me passai et me repassai le film qui se déroulait lá-haut, et dont j'étais
l'inventeur."(92)
Other important doubles are female figures: Bertrand's estranged wife
Malaure, the sadistic prostitute Macha, the fantastical figure of l'Ange Exterminates
(also referred to as Petra), and the beautiful and gentle Edwine. Their names are
significant. Malaure, for example, euphonically suggests the French malheur as well
as ma! "aura", or even ma "aura" (my double); Petra refers to the power of the
Medusa to turn men into stone. Both are castrating figures. All of their relationships
with the narrator are sexual, and, most often, his role is one of subservience. The
women are masterful; he is their slave.
Although the narrator's relationship with Malaure is somewhat more
nurturing, it is grounded in deception,
Malaure et moi,.. ,ne nous accolons pas dans le monde, préférant
garder les mains libres. Certaines de nos relations ignorent méme que
nous nous connaissons. Taime ces jeux, qui obligent á garder un
contróle parfait des niveaux de mensonge.(49)
They understand one another, "elle seule, je crois, connait ma misére."(56) She was
the patient with sado-masochistic fantasies that inspired his thesis "Oedipus in a
matriarchal society." (Interestingly, one reason she agreed to marry Bertrand was to
abandon her maiden name, Mile de Rothen, which she also did not wish to pass on to
their child, Simone. Pronounced aloud, it bears euphonic resemblance to the English

175
"rotten.") The narrator's relationship with their daughter is a source of further
degradation. Bertrand confesses, "c'est un échec, cette petite me hait aujourd'hui. Elle
est lesbienne de la fai;on la plus outranciére, militante, antimále extrémiste, ainsi
qu'anti-freudienne de choc.''(64) For the most part Malaure is elusive. Bertrand
relates that, "en aucun cas elle ne ferait interférence dans mes affaires de coeur si je
ne l'y invite. "(51) Importantly, however, Bertrand fantasizes about Malaure, "quand
elle n'était pas lá, je la fantasmais."(105) She is like his inspiration, his muse, but a
muse that torments him.
Both the figures of Edwine and I'Ange Exterminates are pure fantasy.
L'Ange first appears to Bertrand in the women's restroom of a local bar. He is there,
contemplating himself in the mirror while he masturbates, "dans les toilettes d'un
bistrot je me suis vu dans la glace, et je me suis mis á me branler, branler comme un
dingue.... (19), when a young woman comes in and sees him.
Un instant elle m'a regardé, comme figée, muette, les yeux fixes je la
voyais dans le miroir. Une trés jeune femme, une jeune filie.... elle
était belle comme I'Ange Exterminateur dont á l'instant l'image me
féconda. . .. (19-20)
This figure, also referred to as Pétra, comes back repeatedly throughout the course of
the narrative, wearing black boots and armed with a camera. She is constantly taking
pictures of Bertrand in various postures, and making notes in a little journal. These
pictures will be on display on the refrigerator door at the end of the novel, further
revealing to Bertrand's own gaze his multiple selves. They will provide a final,
summarizing spectacle. Here, although not cast in stone, Bertrand's image becomes
fixed, stone-like, through the magic of Petra's camera eye. It is not accidental that

176
they are seen appropriately "affixed,11 as though stone cold, to the door of the
refrigerator.
Edwine appears to Bertrand only near the end of the narrative, while he is
under the table, apparently at a dinner party. He imagines her among the guests.
Edwine est tres belle.... elle semblait l'héroi'ne de l'Age d'Or....
Edwine, la tres soumise.... (157-159)
She represents innocence, purity, serenity, the bliss of happy home and hearth, the
male ideal of woman. She voices fantasies of pleasure that coincide with those of the
narrator, as he listens from underneath the table:
Elle dirait: j'aurai des servants autant que j'en veux. J'aurai tout ce que
je veux. Méme l'argent. ... J'ai une grande maison sur la mer, plein
de collines autour, des cigales. Des rossignols. C'est-á-dire elle est á
toi aussi... L'odeur du tabac s'effluve jusqu'á moi, mélée aux autres
ivresses.. .. Les douces cuisses s'entrouvriraient á moi, et moi, par
elles, par le plaisir affleurant au visage l'inondant, émergeant lá-haut
comme la vague sur la mer, je la toucherais, Elle, l'intouchable.
Fantasmes.(163)
Bertrand's location is symbolic. He, like his subconscious thoughts, is hidden
beneath the surface. Edwine's name also seems symbolic or suggestive. A feminized
form of Edward, the name is ambiguously situated between the two genders. She
may be understood as an embodiment of Bertrand's own suppressed feminine nature,
another kind of doubling.
Like Malaure and Edwine, the Ange Exterminateur is elusive and dream-like.
Bertrand struggles to remember,
vis-je ou révai-je le rictus dévoilant Ies canines? Elle passa, se dirigea
vers la sortie. Ne répondit point. Elle était parfaite.
Je me rappelle comme en un songe avoir vu Malaure glisser devant
moi, au plus pres, coupant le champ: il n'est point de barriere
inffanchissable pour Malaure, simples lois physiques. . . . Malaure
disparut. . . . Je suivis l'Ange.

177
Un bref instant elle s'était arrétée sur le seuil. II pleuvait. Elle rangea
son appareil et, les mains dans les poches partit sous la pluie. (51)
The Ange/double always appears as either spectator or as spectacle,
je la revis loin devant comme si elle avait fait un bond, ou que Ton eüt
coupé la bande. Je la perdis encore. Je la retrouvais chaqué fois plus
loin dans le film, pareil á un cauchemar.. . . (54)
At the end of this particular experience, Bertrand shakes himself awake, further
characterizing the Ange Exterminateur as dream or fantasy, "bien longtemps aprésje
me relevai comme d'un long sommeil, d'une maladie, tout s'est déroulé dans une
hypnose de joie parfaite."(55) His realization that his fantasy is unacceptable or
unhealthy is evident in his reference to "une maladie."
L'Ange Exterminateur is always present, watching, when Bertrand makes a
spectacle of himself. On one particular occasion the narrator experiences a
transformation or mutation which he refers to as "la Nuit transfigurante ... qui me
transmua en un moi de moi inconnu .., un moi sauvage."(l 17) He does not
recognize his reflection in the mirror: "je m'étais pris ma parole pour un Autre .. .
tombé d'un Ailleurs d'un Jadis et d'un Autrement."(120) When he looks into the
mirror, it is not his own face but Petra's that he sees: "tout au fond du miroir, je vis
1'Ange."(120) He is l'Ange; each is an extension, a double of the other.
L'Ange is present, not only watching as he "gives birth” to the whip in his
rear, but she plays a flute and "charms" it like a snake to come out. One might read
here a metaphor of the muse who brings out the "tail/tale." A multiple
transformation takes place at the birth,
j'accouchais oui elles avaient dit plus vrai qu'elles ne pensaient, et je
connaissais qu’accoucher est un long orgasme, je pleurais je riáis je
délirais, á la fin je crois je poussai un cri, mon premier cri, et je me

178
laissai aller doucement sur le flanc, souriant délivré, le nouveau-né
c'était moi! (84)
Metaphorically, the self gives birth to the tail/tale that is, in fact, the self (or at least
an extension of self as off-spring).
Finally, in the last pages of the novel, in a moment of epiphany, a light-filled
vision of l'Ange Exterminateur, wings out-stretched, sword in hand, appears to the
trembling narrator. At her appearance, a transformation or mutation occurs as the
narrator experiences a flood of release from the tension created in his subconscious
by the specter of all these female doubles:
mon nom, ma position, mon travail, tout y passa, comme une bonde
qui s'ouvre, le reláchement, le débordement, la délivrance, et
l'assouvissement et l'incontinence totale et l'urine et le sperme et les
larmes, je m'en allais de partout, c'était la purgation profonde, le
peché aboli, la joie parfaite. L'accomplissement d'une prophétie
délivrée dans des chiottes... .
En haut de l'amphi, les ailes déployées. La beauté sans merci; inutile
de me retoumer, Elle me transperce. Un silence s'est fait. Elle est lá.
Elle vient d'entrer. Je T’attendais. Elle resplendit m'enveloppe de
lumiére me pénétre entier, rayon gamma qui va m'irradier me mettant
á nu jusqu’aux os, me retoumant comme un poulpe débusquant mon
mensonge, ma double vie découverte á tous... .(185)
He tries to revive the old discourse that has shaped his thinking with regard to
women, but he is unsuccessful:
j'arrache de ma gorge le discours ancien ... la parole hachée le
souffle court. ... [and finally,] Comment parlerais-je, la gorge
scellée. Je me tais.... Acceptant que soit blessé á mort l'Idée qui me
fait existen .. .(187-188)
She has effectively silenced him and the discourse that he represents. The scene ends
with the heteroglossic entrance of another, new language, a new "voice" as the
narrator imagines his own effacement.

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As earlier ("Warum hast du mir verlassen"), the language is German.
Rochefort dialogically juxtaposes the sacred and the profane. The rue St. Denis
becomes the site of prostitution and sado-masochistic encounters. The German
language evokes physical and psychological destruction, or effacement, wrought
upon France by Hitler's nazi Germany during the war. He states,
je n'ai ríen entendu. Je suis seul. Je me trouve au tableau, du chiffon
effa?ant, effacant á n'en plus finir, quoi? moi, d'évidence. M’effaijant.
Es ist vollbracht [It is accomplished/finished.](188)
The narrator’s reference here is again to the suffering of Christ; the Bible records
these as Christ's final words at his crucifixion.
Paul Coates, in his study on the figure of the double in literature, has made
several interesting comments on writing in a foreign language, a phenomenon which
occurs with some frequency in Rochefort’s fiction:
if writing is a dark mirror of events, writing in a foreign language is a
complex alibi.. . .The use of a foreign language somehow distances
all one's statements and hands over the responsibility for them to a
persona. ... the foreign language imparts an aura to events as Latin
does to the Mass. . . . Yet writing in an alien tongue is also --
dialectically — itself a form of suicide, of living death, of alienation of
the means of self-expression. ... (94-95)
Effectively, the insertion of a foreign language here serves several purposes. It
enhances the aura of the event being described and tends to draw attention to the
moment within the narrative. For the character to "speak in tongues" creates a
mystical effect and functions as an outward manifestation of inner transformation.
As Coates further suggests, the sudden appearance of the alien language would
signal a death or suicide, in this case, the death of a former self, and of a previous
mode of self expression.

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After this point, Bertrand no longer has a relationship with any of the women.
Edwine disappears from view riding on a large, black motorcycle: "la machine rugit
et s'envola au bout de la rue. Assomption.”(165) The association here is with the
Virgin Mary and her assumption into heaven. Comically, she flies off to heaven, not
on a broom, but empowered by her own shiny phallic symbol. As for l'Ange, she is
quite independent. The narrator observes, "elle a ce qu'elle veut. Elle a tout. Elle est
la reine. Elle vole de ses propres ailes. L'Ange." (192) She too flies away,
independent, and under the power of her own wings.
Malaure tells him, "moi non plus, cher, je n'ai pas besoin de toi.... A propos,
j’ai demandé le divorce. J'ai finalement trouvé ma voie."(193) When Bertrand
inquires about what that is, she tells him simply, "moi. Je vais écrire nos mémoires."
(my italics, 193) The use of the plural possessive here is significant and can be read
as reference to her plural selves. Another reading could be her assumption of power
as writer and creator of story or history, ("her/story"). In the first quote, her use of
the word "voie" is not innocent. Aloud the words "voie" and "voix" are
indistinquishable. She is ready now to tell a different tale, from her perspective, in
her own voice. She will have her turn to explore her/their female memories and
fantasies, to give a new, different account of the female self/selves and their
relationships.
As the novel ends, the narrator looks over the collection of photographs
ostensibly posted on the door of his refrigerator in the kitchen. The kitchen is
significant because it is an analeptic reference to a remark made earlier in the text
after his wife, Malaure, has just sodomized him: "je demeurai sur les ffoides dalles.

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Me demandant si j'allais désormais passer ma vie érotique dans des cuisines."(149)
Thus, it represents the place where he has experienced, and perhaps will experience
again, fulfillment of his erotic fantasies. The kitchen is also emblematic as a place to
"cook up" something, to concoct, to create. It is a place most often associated with
women: "a woman's place is in the kitchen." As he looks at the images, purportedly
left there by l'Ange, he ruminates,
II me restait la cuisine.
Lá, dans le dernier lieu oil je viváis encore, elles étaient étalées sur le
frigo, en 18/24. toutes, depuis le début. Les miennes, sur chacune de
mes faces intéressantes: l'inaugurale, au cocktail; chez elle, en tablier
á festons, lavant par terre; fouettant Ferdinand sur son plateau; nu, en
chien....
Belles photos. Bonnes prises. De quoi constituer un superbe album.
Une magnifique exposition (en anglais: exhibition). (94)
In a final reversal of roles, Bertrand is left, at the end, in the woman's traditional
domain.
The last page, in true carnival fashion, ends in hilarity, les fous rires. It is a
final release of tension, a fulfilling, totalizing laughter.
Je suis pris d'un rire irrepressible. Somptueux. Totalitaire. Je ne peux
pas m'arréter. . .. Je ris pour la premiere fois depuis que j'existe, je ris
tout, je ris ma vie entiére. Le monde, cette plaisanterie divine, je ris
aux larmes. Nu, dépouillé de tout, je ris á en mourir et j'en meurs, je
ris mon dernier instant, j'arriverai Seigneur devant Vous, en joie.
(195)
The cocktail (cock's tale or male's imaginative perception of the nature of woman) is
derisively rejected, the myth dispelled. It is laughter blended with that of the implied
author who laughs with Bertrand and at him, and at the whole state of affairs, "le
monde, cette plaisanterie divine." Bertrand is left, alone, in the company of
photographs that record his ridiculous behavior as though to suggest one last time,

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"quand tu vas chez les femmes, voilá ce que tu vois\ Que c'est ridicule! Regarde-toi-
méme! Mets-toi en spectacle! Finissons avec ces illusions.1'
Sex, throughout Rochefort's fiction, plays an important role, perhaps most
particularly in this last group of narratives. In Quand tu vas chez les femmes,
Rochefort rather daringly embeds her narrator in explicit sadomasochistic attitudes
and behaviors generally scorned by society. In La Porte du fond, another taboo
subject, incest, figures as an organizing theme. As analysis will reveal, however, it is
not sexual activity but sexually determined identity that is the central issue in these
later texts.
In La Porte du fond, the narrating voice is that of a young woman who
retrospectively analyzes her present, mature self against a childhood self that was
forced to deal with the unwanted sexual advances of her father. As does Bertrand,
she feels her life, her existence, her self, conflicted and divided. For her too,
boundaries between the world of fantasy and dreams and that of harsh physical
realities often blur. The narrating voice of the child relates,
Maintenant j'ai une triple vie.
Un, une vie secrete obligatoire de débauche obligatoire avec problémes
moraux sans issue, derriére une porte fermée.
Deux, une vie officielle de bonne petite écoliére et scoute catho.... et
en complément de programme une vie familiale en trompe-l'oeil. . . .
(195)
This triple life extends even further, she explains, to include secret sexual encounters
with her uncle in a nearby cemetery as well as her "vieille vie secrete de réve . . .
avec aventures androgynes" where she would have "permission de goüter au fruit de
l'Arbre de Vie."(195)

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Although the narrative proceeds a-chronologically, it is tightly structured.
The novel is divided into nine sections indicated by Roman numerals, each of which
is further subdivided into titled mini-chapters. Part I recalls a time of innocence;
Parts II and III present opposing images of the father as Prince and as Ogre; in Part
IV the voice of rebellion forcefully emerges; Part V deals with persistent memories;
Part VI confronts the hidden and unspoken, symbolically represented by the image of
the book's title, the interior door or the door in the back; Part VII is a mise-en-abyme
presenting the narrator's play that bears the same title as the novel, a kind of shared
acting-out by a cast of numbered faux-semblants\ Part VIII introduces an incestuous
relationship of a different nature with an uncle. Finally, Part IX appeals for
complicity with the reader in reading "through" the silence of the unspoken or in
opening the symbolic door in order to bring out into the open what has for so long
remained hidden. In reference to her chosen symbol, the narrator relates that, on the
set of her play of the same title:
Je voyais déjá, tout au fond du décor, cette porte toujours refermée,
derriére laquelle on ne sait pas ce qui se passe.
Et devant, tout du trompe-l'oeil. (147)
The theme of the hidden and unspoken permeates the structure of the novel in
a fusion of form and content. On the title page, the printed designation "roman"
functions doubly as disclaimer behind which the writer may hide from any claims of
autobiographical recounting and as reminder that the narrative is a work of the
imagination. It further sets up tension, from the beginning, between what is fictive
and what is recognizable or autobiographical in the personal life of the implied
author. In a remark that seems appropriate to Rochefort's novel, the narrator admits

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(here in reference to the Catholic practice of confession), "j'aime, au coeur de
l’hypocrisie, mettre une touche de vérité."(92)
Present tense verbs set the scene for narration that will continue, at times, in
the passé composé, imparfait and passé simple, leaving gaps of time unaccounted
for. Again, in an offhand remark that would apply to the structure of the novel and
the blurring of time lines for the implied reader, the narrator confesses, "je distingue
mal dans le passé entre le présent et le futur."(55) Frequent use of analepse, ellipsis,
sentence fragments, and blank space additionally creates gaps that suggest
suppressed events and words. Occasionally pronouns without antecedents also find
their way into the dialogic mix. Style is never innocuous, as Rochefort's intellectual
narrator ironically reminds her implied, equally intellectual reader:
Les doctes nous expliquent au moyen du iangage (c'est ce qu'ils ont)
que par le Iangage on ne saurait communiquer. C'est bien vrai. Ils en
sont la preuve. Par le Iangage on ne communique pas, ok. Mais par le
style, oui, on communique, oh oui! (19)
Like all of Rochefort's writing. La Porte du fond is highly intertextual. These
heteroglossic voices from other works derive from a range of fictional and non-
fictional writing that includes such various figures as Nabokov, Freud, Maupassant,
Blake, Shakespeare, Aristophanes, Socrates, Moliére, Rostand, Baudelaire, Rimbaud,
Breton, Éluard, Proust, Louys, Mann, Irigaray, Duras, her own work, and, as always,
the Bible. Each introduces implicit messages to the present writing, providing
imaginative and expanded reading possibilities. In a sense, each intertextual voice or
entry opens a new "crack" in the symbolic door.
Recalling a technique used by Marguerite Duras in L'Amant (1984), the point
of departure for the narrative is a non-existent photo, a metaphor that will recur in

185
Rochefort's subsequent novel, Conversations sans paroles. Speaking in the
conditional tense, the narrator describes an image of her own angelic innocence, at
age five, depicted in this remembered, or imagined, photo. Now, the innocence and
the photo are lost.
La photo je ne peux pas la montrer pour preuve, et avec le look que
j'ai maintenant, de l’ange on chercherait en vain la trace.
Je ne l'ai plus malheureusement je l'ai perdue, au cours de ma vie
errante. La photo. Je ne garde rien.
Ah, je ne suis pas née monstre.
Tout était á faire. (31)
In a mini-chapter entitled "Métamorphoses de la photo souvenir," the voice of the
mature narrator acknowledges that time, and the imagination, transform and even
create images in the memory.
Ma mémoire passe directement de avant á aprés. Des morceaux ont
sauté de mon film, et non des moindres. Pour ainsi dire je ne les
connais plus que par déduction: il a bien fallu qu'ils aient eu lieu. Ma
téte sait ce qu'ils sont. Mais je ne les vois pas. Et moins encore les
sens'. ?a, rien á faire. (55)
She suggests that as a part of this distancing and the accompanying transformation
and rearranging of memory that occurs in the process, a kind of understanding
emerges:
je ne comprenais rien au moment oh 9a se passait. Pendant. Dans le
present.
Au fait, est-ce qu'on comprend jamais dans le present? (57)
The narrator's mental image of her father began to change when she was
eight. From the smiling Prince Charming on the original photo, a series of more
threatening forms present themselves as alternate images, or doubles, to the narrator.
Recalling the photo, she sees him instead as a menagerie of salacious and unsavory

186
figures: a grinning, self-satisfied Cheshire cat, a voracious ogre, and a spider
spinning its web of entrapment.
In a chapter entitled "Des papas de reve," the narrator recalls a series of father
figures that she had imagined as her own. These "other" father figures, or doubles, all
would have had something to offer her that was missing in her own relationship with
her actual father. Among these were the fathers of her acquaintances: Douchka's
father, un papa exolique, and therefore interesting and exciting; Sylvia's father,
conservator of the botanical gardens and knowledgeable about nature; Giséle's father,
who was béte and easy to trick; or even Odette's father who slapped his kids around.
Odette ne cachait pas ses malheurs. Elle pouvait causer, elle. Les
beignes c'est officiel. Au catalogue. Moi pas. De moi on ne parlait
pas, je n'étais nulle part. J’étais un secret honteux. Et honte j'avais. De
ce qui m'arrivait. A moi. Unique de mon espéce. Avec de la marmaille
pour partager ce serait quand méme moins triste. Et peut-étre
ensemble on aurait fait la revolution.
Oui n'importe quoi valait mieux que ce que j'avais.(65)
Other men who played the role of imaginary father double were a Mr. Burton,
always away on business trips, and her father's brother Paul, "charmant, et possédant
une auto ... qu'il ait quelque chose quoi."(64)
Further complicating and adding to the narrative tension, the narrator sees
herself too in multiple images. Her doubles include those of angel, clown, whore, Job
(of the Bible), Roxanne (character in the novel she imagines herself writing, and
allusion to the heroine of Cyrano de Bergerac), and several animal figures such as a
rat and a goat ("la chévre de M. Séguin"). "Je suis un paradoxe!"(45) she admits, a
mentally complicated one:
c'est comme je "sentáis", Dieu avait deux tetes. Les deux me donnent
des ordres.

187
"Viens ici", dit l'une, et l'autre: "Sors de la!"
Et n'allez pas croire que "Viens ici" serait Le Pére (bien qu’il fait dit
hélas souvent), et "Sors de la" La Mere, intérieure. Cest trop simplet.
Les deux étaient moi.(54)
In another passage, when her actual state becomes too difficult, she escapes
into fantasy that would separate her from the undesirable by imagining part of herself
as dead and part as "other." Here that "other" takes animal form:
Lors, la petite chévre de M. Seguin se couche sur la prairie dans sa
belle fourrure blanche qui ne l'est plus, ayant fait ce qu'elle pouvait.
Je m'inventai absente. Coupée en deux, un morceau qui était moi et
l'autre non. Je me fis morte.(lOO)
This doubling also results in a polyphonic multiplication of narrative voices.
At the base of the dialogic interaction, the voice of the mature adult, who remembers,
functions as the warp over and under which the diverse other voices are layered to
form the woof in a tapestry of textual voices. In addition to voices of other characters
in the novel, voices of narrator/child and narrator/young adult echo scenes from the
past. Interspersed with these, the narrator/child's suppressed or interior voice finally
becomes explicit in passages guilefully tagged, for example, "n'ai-je pas dit."(18)
Additionally, a persistent, parenthetical voice sarcastically derides the voices of
others while, at other times, a familiar voice splits from both child and adult,
bantering and retorting, to question motives and desires. Then, there is the voice of
the implied author that appears occasionally to offer philosophic advice or to invoke
complicity on the part of the implied reader.
In the following passage, taken from the second chapter of the first section,
focus shifts to the relationship between mother and daughter and to attitudes toward
the daughter's writing career. Here, sounding rather painfully autobiographical, both

188
in tone and in content, the voices of implied author and autodiegetic narrator mingle
with that of the character's mother.
A la fin, il y eut ce dialogue. Vingt ans de recherche d'allumettes le
séparaient du précédent. Elle dit:
Tu fes bien débrouillée dans la vie. Et:
Tu t'es bien fait ta publicité.
Toi qui te pretendáis idéaliste. Qui voulais tout casser... .(diriger une
agence de pub en effet 9a n'en a pas trop l'air. Et l'idée de derriére la
tete est par definition irrévélée).
Je dis, finalement: Tu parles comme mes ennemis. Tu parles comme
les gens qui ne connaissent pas. Et:
Si tu m'avais retrouvée rue Saint-Denis dans le malheur je crois que tu
aurais été plus satisfaite.
Elle dit, encore: J’espére que tu ne vas pas étaler toute ta vie dans les
joumaux.
(Je n'avais encore donné qu'une interview, assortie de photos, sur ma
position actuelle, peu courante alors pour une femme).
Je répliquai: Pourquoi non?
II y a des choses qu'on ne dit pas. (16,17)
Like the narrator of her novel, Rochefort was already of a mature age when
she wrote this book; she was seventy-one years old. Also like her narrator, she had
begun to look back and assess her life in an attempt to understand who she was, and
the various forces that had influenced her sense of self. In the scene just quoted, the
narrator recalls a conversation that she had had as a young adult, twenty years
earlier, with her mother. The mother's penchant for reflexive forms when speaking of
her daughter betrays her unspoken thought that her daughter has been self-centered
and self-serving. Her choice of words such as "pretendáis," "voulais tout casser" and
her expressed hope that her daughter noI make her private life public, all suggest

189
that, in general, she views her daughter negatively. The narrator is sensitive to these
nuances, particularly now, as she recalls them.
In a gesture very like Rochefort herself, the narrator reacts vigorously in the
passage immediately following where the voice of the autodiegetic narrator takes up
again in an address to her implied reader. The lack of punctuation in the run-on
construction here contributes to the sense of breathless, harried anger and frustration:
Le lendemain á l'aube j'ai sauté chez le notaire et je me suis donné le
ridicule d'un testament, car vous ne savez ni le jour ni l'heure: comme
quoi je retire a tout parent de prés ou de loin y compris á naitre le
droit de mettre ses pattes dans ce queje pourrais laisser aprés moi
d'aucune sorte, scripto audio visuo et á inventer et á jamais.
Pas que j'eusse alors produit quoi que ce soit de la moindre
pérennité. Mais je ne supporte pas et je ne supporte pas et voilá. (17)
In a passage during which the voice of the narrator/child plots aloud the
events of her novel-to-be, the narrating voice suddenly splits and a metatextual
dialogue begins between the two halves of the divided self that they now represent.
Qu'est-ce qu'il a fait de mal? II n'a pas joué au chat et la souris fait
chanter ni sorti les armes. II m'aimait...
En somme ce qui me manquait c'est l'amour et la démocratie?
D'ailleurs si tu le tues on sera en plein mélo.
Lá tu as raison c'est un argument. Et si je ne le tue pas on sera ou?
On sera heureux.
Ah oui, une béte histoire d'amour, alors lá on plonge en pleine
guimauve... . (66)
Taking up the narrative thread again after an ellipsis, the voice of the
narrator/character blends with that of the father figure in her novel-to-be. Further
drawing attention to the duality of the narrating voices, the father figure addresses
the narrator/character by using a plural pronoun form:
Le papa pendant ce temps-lá posé sur son fil sur un pied attend, je
tombe, je tombe pas? qu'est-ce que vous décidez les filies mettez-vous
d'accord.... (67)

190
The voice of the mature autodiegetic narrator dominates the ending of the
novel. In a series of mini-chapters this voice sympathetically addresses her implied
readers to impart the wisdom of experience and a sense of optimism for the future of
her self and of others like her. Having shaken the guilt associated with her past, she
encourages others to do the same:
Perdez l'illusion bonnes gens, assis dans la croyance que les malheurs
passés doivent labourer la mémoire la vie durant... perdez l’illusion
morale, si joliment plantée dans vos ames coupables.... (238)
Alluding to woman's dilemma of being tandemly situated between two discourses10,
the symbolic associated with the father and the pre-symbolic or semiotic associated
with the mother, the narrator looks back at herself compassionately:
Je me rappelle pourtant. Je n'oublie pas. C'est lá. C’est bien moi. Je me
retrace: bonjour, petite. Je te regarde par le gros bout de la lorgnette,
je faperqois lá-bas, ligotée dans ton double noeud de vache. (239)
The last line of the novel makes her present condition clear. The door has been
opened; the secret is out; she has survived the torturous relationship. She parts with
"le sourire du survivant."(242) As for her abusive father, she suggestively states that,
ce n'est pas pour ce qu'il eut de spécial qu'il a sa place ici.
c'est par ce qu'il a de commun. (241)
Sidonie Smith characterizes women's autobiography, not only as a
transgression of cultural expectations of her authority to speak publicly, but as a
response to fictions of her self that ultimately affects structure, rhetorical strategies,
and thematic preoccupations of autobiographical writing in general. In sketching a
poetics of women's autobiographical writing, Smith understands the "self' of
autobiography,

191
not to be an a priori essence . . . but rather a cultural and linguistic
'fiction' constituted through historical ideologies of selfhood and the
processes of our storytelling . .. [combined with] the contextual
influence of historical phenomena . . . [and] those intertexts that
shape the autobiographer's self-interpretation. The autobiographer
joins together facets of remembered experience — descriptive,
impressionistic, analytic — as she constructs a narrative.... (45)
Because the writer cannot hope to recapture the fullness of her subjectivity or
understand the range of her experience, the fixtive / becomes a version of self.
Bakhtin, in his concept of the dialogic imagination, also rejects the notion of a
private and isolated self. He suggests, rather, that humans are necessarily social
beings who are
surrounded by ideological phenomena, by object-signs of various
types and categories ... by scientific statements, religious symbols
and beliefs, works of art, and so on. All of these things in their totality
comprise the ideological environment, which forms a solid ring
around man. And man's consciousness lives and develops in this
environment. (The Formal Method in Literary Scholarship, 14)
Women's autobiographical writing, suggests Smith, tends to be especially attentive to
personal interconnectedness between self and world.
Smith further distinguishes a woman's autobiographical writing as influenced
by the fact that she brings a particularly troubled relationship to her reader. She
knows that she is being read as woman. Thus, she contends,
often, projecting multiple readers with multiple sets of expectations,
she responds in a complex double-voicedness, a fragile heteroglossia
of her own, which calls forth charged dramatic exchanges and
narrative strategies. . . . Always, then, she is absorbed in a dialogue
with her reader, that 'other' through whom she is working to identify
herself and to justify her decision to write about herself in a genre that
is man's.... That situating of the autobiographer in two universes of
discourse accounts for the poetics of women's autobiography and
grounds its difference. . . .Manifest in women's autobiography,
therefore, is a kind of double helix of the imagination that leads to a
double-voiced structuring of content and rhetoric. The voices of man

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and woman, of Adam and Eve, vie with one another, displace one
another, subvert one another in the constant play of uneasy
appropriation or reconciliation and daring rejection. Those tensions
play themselves out differently depending on the imaginative power,
artistic talent, and breadth of experience of the individual
autobiographer and on her degree of self-consciousness about her
place in patriarchal culture. (49-51)
Smith's assessment of women's autobiographical writing project is precisely
in line with Rochefort's last group of novels, particularly the last three that will be
discussed here: Le Monde est comme deux chevaux (1984), Conversations sans
paroles (1997), and Adieu Androméde (1997). Here, ongoing thematic issues are
combined with the contextual influence of specific social and historical phenomena
and cast in the light of their determining influence on the construction of self. It is
also in Le Monde est comme deux chevaux that Rochefort's preoccupation with death
begins and, along with it, an intensified interest in the act of writing as an extension
and preservation of self. The cover illustration for this novel is a detail taken from
the funerary banner that covered the sarcophagus of Han the first of Mawangtouei in
Tch'ang-cha, China in 141 B.C. The image depicts a central figure tethered to two
horses pulling in opposite directions, a cat-like animal on each of their backs.
Dragons threaten from the outside edges while large, sharp-beaked birds peck at the
head of the figure in the middle.
In the collection, "La part obscure," the editor's request of the writer (as
quoted on the back cover of the novel) is to produce a text that is in some way unlike
others that s/he has written, to offer readers a bit of "ce que je suis aussi." It is, in a
way, an invitation to imaginative self-analysis and self-revelation. Rochefort
certainly meets the challenge with this novel in which all of the seemingly disparate

193
sections, when fitted together, produce a portrait of the narrating conscience, as the
writer wills that portrait to be perceived. Further, and importantly, the text suggests
that this contextual influence of historical phenomena exists in the determination of
all "selves."
The novel is one of the most polyphonic of all of Rochefort's texts. Its pages
bring in extraneous voices from news items published and announced around the
globe in a style reminiscent of the U.S.A. trilogy by John Dos Passos. Exhibiting an
acute awareness of the social and political dimensions in which self and text are
produced, personal text and historical context intersect to raise issues of subjectivity
and gender.
This self-discovery is a process in which readers participate and through
which they also may construct their own identities. The narrator frequently
implicates the reader, by questioning, by direct address using both familiar and plural
forms, and by referring to the her situation as one shared jointly, "nous devenons un
peuple. . .. Nos frontiéres se déplacent sans cesse."(24) The way to that discovery,
however, is anything but clear. Attention must be given not only to the voices that
speak, but to the words those voices utter. As the narrator notes in the early pages of
the novel (in yet another allusion to Rimbaud's "Le Bateau Ivre"):
Sur le bateau, il n'y a pas de rames. II y a bien un gouvernail. Mais
gouvemer—vers oil? Nous n'avons pas de boussole....
Cependant de temps á autre quelqu'un gouveme. Cela donne une sorte
de sens, l'impression que nous sommes responsables de notre destin,
qui n'est pas.
Ainsi est la parole. (13)
Miscellaneous, disembodied voices appear from nowhere to question or to
comment on the state of affairs, sometimes anonymously, sometimes tagged by

194
equally miscellaneous names. Shifting pronouns take turns as both subject and object
of the narration: nous, moi, elle.je, on, tu, vous, quelqu'un. Much of the text can be
read as metatextual, simultaneously addressing issues of writing and of the identity
associated with that writing.
Narrative tension begins with the novel's title, on which the narrator
elaborates in the opening sentences,
Le monde est comme deux chevaux, qui tirent chacun dans un sens.
L'un, dit-elle, est un cheval-vapeur qui fait beaucoup de bruit et de
fumée, l'autre est une vache sacrée qui rumine (médite), et aucun sage
n'est sur son dos. J'ai découvert 9a ce matin en fouillant dans les
poubelles de l'Histoire. Elies puaient l'enfer, jamais 9a n'a été á ce
point-lá depuis le début je crois bien — et en méme temps il y avait
quelque part trés lointain comme une faible brise de, voyons, oui, de
chévrefeuille. (9)
As the narrative unfolds, the figures of the opposing cheval-vapeur and vache
sacrée, ostensibly referring to vague forces in the world at large, can be understood
to symbolize the masculine and feminine. As usual, Rochefort plays with words. The
horse, a phallic symbol, is further depicted as mobilized by steam or "hot air.” It/he is
powerful, noisy and "blows a lot of smoke." The sacred cow or vache sacrée is a
feminine animal with mystique; she is worshiped. Euphonically, the designation
evokes the vase sacrée, a metaphor for the vagina that recurs in other Rochefortian
novels.11 As voices representing these two forces vie for attention and mutually
respond, narrative tension builds among them.
In a sketch which will be repeated and further developed in Rochefort's
subsequent novels, Conversations sans paroles and Adieu Androméde, the narrator's
voice struggles to imagine existence at its origin: "sans frontiéres," "sans unite,"
"sans lois," "sans armes," "sans histoire," and "sans identite."(25) Then, abruptly

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switching to past tense the narrating voice reminisces about her childhood,
separating herself from the child that no longer exists by using the pronoun elle.
Pitting the child against the perceived enemy, "tout ce qui était plus grand était
I'ennemi, "(27) she remembers that for the child, "son arme était le silence."(27) That
external silence, which only masks internal discourse, will be the organizing theme
of Rochefort's later novel, Conversations sans paroles.
The sketch is followed by a mini-chapter entitled, "1982 s'achéve." The
chapter consists of a series of news items reporting incidents from around the globe:
Chili, Texas, Paris, Nicaragua, the Vatican, England, California, the Fairy Islands.
The news items are not quoted directly. Rather, in a heteroglossic layering or
blending, the narrator/implied author reports them in her own ironic, disapproving
voice, thus filtering the incidents through her own optic. She indicates in a footnote,
"ces informations sont tirées de la presse parlée et écrite.” (30) All of the items report
corruption, injustice, suffering, torture, and, ultimately, death. This chapter is
immediately followed by another entitled, "1982, comme un oignon." Here, in a
series of commentaries paralleling or doubling those in the preceding section, the
irony turns to biting sarcasm:
Projet de fronton pour chambre á gaz:
"Laissez cet endroit aussi propre que vous l'avez trouvé en entrant."
(34)
Chili*. Les futurs tortures sont examinés par les médecins qui testent
leur resistance, afin que soient élaborées des stratégies de torture
satisfaisantes.(35)
Texas. Pour la premiere exécution capitale aprés le retour de la peine
de mort, les médecins ont administré le sérum de vérité jusqu'á ce que
mort s'ensuive. (35)

196
From these quips concerning current events, the narrative turns to "Contes de
la veillée." In a utopic doubling, using fantasy as a reversal of present circumstances,
the narrator describes an imaginary time in the past when life was "good." The
narration here switches to passive voice, the uncertainty of the imparfail, and the
preponderant use of passé simple, a tense reserved for non-spoken communication,
for the fiction of literary writing (artful creation of illusion), and for the finality of
historical documents. The sections begin with the typical fairy tale opening, "II était
une fois."(47,49) The suggestion forwarded by these sections is that "the good old
days" people tend to imagine, and tend to use as a standard against which to evaluate
their own lives, never really existed. In the collective unconscious, this is the way
things should be: "C'était clair. C'était simple. C'était juste."(47); "Jadis il était une
fois, nous aimámes."(49) Becoming metatextual, the passage directly implicates
literature in the construction of these false memories. How people understand the
abstraction of love, for example:
Nous n'avons jamais pu mettre le doigt dessus. A la place nous avons
sorti de lá des chansons innombrables, des poésies, faibles pour la
plupart, des kilometres de romans et quelques théories et propositions
indécidables. Rien de sérieux. Nous ne faisions que nous rouler dans
nos larmes. (50)
Consideration of the equally abstract concept of friendship leads back to the crisis of
identity that has prompted the entire narration:
Nous avions toutes les raisons de croire que l'amitié était vraie: elle
était fondée sur ce que nous étions vraiment, pour de bon et au fond.
Ha ha. Mais qu'est-ce qu'on était, vraiment et au fond? (51)

197
The two sections end with an acknowledgment of the challenge posed by this last
question. In a dialogic passage bringing together voices of King Arthur,
narrator/implied author, and the narrator's disillusioned past self, the section
concludes with the following query directed in familiar address to the implied reader:
Comme le dit Arthur avec un bel optimisme, c’est á réinventer.
C'est facile de causer: il n'y est pas arrivé, lui non plus. Et moi non
plus, dit-elle, et toi? (53)
In both of the passages quoted above, blank space is inserted as though left there to
be filled in by the silent, interior reflection and reaction of the implied reader.
An occasional scenette, inserted into the narrative as a kind of visual pause,
adds to the novel's stylistic complexity and defines it as what Bakhtin has referred to
as a metagenre or super genre containing elements of other literary genres. A short
passage entitled "Elle écoute," that can be described as poetic prose or a prose poem,
depicts the activity of a solitary musician who plays his instrument on a public street,
seemingly oblivious to those who stand and observe. His image stands as a poetic
mini-monument to the fragility of artistic and personal freedom:
Julio qui jouait de la harpe indienne sur le trottoir rue de l'Odéon.
Ses mains couraient volaient sur les cordes comme des oiseaux
vraiment comme des oiseaux.
Ses mains ses mains. Ses mains libres. Libres rue de l'Odéon.
Mains aux pouces opposables, d'espéce humaine. Et pourtant fibres.
Frágiles, frágiles.
Deux hommes en impérméables mastic le regardaient.
lis ne lui demandérent pas ses papiers. lis s'en allérent. (59)
This poetic style continues in a more lengthy section entitled "Le cap."
Interspersed within the narration are seven cibles, isolated by blank space above and
below: "II faut étre raisonnable;" "II faut étre sympathique;" "II faut rire;" "Résister á

198
toute fascination;" "Ne pas tirer au-dessus de ses raoyens;" "Voyager léger;" and "II
ne faut pas avoir de retard d'affection."(66-69) In the following pages of the section
or mini-chapter, a series of the single word "non" occurs, randomly embedded into
the narration. This seeding into the text of the single negative signifier imitates the
practice of encoding subliminal messages in filmatic sequences with the intention of
stimulating subconscious thought. The embedding here appears intended to provoke
or encourage resistance to or refusal of these stated, inherited maxims.
In the last pages of the section, the narrator presents an image of Catharina R.
(whose initials significantly mirror Rochefort's own) on a hilltop in Austria with a
rifle in her arm while an unknown Adolf Hitler pays a visit to the family chateau.
The image is followed by a masculine voice (identifiable as masculine only by the
spelling of the verb form, "je suis arrive. . . .") (76) The voice recalls scenes of
companions going toward their deaths, "il allaient mourir la tete haute," (76) while
he, "tapi dans un coin, la tete haute,"(76) managed to survive. Phrases and images
recurr in the narration as refrains: "ils allaient mourrir," "la tete haute," "toutes les
années." The frequency of their recurrence underscores the length of time that has
passed during which these memories have persisted as well as the frequency of the
scenes themselves. The reference is to divided sentiments, and the continuing debate
in post World War II France, among those who did what they felt they had to do to
survive the war and those others who sacrificed their lives resisting Nazi invasion.
Ending with another prose poem and another direct appeal to the implied reader, the
narrator relates:
Est arrivé celui qui avait souffert.
II était devant moi, avec sa souffrance.

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J'étais devant lui, sans la mienne.
Nous n'étions pas á égalité.
Nous avions tous les deux la tete haute, mais pas la mente.
Nous n'arrivions pas á nous regarder en face.
Nous ne parlions pas, ?a valait mieux.
Jusqu'á quand allons-nous rester comme 9a? (79)
The mini-chapters that follow take up, a year later, a continued recounting of
current news items, with chapter titles similar to previous ones, "1983 s'achéve" and
"1983, comme un oignon." Issues of death in various forms dominate: leukemia
treatments that kill the patient, war in Poland, Armenian extremist attacks in Paris,
Soviet missile attacks, clinical depression among young children, toxic waste
accidents, racist confrontations by the PFN in France, US marines in Grenada,
laboratory animal testing. As earlier, these will disintegrate into ironic, mocking
absurdity. Here, the intratextual doubling of style and content suggests the
persistance and perpetuation of similar conditions as one year mirrors another.
A feminine voice then takes up the narration again, in what at first appears a
contemplation of nature in intimate journalistic style: "c'est l'aube et moi assise sous
l'olivier. Je vois. J'ai devant les yeux, lá, á s'en pas douter, le ciel illumine de sa
couleur indescriptible."(100) As earlier, a poem is inserted into the narration, this
time a celebration of the resurgence of life through images drawn from nature. The
poem ends ironically, however, with yet another rhetorical question, dialogically
alluding to a passage from the Bible and indirectly addressed to the implied reader:
—Croissez! Multipliez! remplissez la Terre! et l'assujettissez!
—Mission accomplie, Seigneur. Et maintenant? (106)

200
In a section of the novel entitled "Entretiens de 75013," the narration turns to
more direct metatextual commentary. Of particular interest to the narrating voice is
the evolution in words that, in turn, signals an evolution in traditional male
dominance. The time of referring to humanity as "Man," the narrator notes, is
beginning to fade away.
Les signes ¡1 ne peut pas contrólen ils sont de ce qui est. Et quand les
signes sont convergents, ils annoncent l'ébranlement(l 11).... Son
nom jadis claironné a mis une sourdine: son grand H chancelle sur ses
jambages, frappé d'incertitude (112). . . .Dites: "Tu seras un Homme,
mon fils", et essayez de ne pas rire. (113)
The narrator points to specific words that seem to have lost their impact:
misanthrope "n'est plus prononcé;" progrés "s'est passablement déballonné en ces
années;" civilisation "ne se montre plus que dans les déclarations de guerre;”
humanisme "s'accroche encore . . . mais il n'est pas heureux."(l 14-116) Referring
again to the metaphor of the novel's title, the narrator remarks that,
pendant que nous sommes assis méditant, l'autre cheval se déglingue
de partout, perd ses boulons et sa belle confiance, s'effondre du
dedans. Ses fumées ne s'élévent plus dans le ciel, son vacarme s'est tu.
On entend les oiseaux l'eau courante et le vent.(l 18)
Another reading here, on a more personal or individual level, would suggest the
narrator's own sense of relief from the strong forces of duality ("nous sommes assis")
competing for her own inner sense of self. The domination of masculine forces,
symbolized by the metaphor of the horse, is beginning to fade. The liberation she
feels, from the noisy din and the noxious smoke of his engines, is symbolically
represented by the sounds of birds, flowing water and wind.
What follows is dialogic interplay created through a series of prose poems
ostensibly dedicated to singing the praises of "l'exil á la maison," that is to say
N

201
woman, or possibly "a" woman. The poems are prefaced by "Psaume 137. 1984,"
which serves as a kind of introduction to what follows. An anonymous voice sings
the first, "Chant de l'exil at home." The voice familiarly addresses the woman as a
single subject "tu.”
Tu n'étais ni tres grande ni tres brillante,
Tu n'étais pas spécialement bien placee,
et dans le monde on ne te remarquait pas.
Mais tu tournais, tu toumais ma belle,
tu toumais juste le temps
de faire le jour et la nuit.
comme l'erreur. (121-122)
The "Réponse au chant de l'exil" is a prose passage ostensibly representing
the voice of the creator. He first acknowledges his mistake and apologizes: "c'est
vrai, j'avoue, c'était une erreur. Je suis desolé. Je ne l'ai pas fait exprés. Quand j'ai
lancé mes billes celle-lá s'est posée de travers et je ne m'en suis pas aper9u sur
l'instant... ."(123) The ambiguous and condescending use of "celle-lá" opens the
passage to metaphorical and metatextual reading. Sounding increasingly like a
description Rochefort may have given of herself as a writer, the voice refers to l'exil
and her creation as "une instable," "sans cesse á bricoler des trues . . . de plus en plus
compliqué."(123) The voice continues, "elle a trouvé un systéme tout á fait stupéfiant
d'autoreproduction á complexité croissante. . . . C'est une miniaturiste."(124)
Halfway through his lengthy response, an anonymous voice contests, "je n'y crois
pas."(125) Further opening up the possibility of autobiographical reading, the voice
of the creator continues, complaining, "et sa demiére: s'inventer un miroir... . Et
comment me sortir de la puisque c'est encore et toujours ses sacrés miroirs qui

202
parlent ce que je dis?"(125) Reading metatextually, the miroirs can be understood as
literary texts that pretend to reflect the world and its speaking inhabitants through
mimesis.
In the "Réponse á la réponse" that follows, "je," sounding much like a writer
who is feeling weary, depleted, and tormented by persistent dissatisfaction and worry
over her own creations, replies:
Je serais restée étemellement jeune et
belle
si je n'avais engendré cet enfant. Ce mal-
heur.
II me gratte il me pique il me mord me
perfore
il me creuse partout me crevasse me cou-
vre de croütes de crasse
Plus d'eau propre pour me laver
mes fleuves ne coulent plus ma mer est
pleine,
mes baleines fuient mes oceans, mes
oiseaux tombent de mon ciel,.... (127)
In a final "chant," an undesignated voice reassures, "ils étaient, pourtant, Ies
seuls yeux dans lesquels tu te reflétes entiére. Ils étaient, pourtant, ta Connaissance.
C'est eux,... Qui ont doublé les pétales de tes roses.. . Qui ont multiplié tes fruits .
.. T'ont copiée recopiée (124)... et vont faire de toi un caillou mort."(129-130)
Again, reading metatextually suggests that writing doubles, extends and preserves
the self.
Further contributing to a metaphorical and metatextual reading, the narrating
voice takes up again, distancing itself as observer from a nameless elle. As this
woman contemplates a landscape painting, she senses the final solitude of death

203
suggested there and realizes that art is capable of communicating without words:
"elle . . . éprouve, connait, le sentiment de la solitude derniére . . . Que Patinir seul
fut capable de lui communiquer, par fuñique moyen d'une couleur."(133)
The next nineteen pages consiste of a series of eight brief sections
representing the utterances of undesignated voices, each expressing distress, most in
first person, according to his/her perceived, personal condition. The sections are
variously titled as lamentations: "Lamentation de classes I," "Lamentation de classes
II," "Lamentation de classes III," "Lamentation secondaire," "Le bon vieux temps,"
"L'empire du malheur," "Lamentation en marge," "Lamentation au sommet,"
"Lamentation culturelle," and Lamentation fraternelle." Some of the voices declare
personal anguish due to lack of self-esteem or lack of respect from others, even
avowing thoughts of suicide. Some ironically observe, in feigned detachment, the
destruction wrought by others due to incompetence, indifference, malfeasance, and
self indulgence. What appears, obstensibly, as the voice of God enters the chorus in
the "Lamentation au sommet." Evoking the image of Sisyphus,
Longtemps j'ai été celui qui n'y arrive pas. Chaqué fois, je montáis au
créneau. Et je me ramassais. Je me donnais un mal de chien.... Aussi
avec tout ?a, je ne rajeunissais pas. .. .Est-ce que 9a valait la peine de
monter, puisque aprés on ne peut que redescendre?(148-149)
the voice also dialogically resonates with that of the implied author whose writing
career had suffered continual ups and downs with regard to public acceptance. The
choice of images such as isolation within a towered niche further suggests solitary
work that is the condition of the writing figure. And then too, the earthy tone of
voice and choice of lexicon in expressions such as: mal de chien; gay élait — et plaf,

204
au tapis; tout le monde me tombe dessus; and j'essaye seulement de faire moins de
saloperies, sound much more Rochefortian than divine.
In the section entitled "Lamentation culturelle," an unidentified voice, speaks
from the margins of literary discourse: "oí, ce queje voudrais étre des autres! ... Je
veux faire partie. . .. J'essaye d’absorber. Je lis leurs oeuvres. . .. J'ouvre mes
oreilles.. .Je veux m'altérer par impregnation. Car il n'y a pas d'autre voie. .. ."(149-
151) Here, as earlier, the use of voie (rather than fagon or moyen, for example) seems
expressly chosen to evoke its homonym voix. It is lack of authority, however, rather
than desire to conform, that motivates the lamentation of the speaking voice.
Ce n'est pas parce que je les aime. (Ja ne se situé pas lá. C'est que je
souffre du manque: moi, je n'ai pas 1'éternité derriére moi.. . .mais si
j'avais fait partie et que j'eusse survécu, j'aurais requ des trésors en
héritage.(152)
A listing of past literary greats produces only a shiver of repulsion, "les Grecs
antiques. Les Romains! Racine. Boileau. Brrr. Chateau de Versailles. Napoléon. Ah
on n'est pas gatés.”(153) Only a few arouse admiration, voices of past revolutionary
figures: "Ah, Diderot. (Ja en fait un. Rimbaud, deux. On compte sur les doigts.
Quelques poetes, généralement jetés dans des asiles.. . . Pauv' nous." (153)
In the "Lamentation fraternelle," a third person voice resumes the narration to
describe a divided sensibility in terms of a fraternal relationship. Beginning with
"elle avait un frére. II ne le savait pas. Elle non plus," (155) this brother can be
understood as a double or suppressed extension of the feminine self. When he
attempts to expose or to impose himself publicly, he is met with scorn. So, he takes
on disguises,

205
II avait fini par passer pour une sorte de guignol. ... Un jour dans son
désespoir, il a inventé d’etre un autre. Repartant complétement á zéro.
Et cet autre il a charge d'etre vraiment lui. . . .Et lui pendant ce temps-
lá á titre d'alibi ¡1 devait continuer comme avant avec la double
joumée et l'indifférence générale. (155)
This duality is further developed in the next section, "et moi, et moi!” in
which ”le droit et le gauche sont en bagarre."(161) The principal metaphor is that of
a hydra. All belonging to the same body, the many heads (and thus the many voices
that issue from them) are themselves confused about their own identities as well as
those of the other heads with which they are confronted. This confusion is evidenced
in a continual slippage of pronouns which refer alternately to constantly shifting
designations of both droit and gauche, pronouns such as le, la, il, elle, lui, and nous.
At one point the hydra attempts to put an end to the confusion by hacking off one of
the other heads:
Lá c'est la bagarre ouverte, á la faveur de cette confusion soudain,
bang (par surprise comme toujours), surgit de son trou le droit et d'un
grand coup de métaphore incongrue tranche la tete de l'hydre, et du
méme mouvement dans son filet raméne le "nous" -- "le nous" qui est,
qui est le, la, 1'.. de ce qu'elle est en train de faire.
—Et c'est quoi? dit le gauche, dit l'hydre ayant déjá repoussé une
nouvelle téte.
Je ne sais pas dit le droit, je ne veux pas le savoir! dit-elle se
bouchant les oreilles mais c'est dedans que 9a parle.
Issue incertaine.(162-163)
The ambiguous situation will not be resolved. Taking possession of the voice in first
person, the monster laments,
—Mon dieu mais qu'est-ce queje fais lá-dedans! se récrie le gauche . .
. et du coup s'emparant de la premiere personne et elle ne peut pas lui
donner tort, mais j'ai pas envie de m'occuper de 9a du tout moi! dit-il
dit-elle dit tout le monde sauf le droit dans son coin qui marmonne: je
ne sais pas. (163)

206
Inferiority dominates the narrating voice in a flow of free indirect discourse.
The narrating voice, however, continues to be interrupted by intrusions from other
ethereal, spiritual-sounding voices who question each other, who question existence,
who point out the oppressive and determining weight of infinity, and who regard
time as generally out of sync. One, for example, insists that, "la voie de l'Ordre
Parfait en est á s'enfanter des idéologues, des célébrateurs, avec disciple, elle infeste
les plus grandes universités. .. .l'Ordre est infiltré dans l'espéce," and another notes
that "les maux ci-décrits étaient sitúes dans l'avenir." (171) "Est-elle en train de
mettre Dieu de cóté du désordre?" questions another.
Taking on a sharply sarcastic tone, split narrating voices mock the perceived
current state of affairs, particularly mindlessness and dehumanization resulting from
over-dependence on modern machinery and technology. In "la Nouvelle Evolution
de l'Espéce," the voice warns "un jour on ne sera plus nécessaires."(190) Mixing
tenses to subtly indicate the gradual development of the current crisis of being, the
voice notes that "la pensée était en voie d'élimination."(193) In utter derision, the
voice rails against the powerlessness of the individual in the face of such pervasive
determinism. Implicating the implied reader in what is perceived as the elimination
of human capacity or the implied death of the human self as traditionally defined
through its thought and action, and using the pejorative "9a" with reference to those
vague, controlling forces that would seek to destroy it, the voice intones:
(Ja avait une puissance énorme. (Ja vous enveloppait comme une
matrice. Mais froide. Et (Ja ne refusait personne, (Ja n'était pas
regardant. (Ja disait: bougez pas je vais le faire pour vous. Et (Ja le
faisait. Et on ne bougeait plus. Chaqué chose que (Ja faisait pour vous,
vous ne le faisiez plus. (Ja vous entrait á l'intérieur, (Ja prenait la place

207
d'un membre, des yeux, d'un bout de cerveau. Ce que (Ja prenait en
charge, (Ja ne le rendait plus. (192)
In a final lamentation, the narrating voice projects into the future and
envisions a transformation or recreation of self. This new self, her eyes fixed on
Istar, Babylonian and Assyrian goddess of love and fertility, will become one with
the rest of nature and desires full release of her suppressed, interiority:
J’arriverai dans un ile. Je me coucherai sur le sol. Je mangerai la terre.
Le ciel sera au-dessus de ma téte. Le soleil me brülera, l’eau me
lavera. Mes yeux ne verront que les arbres, les bétes, et l’eau des
sources. Je ne toucherai que ce qui est. Je ne serai plus un homme.
Dieu soit béni, je ne serai plus un homme!
Que le baton me touche, queje sois une fontaine. II n’y a qu’á briser
l'enveloppe, Seigneur: tout cela est dedans. (199)
Observing this new being from afar, the narrating voice describes her actions as she
walks into the sea and becomes one with it: "elle marche dans la mer. . .. Elle est
chez elle. Elle est isomarine."(201) The image of equality and identity with nature
extends into the succeeding section as the narrator contemplates her as she, in turn,
observes the activity of birds. The narrator notes that their actions and hers are much
the same:
lis crient, trissent, stridents, emplissent I'azur de leur faim. Ils piquent
entre les blocs, enjaillissent verticaux, virent, et fondent encore et
glissent au fond des melles, et ascensionnent, ffeinent á queue
ouverte, et replongent et remontent et s'élancent, piaillant, dis aprés la
méme mouche, et se débandent et se rameutent et lui passent á un
cheveu du nez. Ici, elle est á leur niveau.... Elle en est encerclée,
cernée, enveloppée, mais ils s'en foutent, ne la distinguent pas du
reste.. . . (205)
Voicing a theme that will be further developed in Rochefort's final two novels, she
thinks, "je n'existe pas. J'appartiens. Je suis au monde!"(206)

208
In the final pages of the novel, through the metaphor of a shattered mirror, a
miroir éclalé, the narrator reports that "elle voit au-dedans d'elle son vrai visage
d’avant la naissance."(217) An undesignated voice then takes up the narration one
last time in first person to look tenderly at her/his split self or double. Adressing that
complex, multi-dimensional and androgynous being with new wisdom, new
understanding, and new tolerance, and acknowledging the inescapable influence of
social and political environment, s/he declares:
Mais moi, moi, je t'aime. Tu es ce petit animal pathétique.... Tu es
un peu informe and il y a des défauts . . . mais on aperioit pour quoi
tu étais né. Tu n'es pas fini, et tu ne le sera jamais,. . . tu es une vraie
chose petit étre, pleine de traces et de cicatrices, á jamais imparfaite,
mais moi je t'aime car je sais de quelle bataille tu es le héros vaincu et
désolé. ... tu avais été pétri et remodelé par la réalité des choses. . . .
(220-222)
The note of optimism sounded in the opening sentences of the novel, "il y avait
quelque part tres lointain comme une faible brise de voyons, oui, de chévrefeuille,"
resonates here at the end in the narrator's closing words, "je t'aime. Car je sais. J'ai
vu. Une fois, pour un court instant. . . ton visage originel."(223)
Like Le Monde est comme deux chevaux, Rochefort's last two novels,
Conversations sans paroles and Adieu Androméde proceed as an assortment of
observations that, in their conglomerate, produce a portrait of the narrating
consciousness. In them, the penchant for poetic form becomes increasingly
significant, metatextual interest continues to heighten, and autobiographical
disposition of content becomes noticeably marked. Although the narrating voice is
no longer at odds with itself and splintered into varying pronoun designations such as
je, tu, and elle, or il, the narrating consciousness is the medium through which an

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understanding of both the self and the world are offered. Themes of death and
oneness with nature introduced in Le Monde esl comme deux chevaux continue to
motivate these narratives. Along with these newer themes, the novels also
reintroduce secondary themes familiar to earlier Rochefortian novels: ecology,
modern urban architecture, the powerful versus the weak, the value of the individual
within the masses, the sense of alienation, and, as always, the general failure of
language as a communicative tool. As in the novels discussed earlier in this chapter,
the figure of the double continues to function dialogically as a kind of symbolic
voice within the narrative.
Conversations sans paroles, perhaps because of concerns that its first person
narrating voice and identifiable autobiographical content would limit interest in the
book to a single facile interpretation or reading, is expressly subtitled Roman. Thus,
again, Rochefort immediately sets up tension by blurring distinctions between art
and actuality. The title itself, tense with paradox and ambiguity, announces the
negation of words as a medium of communication and suggests an unusual kind of
dialogic encounter.
Like Le Monde est comme deux chevaux, Conversations sans paroles is a
relatively short novel (110 pages), structured into a number of seemingly disparate
mini-chapters, like a "feuilletage d'énonciations," each bearing brief, emblematic
titles. Through a kind of structural doubling, each title picks up, from the preceding
chapter, a word, phrase or idea that will be reconsidered and developed in a different
vein, thus linking the elements of the narrative, like those of a musical score, through
association, extension, and variation. This technique of expanding an idea through

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association recalls the automatic writing of the surrealist movement that had attracted
Rochefort early in her writing career. In addition, Rochefort's poetic use of
repetition, metaphor and sensual imagery in this novel effectively blends form and
content as the writer continues to evoke an essence that lies teasingly below or
beyond the plane of language. Here is a dialogic that is rather a "counter logic" or a
dia-non-logic that seeks, instead of logos or the word, a level of semiotic
communication.
The first chapter of the novel, "Non maternable," opens in confessional style
as the first-person narrator reveals her mature age, "six décennies," in a familiar
address to the implied reader, "ecoute, je vais te faire une honteuse confidence: ma
mere me manque"(7). The sense here, however, is not regret for the person of her
mother, but the consequent feeling of solitude and lack caused by her refusal of the
role represented by this traditional double. She tersely contends, "je suis une
orpheline-née. Non maternable."(10) Her feeling of alienation and lack continues in
the following chapters, as the theme of the absent mother is further developed.
Having refused to acknowledge the mother as double, the narrator then feels
compelled to fill that void with other forms of doubling that can bring the desired
sense of fulfillment or totality and identity. In the next chapter, for example, a
metatextual comment associates this sense of lack with her committment to writing.
Asked by other women, whom she sarcastically describes as "les mémés aux
énormes fessiers" with "les larges faces avachies," about her children, the narrator
firmly responds, "je n'en ai pas.... J'avais autre chose á faire ... (la preuve ci-
dessous)."(12) The lack the narrator attempts to convey takes form in the third

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chapter as a missing photo, a doubling device also used in La Porte du fond. In a
passage sounding very like one that might be found in a novel by Duras, the narrator
comments: "elle était belle, á dix-huit ans, sur la photo de mariage. Ma mére. . . .
Comment cette photo était tombée dans mes mains je ne sais plus, d'ailleurs je l'ai
perdue. "(15)
The associations in these early chapters move from mother, to childhood, to
school days, to other people's children, to pictures, to family roots and hometown, to
sights and sounds of childhood, and so on. From the now absent sound of bees
associated with the time of her childhood represented by the absent photo, the
narrator launches an attack against capitalist consumerism's disregard for ecology
that brought destruction to the native bees of her region in the form of lice
inadvertently imported with cargo from the orient. In this same chapter, whose title
"Abeilles" doubles as an emblem of lack as well as of ecological concern, the
narrator pauses to pay hommage to LaMartine as she offers a dialogic parody of "Le
lac.”
Ó lac, l'année á peine a fini sa carriére
Et prés des flots chéris qu'elle devait
revoir
Regarde, je viens seul m'asseoir sur cette
pierre.
Quoi pierre? Y a plus de pierre, y a une
autoroute.
Je ne peux pas m'asseoir sur une auto¬
route. (22)
A remembered conversation with her mother, in a chapter entitled "Sans
retour," ostensibly provokes the narrator and serves as an underlying motivation for
her desire to delve beneath the surface of expressed language in order to discover the

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essence of what is being communicated. For the narrator, the mother's eyes belie her
comments. What she says, and what the narrator understands, do not coincide. This
occurrence initiates a dialogue thematically doubling Rochefort's earlier novel,
Heureux qu’on va vers l'été and her nonfictional treatise Les Enfanls d'abord, both of
which assert the rights of children and condemn the authoritarianism of adults. Here
the narrator again revisits the absent photo de noce and again finds a lack of any
resemblance: "comment ils m'ont faite — me demandai-je (immodeste): den de
commun, aucun trait, ni de l'un ni de l'autre; ni entre eux ni en moi. . . . Je suis bien
(quelle chance) le fruit du hasard. Sauf les yeux de ma mere."(31-32) Pertinent
exception, since it was precisely the eyes that the narrator had signaled as "telling a
different story," and as being the "true" communicators. Then, pausing to offer
further metatextual comment, the narrator denies any autobiographical intention,
stating that,
ce livre, si 9a en devient un ... ne vise pas á raconter ma vie.... Ce
sera, si j'y parviens, á travers ses divagations, et ses émerveillements,
l'histoire ... de ce que portent les yeux, de ce qu'ils délivrent, et
échangent, au-delá des paroles, et sans elles. (33)
Synthesizing the two ideas (of eye communication and chance) introduced in
this chapter, the word "hazard" is taken up again to double as the title of the next
chapter which will recount a brief exchange made through eye contact. The
significance of that fortuitous occurrence, however, is the transcendance of time,
through memory and the imagination, that the moment of semiotic communication
initiates. The narrative of this next chapter departs from a parodie reworking of the
opening line from Proust's Du Cóté de chez Swann: "longtemps, le matin, je suis
allée á la chasse."(37) Her remark is immediately followed by a denial of the

213
significance of the utterance when the words alone are considered: "ce n'était pas le
matin. Ce n'était pas á la chasse. II n'y avait ni proie ni chasseur, ni intention ni
but."(37) The meaning lies elsewhere. The narrator poetically describes this semiotic
process as "comme un pont jeté"(40) and "un saut dans l'inconnu."(41)
From here, the following chapters digress to ironically explore non-verbal
communication among "lower" life forms such as dinosaurs, oysters, and even
plants. The big question is, "ce courant qui passe entre les yeux ... en quoi c'est
fait?"(44) Dialogically introducing quotations from Descartes ("je pense done je
suis"), the "grosses tetes" of television fame, and Jankélévitch's Le Je-ne-sais-quoi el
le Presque-rien (on the subject of enchantment: "la durée infinitésimale d'un instant,
l'espace infinitesimal d'un point"), into the discussion, the narrator makes clear her
own alliance with the latter. As if to strengthen her position with regard to the power
of the eyes to communicate non-verbally, character zones are created when the
narrator's voice becomes inflected with those of absent figures whose verbal
reactions to perceived "looks" would have included remarks such as, "pourquoi vous
me regardez comme 5a?"
From consideration of non-verbal communication among lower life forms,
the discussion again turns metatextual as the narrator reflects on attempts of
literature in general to describe these fleeting moments of epiphany when two souls
make contact. The narrator notes that the experience has long been the subject of
novelistic literature and poetry in particular. Here the voices of Hugo, Baudelaire,
and Char heteroglossically enter the dialogic mix as the narrator introduces
quotations from their work. A problem that the narrator points out, however, is the

214
tendency of these to limit understanding of this experience by equating it with love.
The result, she notes, is not only glorification and distortion, but seduction of the
reader who responds by seeking to fill the lack in her/his life through doubling or
imitation:
L'amour, á quoi tout nous convie, l'amour porté aux nues par un
propagande intensive á tous les niveaux. En bas les romans á l'eau de
rose fabriqués á l'ordinateur, des monceaux de magazine, des pubs á
foison, des films: la l'amour est fait agent actif de l'entrée en
conformité.(64)
Metatextual commentary continues in succeeding chapters as the narrator
considers the treatment of the subject of love in her own past literary efforts. In a
chapter emblematically entitled "Archéologie," Rochefort's autobiographical
references are unmistakable. Citing from her own Repos du guerrier, "Si de l'amour
on 6te tout ce qui n'est pas lui, il ne reste rien,"(67) the implied author/narrator
recalls the "sacrifice" she made in making the male character her porte-parole, "le 'je'
étant le personnage le plus éloigné de moi."(67) She pays hommage to her literary
mentors Philippe Soupault and Georges Lambrichs. Then, drawing upon the words
of Truman Capote to describe her lifelong love affair with writing, she echoes,
Désormais 'enchainée pour la vie á un maitre trés noble, mais sans
merci' (Truman Capote), je connais le bonheur d'écrire, et de
découvrir: l'amour véritable, au-dessus de tout soupíon, je l'ai
découvert en écrivant Archaos: celui qui n'attend pas de retour. (68-
69)
Writing, in Capote's analogy, is seen as a master/slave relationship, another form of
doubling. Rochefort, too, had expressed a similar sentiment, with a typical touch of
ironic humor, in her 1970 publication, C'esi bizarre l'écriture:
Je crois que la seule relation vraie á la littérature est d'en faire et d'en
lire, deux faqons equivalentes de faire l'amour avec, et tout le reste

215
est, excusez-moi je dois aller au bout de mon analogie, masturbation,
d'ailleurs c'est on ne peut plus exact (voire un peu optimiste). (18)
For this narrator/writer, archéologie doubles a metaphor for the writing
process: "écrire (sérieusement) c'est de l'archéologie."(71) Like archeology, it is, for
her, a process of self-discovery involving digging, uncovering, history, study, and of
finally putting the findings of discovery in context. For the reader it can be a
uncovering or discovery of voices and meanings embedded in the text. This concept
approximates Bakhtin's architectronics, which envisions the literary hero as a
construction determined by sociohistorical context. As explained by Morson and
Emerson,
Bakhtin defines architectonics... as 'a focused and indispensable
non-arbitrary distribution and linkage of concrete, singular parts and
aspects into a finished whole, [something that is] possible only around
a given human being as hero.'... (70)12
For her, narrative, through form rather than through language, rekindles and
communicates "ce qu'aucun discours ne sait," and in defiance of time.
Dans le récit, l'émotion de cet instant passé, si bref, si éloigné soit-il,
se réveille, toute fraiche, et vive. Excitante. Présente. Comme si c'était
hier. Ce n'est pas touché par le temps. (75)
Its essence and its significance lie in "what might have been."
The aleatory nature of these experiences of discovery, and their effect of
momentarily effacing time, becomes the theme of other embedded narratives: more
chance encounters, old friendships renewed. The narrator's observation that "9a n'a
pas de fin''(88) prompts a pause and then abruptly, in association with fin, thoughts
of death: "A part la mort."(88) In a metatextual reminder, the narrator comments on

216
the sudden intrusion of that weighty subject into her account "la mort, qui tout d'un
coup s'introduit dans ce récit, non invitée, non prévue. . . ."(89)
Once introduced, the themes of death and the lack of time that it portends will
continue to the end of the novel. Particularly pertinent to these themes is the
narrator's own writing project: "il ne me manque pas grand-chose . . . Tant que
j'écris. Quand j'écris, j'avance á l'intérieur de moi. Par des chemins inattendus. Je
viens de découvrir 5a. En écrivant. Ce qui me manque c'est un autre monde."(95) In a
final passage of free indirect discourse, the narrator suddenly pauses to contemplate
her own proposal about that other, utopic world and question it. Revealing the
narrator's/implied author's indomitable spirit and her self-declared identity both as
writer and as part of nature, the voice poetically proclaims:
Ce serait une autre vie, non?
C'est une proposition. Sérieuse.
Et moi, je vais continuer.
Tant queje serai disponible -- entendez,
capable d'écrire.
Et le moment venu — pas avant, pas
avant:
Mon corps á la terre, et mon esprit
aux électrons qui font créé.(l 10)
Both of Rochefort's last two books, Conversations sans paroles and Adieu
Androméde, were published in 1997, the year before her death. In these final works,
perhaps in anticipation of that inevitable event, the writer's tone softens somewhat as
memories begin to move her focus inward and temper her vision of the world and its
creatures. A new tenderness finds expression within her fantasies, along with

217
continued optimism, yet, as always, couched in often the irreverent, ironic language
that is Rochefort's trademark.
The thesis forwarded by the novel Conversations sans paroles, that "real"
communication lies in a dimension beyond the scope of words, is put into effect, or
put to the test, in Adieu Androméde. The book bears no identifying label, no
designation, for example, as roman. The shortest of all Rochefort's books, it consists
of only sixty-seven pages. If Rochefort intended that it be read as a novel or, as
Hutton suggests, a collection of prose poems, is unknown and unimportant. What is
significant, is that the book attempts to communicate differently. It is the sort of text
that Barthes refers to in Le Plaisir du texte in which, "il n'y a pas derriére le texte
quelqu'un d’actif (l'écrivain) et devant lui quelqu'un de passif (le lecteur)"(29).
Rather, as Rochefort's narrator in Conversations sans paroles proposes, it requires
actively responsive and creative reading.
Adieu Androméde is a text that is desirous of a "meeting of the eyes," a
communication or conversation that transcends the printed words. In a collection of
thirty-two poetic prose passages, Adieu Androméde offers meeting places for the
metaphorical "rencontre des yeux." In presenting assorted fragments, as suggested in
Conversations sans paroles, of "la vie, avec ses hesitations, les inflexions de la voix,
les silences, les gestes, l'animation. . . ."(74), the text attempts to "faire entendre ce
qu’aucun discours ne sait"(74), or, in other words, to communicate differently. To
derive pleasure from this kind of text, the implied reader must engage with the text in
the manner Barthes suggests when he writes: "le texte: il produit en moi le meilleur
plaisir s'il parvient á se faire écouter indirectement; si, le lisant je suis entramé á

218
souvent lever la tete, á entendre autre chose"(41). Nathalie Sarraute, too, suggests in
L'Ére du soupgon that the implied reader must go beyond the surface, beyond "ce
que voient les oiseaux''(126) to "see" a deeper, more complex, clearer understanding
of life and circumstances than s/he could acquire by considering only what is
obvious or superficial.
Adieu Androméde opens with a single sentence, poetically arranged into five
lines and placed in the center of the page under the lone word MAI:
Au petit lever du dernier croissant
á la fenétre de Test, lá oú
il était une fois le petit bois
j'écoute
le souvenir des rossignols.
The passage blends subtle, ironic hopefulness and nostalgia, bringing together what
is, what was, and what could have been. The singular title, mai, suggests freshness,
awakening, renewal, life, new beginnings. In the first line, dawn is juxtaposed with
the final stages of the crescent moon. The window opens with anticipation toward
the east, direction from which the sun rises, from which the biblical wise men
arrived, and which is mystically associated with the divine. From here the idyllic and
fanciful "once upon a time," common to children’s literature, and evokes an
imaginary, magical forest or "petit bois" that now no longer exists except in the
narrator/implied author's imagination. Sensually appealing to sight and sound, the
first person narrator listens to remember the absent melodies of the nightingales, tiny
birds whose nocturnal singing is most often heard during mating season. It is lack,
represented by the absent song, its yearning for the other, within a no longer existent
(and perhaps even imaginary) forest, that provides a point of departure and

219
motivation for the collage of mini-narratives that comprise the book. It is as if the
narrator presents these scenettes in the hope that the implied reader will "see” what
she "sees" when she considers each one. Here, in this introductory passage, focus is
on what the narrator does not see or hear that is significant. The woods are gone and
with them the birds. The narrator is alone and nostalgic for what used to be, implying
desire for what could be again.
Of the thirty-two sections, scenettes or passages, twenty-four engage directly
with nature. Titles of some of these, for example, include: Pain, Pomme, Fourmi,
Été, Palombes, Grives, Chat, Jardín nuit, Bétes, Ane, Etoiles, Collines, Bout de bois,
and others. Each presents a situation that relates in some way to the human
condition, often revisiting favorite Rochefortian themes, but with a newer gentleness
of tone that implies a degree of resignation.
In a chapter entitled "les voisins," the narrator describes the moment when
she first remembers seeing the distant galaxy, Androméde, from which the book's
title is drawn. Her reaction is immediate and the effect of her discovery profound:
on n'est pas seuls! ... II y a des autres! . .. Méme si on bousille notre
plañóte . . . il restera du monde! Quel monde, peu importe. Je n'insiste
pas qu'il soit humain. Du monde. Quelque chose. Pas RIEN! Peut-étre
ceux d'Androméde s'en tireront mieux que nous.... Qa a changó ma
vie de les voir. Depuis, je me sens mieux. La solitude essentielle,
connais plus.(61)
The distant galaxy becomes a hopeful source of kindred spirits, of physical and
spiritual doubles. The book’s title, Adieu Androméde, now becomes significant and
may be understood a number of different ways. Androméde symbolizes the utopian
possibility of a more perfect world and a more satisfying existence. It is emblematic
of fulfillment of the narrator's longed for sense of totality, togetherness and sense of

220
peace. She does not choose au revoir Androméde, inappropriate since she has never
seen or encountered the imagined inhabitants of this galaxy. Rather, it is adieu.
Adieu is full with connotation, bringing with it the poetry and nostalgia of the past as
well as evoking the finality of death and the utopia of togetherness with god in
heaven. The title, in its fullness then, suggests another time, another world where the
narrator will find an end to solitude, and at last enjoy the feeling of totality in
becoming harmoniously one with the rest of the universe.
In the final chapter or section, "vie el morI de la rue courbe," the season is
again springtime, in the month of May. Looking backward in time, the narrator once
more contemplates the activity of birds, the annual arrival in mass of thousands of
swifts. As she watched, she remembers the sensation of being caught up in the
excitement of their return, "prise dans l'intensité de la vie."(65) The concerted task of
the swifts was to find and refurbish their abandonned nests, where they would begin
anew their cycle of life. Abruptly, the narrative switches to present tense, with the
narrator once more at the site of the bird’s annual return:
en mai 89 rue Courbe, je me gare comme d'habitude. Le coeur me
manque: plus de maisons ocre. . . . Béton gris. Rien oú s'agripper,
nulle part oil se couler, plus de vieux nids, pas de creux oil en faire de
nouveaux, rien.... Oil maintenant ou?(66)
Mirroring the courbe of the street below, the birds turn and circle in confusion, not
understanding what has happened, finding no hospitable place where they can build
their nests, and not knowing what to do. The narrative of this chapter, and the book,
end with a rhetorical question: "Y penser? Penser á des oiseaux?"(67)
Adieu Androméde is the only one of Rochefort's books with a dedication
page. On it, a single line mimics the voice of God to state ironically: "Si j'avais su je

221
me serais reposé le sixiéme jour." The remark, of course, refers to the biblical story
of creation and considers "mankind," God's creation on the sixth day, a mistake. To
the end, the writer's reproach of behavior among her species does not waver, nor
does her ironic sense of humor diminish. Earlier narrative tendencies, however, to
introduce characters and to provide plot or story for example, gradually yield to a
flow of free indirect speech from undesignated voices. The random and shifting
perspectives of those multiple voices evidence a preoccupation with complex issues
of self and identity. Poetic and self-reflexive, Rochefort's later novels increasingly
focus on the act of writing in the doubling of both text and self.

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NOTES
1. In The Autobiographical Contract, Philippe Lejeune defines the autobiographical
novel as "any piece of fiction for which the reader may have reason to suspect, on
the basis of what he guesses or thinks to be resemblances, that there is identity
between author and the protagonist, even though the author has chosen to deny...
that identity." (201)
2. Ramsey's analysis centers on work by three well-established writers: Nathalie
Sarraute's Enfance, Marguerite Duras' L'Amant, and Robbe Grillet's Le Miroir qui
revient. For Ramsey, the first of this new breed of autobiographies was Roland
Barthes's Barthes par Barthes (38). The image of the tightrope occurs again in
another study of this new genre by Leah Hewitt in Autobiographical Tightropes
(1990). Hewitt, focusing her analysis on female writers of the genre, has selected
these same texts by Sarraute and Duras and adds two others, Maryse Condé's
Heremakhonon and Monique Wittig’s Across the Acheron to the group.
3. Plato, in his Symposium, retraces the first image in mythology of a human being
created by Zeus. This human had four arms, four legs, two faces and a common
head. Zeus, angered by the rebellion of this human, cut "it" into two, condemning the
two halves to continually search for each other to try to recreate the original state of
fusion.
4. Margaret-Anne Hutton, in her recent book The Novels of Christiane Rochefort:
Countering the Culture^ 1998), provides a compelling analysis in a lengthy chapter
devoted to this novel. In addition, Hutton has published numerous articles, one of
which is "Assuming Responsibility: Christiane Rochefort's Exploration of Child
Sexual Abuse in La Porte du fond. A number of other articles have appeared,
including those published by Diana Holmes, Micheline Herez, and Henri-Franfois
Rey.
5. These three texts were, in fact, omitted entirely from the only book-length analysis
of Rochefort's work, Margaret-Anne Hutton's The Novels of Christiane Rochefort:
Countering the Culture (1998). In her book Hutton referes to Le Monde est comme
deux chevaux as a "hybrid text which is both a fable, an analysis of current affairs,. .
. and a rather hermetic commentary on diverse subjects. (3) She excludes Adieu
Androméde as "a collection of poems." (3) And, Conversations sans paroles, she
explains, is "a very brief first-person narrative which touches upon motherhood,
mortality, and the natural world and its destruction at the hands of mankind, but
which focuses primarily upon the eponymous 'conversations with out words,' or
extra-linguistic forms of communication, is also an autobiographical work which has
consequently been omitted." (3)
6. For Freud the double is one manifestation of the uncanny, or the unheimlich. He
explains the uncanny as related to that which arouses dread and horror: "the uncanny

223
is that class of the frightening which leads back to what is known of old and long
familiar." ("The Uncanny," 220) It is characterized by ambivalence, by the
coexistence of the familiar, the heimlich, and the unfamiliar, the unheimlich. In his
essay, Freud also relates Hoffman's story Nachtstiicken, in which the figure of the
Sand-Man, feared for tearing out children's eyes, is representative of the dread
associated with the uncanny. He states, "I think, that the feeling of something
uncanny is directly attached to the figure of the Sand-Man, that is, to the idea of
being robbed of one's eyes...." (230)
Freud extends his interpretation of the figure of the Sand-Man and the uncanny to
include his study of dreams and fantasies and the fear of castration: "A study of
dreams, phantasies and myths has taught us that anxiety about one's eyes, the fear of
going blind, is often enough a substitute for the dread of being castrated. The self¬
blinding of the mythical criminal, Oedipus, was simply a mitigated form of the
punishment of castration.... "(231)
On the figure of the double, Freud comments that,"the subject identifies himself
with someone else, so that he is in doubt as to which his self is, or substitutes the
extraneous self for his own. In other words, there is a doubling, dividing and
interchanging of the self. And finally there is the constant recurrence of the same
thing — the repetition of the same features or character-traits or vicissitudes, of the
same crimes, or even the same names... ."(234)
It is the factor of repetition, or the recurrence of something repressed, that
imposes the idea of something fateful and inescapable and leads to a sense of the
uncanny (237). He further asserts that the double can function as observer or critic of
the self, as a kind of censor within the mind that we become aware of as our
"conscience." (235)
In this same essay, Freud also notes the thorough work on the theme of the double
published in 1914 by Otto Rank. In Rank's study the figure of the double is
connected to reflections in mirrors, shadows, guardian spirits, as well as the opposing
images of the soul as preservation against extinction and the soul as harbinger of
death.
7. This metaphor recurs several times, six in fact, during the course of the narrative.
It appears first on page 33, in reference to the whip that Macha has inserted in his
rear, "J'avais un cocktail." It appears a second time on page 39, in reference to the
reaction he imagines in the mind of those who see him with this odd appendage,
"C'est un cocktail littéraire, bien qu'un peu fermé vu la nature particuliére de
I'ouvrage fété. Je recomíais bientót quelques autres compagnons de souffrances." It
comes up again on page 132, as Gilles-Henri reads a passage from an article in a
right-wing paper about the audacity of sexual deviants: '"lis ne se cachent méme
plus', tel était le titre de I'articulet paru dans une feuille d'extréme droite. 'Un
professeur gauchiste — de ceux qui ont mission de former notre jeunesse - s'exhibe á
un cocktail littéraire dans un attirail complet de pervers. . . ." With degradation
directed toward figures of authority, three young people dressed in SS uniforms, the
narrator relates, on page 160, that they "furent servís en shrimp-coctail qui ruina
leurs beaux habits et leur autorité, plus rien ne tenait c'était l'inversion." On page
189, Ferdinand Kuntz-Lopez, an architect of modern structures (for which Rochefort

224
has many times expressed intense dislike), gets his due in a news item published
after the completion of a new project. The narrator relates, "Ferdinand Kuntz-Lopez
re?ut sa correction pour de bon publique au cocktail d'inauguration de son nouveau
complexe super-luxe. ..." He was attacked by a group of young thugs who stripped
off his pants, whipped him, and left him publicly displayed with his legs and rear
exposed. A photographer captured the sight and the newspaper printed it. A final use
of the metaphor, on page 193, refers again to the first use of the metaphor. The
narrator contemplates a group of photographs now displayed on his refrigerator door
representing each of his "faces intéressantes." The first of these photographs is
"l'inaugurale, au cocktail."
8. In Memories, Dreams, Reflections, Jung explains that the shadow is a kind of
second self that corresponds to the unconscious life of the psyche. It is the negative
side of the personality, a sum of all the unpleasant or undesirable qualities the
conscious self wishes to hide. One aspect of the working of the shadow is the
confrontation of projections or doubles that reflect one’s own inner self. Set in
opposition to the conscious self, it presents itself a powerful, usually threatening
reversal of that consciousness. Jung further indicates that the guilt created by the
existence of this negative shadow is sometimes dealt with through divine mediation,
Catholic confession and absolution, for example. But not everyone is religious, and
these, as are often portrayed in literature, are left to experience their sense of guilt by
"seeing" themselves as tortured victims, martyrs in the tradition of Christ bearing the
cross. "I wish everybody could be freed from the burden of their sins by the Church,"
Jung comments, "but he to whom she cannot render this service must bend very low
in the imitation of Christ in order to take the burden of his cross upon him." (281)
9. Rochefort's choice of this name alludes to Luis Buñuel's 1962 surrealist film, El
Angel Exterminador in which guests at a dinner party find that they are unable to
leave the table. Here, as is often the case in Buñuel's films, the director comments
with satirical wit and stark realism on the nature of the civilized world. His
characters find themselves in an absurd situation and, unable to come to terms with
their own human nature, experience a breakdown of traditional order. The film is an
exploration of Bruñuel's idea that human beings often seek to deny their animal
nature through the creation of civilized codes and manners. Another reference is
made to this figure in Rochefort's novel La Porte du fond. As the narrator blocks in
her mind the play that she is in the process of writing (a play bearing the same name
as the novel in which the narrator herself is the principal voice or character), she
plans for the audience to be left in a prolonged period of silent blackness before the
final lowering of the curtain. With regard to that gesture, she comments, "Je me suis
interrogée s'ils allaient t ester collés á leurs fauteuils et ma mémoire re^ut la visite de
'L'Ange exterminateur', celui de Buñuel (pour qui l'aurait manqué: les invités de la
reception haut-bourgeoise se voient, au moment du depart, dans l'impossibilité
physique de franchir les portes pourtant ouvertes; s'ensuivent des joumées d'horreur,
toute leur merde cachée qui sort). J'eus le temps de me demander comment ils (les
notres) allaient se débrouiller pour les chiottes." (150)

225
10. Sidonie Smith points out that "However feminist theorists conceptualize
difference, they all recognize woman's double bind: 'As long as women remain
silent, they will be outside the historical process. But if they begin to speak and write
as men do, they will enter history subdued and alienated.' Thus any 'arachnology,' to
refer to Nancy K. Miller's name for a theory of female textuality, must grapple with
the formal constrictions and rhetorical presentations, the historical context and
psychosexual labyrinth, the subversions and the capitualtions of woman's self¬
writing in a patriarchal culture that 'fictionalizes' her." Smith notes her sources as
Xaviére Gauthier's essay "Existe-t-il une écriture de femme?" published in New
French Feminisms and Nancy K. Miller's essay "Arachnologies: The Woman, the
Text, and the Critic" published as a chapter of her book, The Poetics of Gender.
11. Another instance occurs in La Porte du fond, for example, when the narrator
confesses, "bon dieu il y avait longtemps que mon vase sacre (anatomiquement
l’image est un peu á cóté mais le résultat est le méme) était banalisé, á force
d'utilisation objectale et sans permis. Pour user d'un langage précis et scientifique."
(99)
12. The quote, which is their translation, is taken from "K filosofii postupka"
[Toward a philosophy of the act] in the 1984-85 issue of Filosofía i sotsiologiia
nauki i tekhniki, a yearbook of the Soviet Academy of Sciences. Moscow: Nauka,
1986, 80-160.

CONCLUSIONS
Understanding the functioning of voice in narrative is imperative, not only to
discerning meaning within a text, but to appreciating the complexity and subtlety of
the writer's art. Voice was an essential structural element that Christiane Rochefort
applied in her writing; therefore, a study of its different manifestations in her work is
particularly appropriate. Literary awards (Prix de la Nouvelle Vague in 1958 and
Prix du Roman Populiste in 1961, for example) distinguished her early fiction as
thematically significant. By comparison, a relative paucity of published scholarly
analysis exists referencing her later work. This study extends the existing body of
critical analysis surrounding Rochefort's fiction with new readings of the writer's
later work and scholarly analysis of several texts which, until now have remained
obscure, misunderstood, and under appreciated. In addition, this dissertation
proposes Rochefort's later narratives as examples of a recent trend toward
hybridization of the novelistic genre into what has been labeled autofiction.
The similarity between Rochefort's work and the description given by the
Swedish Academy of the work of this year's Nobel laureate, Gao Xingjiang, is
particularly striking. The work of this Chinese dissident was noted by the Academy
for the "bitter insights and linguistic ingenuity" in his writings about the "struggle for
individuality in mass culture." These words equally characterize Christiane
Rochefort's work as a dissident voice in protest against centers of authority in post
226

227
World War II France. Her writing is linguistically innovative and ironically critical
of socio-economic, psychological and textual norms. In her texts, voice functions as
the fundamental vehicle through which that human struggle is represented. Through
the complexity and dialogic interaction of these voices, the writer is able to create
narrative tension as she examines and questions human relationships within the
context of family and contemporary society.
Noting that Rochefort's fiction is compatible with Mikhail Bakhtin's
definition of the novel as the intersection 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.
Bakhtinian theory provides a wealth of terms by which discourse and the voices
within it can be examined. At the base of this terminology is Bakhtin's concept of
heteroglossia. Broadly speaking, the term heteroglossia refers to the existence of
multiple voices that come together in different ways, for different purposes, and with
different results within the context of written narrative. Heteroglossia manifests itself
in narrative at several levels: at the level of the multiple voices in dialogue with one
another within the text; at the level of the text as it relates to other texts; and at the
level of the various voices that may be present simultaneously in the speech of a
single character within the text. One result of this multiplicity and layering of voices
is that novels tend to have several centers of authority, or intention, which are
typically in conflict, or in tension, with one another.

228
Also fundamental to Bakhtian theory is the concept of carnival. Carnival
arises from the populace as a voice of derision that seeks to appropriate the forbidden
and to abolish existing hierarchies. This voice of mockery, ambivalence, and reversal
rejects existing structures of authority or intention in favor of multiple voices of
conflict and tension. Rochefort's fiction, marked by carnivalesque language and
attitude, at times seeks to shock the reader in a foregrounding of the grotesque.
Morphological and syntactical transgressions in her writing testify to her
imagination, her comic sense, and her creative talent. Carnivalesque visions of utopia
motivate a number of her novels.
The title of this dissertation, "Christiane Rochefort and the Dialogic: Voices
of Tension and Intention," not only associates Rochefort's work with Bakhtinian
dialogics, it points to the significance of intention in textual voices and to tension
created as a result of their constant interaction. Intention suggests purpose, point of
view, direction, and persuasion or seduction. It is inherently conflicted in that it
anticipates response. Tension implies resistance, conflict, complexity, and ambiguity
or indecision. Tension and intention, then, work together to break open linear
narratives and force the reader to question. Rochefort's fictional corpus seems
expressly designed to question and challenge the status quo and, in so doing, suggest
other ways of seeing, of behaving, of being. As Rochefort's work evolves, becoming
more subversively carnivalesque, the relationship between the forces of tension and
intention becomes increasingly complex. Intention becomes more difficult to discern
due to the plurality of voices and to the increasing ambiguity surrounding them.
Voices of intention become voices "in” tension.

229
For purposes of this study, Rochefort's work is divided into three groups in
order to trace its thematic and stylistic development. Analysis of the textual voices
and their associated discourse also necessarily brings into account the context in
which those voices resound. Rochefort's fiction covers a period of some forty years
during the latter half of the twentieth century. The first group of novels is set in post-
World War II French society, a time of economic restructuring and emerging
capitalist materialism and consumerism. Each of the three novels in this group deals
with essentially the same theme by articulating or voicing, from three different
individual female perspectives, the tensions existing within and between different
levels of French society during those years of rapid social and economic change.
Although labeled "innocent" by the writer, these novels are stylistically complex and
seeded with elements that are more fully developed in Rochefort's mature fiction.
Already in evidence are: splitting and shifting of the narrative voice; heteroglossic
layering and parodying; doubling; varying levels of languages; mise-en-abyme or
embedding; intertextuality; and metatextual commentary—all of which expose
mechanisms of power.
In Rochefort's first novel, Le Repos du guerrier, a young bourgeois woman
becomes disillusioned after falling in love with a bohemian male who cynically
mocks her superficial values and pre-pattemed lifestyle. In the second, Les Petits
Enfants du siécle, an adolescent girl from one of Paris' newly constructed habitations
a loyer modéré sarcastically observes lifestyles and attitudes among the financially
beleaguered inhabitants of these enormous architectural structures. In the third, Les
Stances á Sophie, a young bohemian woman marries into a bourgeois family where

230
she feels manipulated by controlling attitudes and discourses that would transform
her and force her to conform to a lifestyle that she comes to view as shallow and void
of meaning.
Rochefort's second cycle of novels evidences a shift in both thematic interest
and narrative style. The novels are characterized by increasing ambiguity
surrounding the voices, by anonymity and stylization of the characters, and by the
incorporation of dream elements and fantasy. As a result of these changes,
determinations involving voice become more problematic. Voices in these novels
reflect group dynamics and emanate from those sectors of society that the writer
viewed as dominated or marginalized in some way. Set in post-1968 France, the
voices underline a moment in society when the individual was superceded by the
mass. Rebellious groups dreamed of a better society and aspired to different roles for
themselves within it. Particular groups whose voices figure prominently in these
novels include youths (of both elementary and university age) and homosexuals.
Subversion at the thematic level is duplicated stylistically by the inclusion of
numerous undesignated voices and in the linguistic novelty of their speech. From the
voices of intention in Rochefort's early novels, these later texts produce
heterogeneous groups of voices in tension. Although utopian ideals motivate these
narratives, issues of identity and individual self-determination remain fundamental
themes.
Rochefort's final group of texts, those novels published between 1982 and
1997, manifest a return to first-person perspective and focus again on the plight of
the individual. Still at issue are concerns of self and identity, this time tinged with

231
preoccupation with death and fascination for the act of writing as extension and
preservation of self. Tension among the voices continues to arise from issues of
gender and sexuality. It is not sexual activity, however, but sexually determined
identity that is central to these texts. Further tension derives from heteroglossic
layering of voices in both direct and indirect discourse as well as from movement
between the two forms of speech. Other factors that contribute to the creation of
narrative tension include: ambiguity due to juxtaposition of metaphorical,
fantasmagorical and mimetic figurations of reality; dialogic exchange among textual
and intertextual voices; and the hybrid structure of the texts themselves.
These autofictional texts set up tension by calling into question
considerations of authenticity and intentionality, exhibiting acute awareness of the
social and political dimensions in which self and text are produced. This group of
Rochefortian fictions is especially attentive to the connectedness between self and
the world. The fictional voices in these texts continue to raise issues of subjectivity
and gender as personal text and historical context intersect. These novelistic hybrids,
by refusing pre-existing stylistic and structural guidelines, stylistically parallel the
breakdown of social, political, and even geographical categorizations of humanity in
post-colonial twentieth-century cultures.
Thematically, Rochefort's fictional corpus offers insights into the effects of
political, economic, and other cultural influences on the personal lives of French
citizens. Absent from Rochefort’s fiction is any evidence of emotion, pity or pathos.
Rather, her novels are an intellectual examination and interrogation of subtle
mechanisms of control. Often in the language of the proletariat, they express scorn,

232
mistrust, and mocking sarcasm. Yet, through the din of voices, the novels
consistently reveal unflagging belief in the value of the individual, concern for
her/his condition, and make a spirited appeal for the right to be different. Also
fundamental to Rochefort's fiction are issues germane to politics of relationships and
questions of identity, all of which are inextricably linked to intricacies and subtleties
of language. As language and culture continue to evolve, and as individuals and
collectivities struggle to comprehend the world and their places in it, Christiane
Rochefort's writing will remain relevant. When readers approach Rochefort's fiction
by focusing on the intention of the narrative voices and the tensions resulting from
the dialogic interaction of those voices, deeper and more complex meanings will be
derived.

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BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH
Pamela Paine grew up in Okaloosa county, Florida where she graduated from
Choctawhatchee High School in 1962. She earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in
French from Florida State University in 1966. During her years as a university
student, she lived during the summers with her family in Cháteauroux, France and
participated in French language programs at the Université de Poitiers in Tours,
France.
After graduating from the university, she married James Robert Paine in the
summer of 1966. They had two children, Christine Leigh and James Robert, Jr.
During the years between 1966 and 1992, Pamela taught French and English in high
schools in Florida, Georgia, Mississippi, and Alabama, areas where her family lived.
As a high school teacher, she organized student tours of France, England and Spain.
She also participated in French language seminars at the Université Laval in Quebec.
In 1993, Pamela began advanced studies in French at Auburn University as a
teaching assistant. While a student at Auburn University, she lived and studied for
one semester at the Institut Universitaire pour la Formation de Maitres in Caen,
France. She received her Master of Arts in French in 1995. She then began doctoral
studies at the University of Florida, where she also worked as a teaching assistant,
and completed her qualifying examinations in the spring of 1998.
Since that time, she has taught French at Auburn University where she is
currently coordinator of first year French studies.
243

I certify that I have read this study and that in my opinion it conforms to
acceptable standards of scholarly presentation and is fully adequate, in scope and
quality, as a dissertation for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy.
Cdrol J. Murphy, Chair;
Professor of Romance Li
iguages and Literatures
I certify that 1 have read this study and that in my opinion it conforms to
acceptable standards of scholarly presentation and is fully adequate, in scope and
quality, as a dissertation for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy.
5—
Susan Read Baker
Professor of Romance Languages and Literatures
I certify that I have read this study and that in my opinion it conforms to
acceptable standards of scholarly presentation and is fully adequate, in scope and
quality, as a dissertation for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy.
^7l/*JC, ,
William Calin
Graduate Research Professor of Romance Languages and Literatures
I certify that I have read this study and that in my opinion it conforms to
acceptable standards of scholarly presentation and is fully adequate, in scope and
quality, as a dissertation for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy.
R. Brandon Kershner
Professor of English
I certify that I have read this study and that in my opinion it conforms to
acceptable standards of scholarly presentation and is fully adequate, in scope and
quality, as a dissertation for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy.
omance Languages and Literatures

This dissertation was submitted to the Graduate Faculty of the Department
of Romance Languages and Literatures in the College of Liberal Arts and
Sciences and to the Graduate School and was accepted as partial fulfillment of the
requirements for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy.
December 2000
Winfred M. Phillips
Dean, Graduate School

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1780
2 QOO.
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UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA
3 1282 08556 6932



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