Themes and Meanings

(Literary Essentials: World Fiction)

Commenting on The Flanders Road, Claude Simon has drawn attention to its cloverleaf structure, thereby underlining the principles of doubling and repetition upon which this novel is structured. The physical presence around which the cloverleaf is drawn is the corpse of a horse killed in the ambush in which de Reixach dies. As in other instances in The Flanders Road, however, physicality is both a reality in its own right and the pretext for the mind’s efforts and anxiety to give form to the abstract. Thus, while the horse’s remains have significance as a casualty of war, and are the occasion for some striking meditations on the depredations of warfare, they also achieve greater significance by facilitating motifs of recurrence and duality.

These motifs are given their most sustained force in the manner in which the novel deals with time, a manner which provides the most obvious basis for its kinship with some of the great works of modernist fiction. Time is experienced in two ways in the novel. As a general, abstract phenomenon, it is present—to Georges, particularly—as an ineluctable, irreversible force whose iron path is starkly denoted by Georges’s rail journey to the prison camp.

That journey shows Georges in the grip of time, at the disposal of an agency which he cannot control: It is noteworthy that his condition is made synonymous with defeat and with the impotence that defeat confers. In the camp, however,...

(The entire section is 428 words.)