Françoise Mallet-Joris Genevieve Delattre - Essay

Genevieve Delattre

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

["The look", a term used to describe Françoise Mallet-Joris' predominantly visual, highly objective temperament,] is a look which first of all catches objects, observes them with curiosity, details them with love, perceives their harmony; a look without which the descriptive talent of the author would not succeed…. (p. 121)

If this look, objective and creative as well, only embraced things, it would be but a source of joy. It turns, however, towards human beings and scans them with the same eagerness. At this point, from a well delineated world of gleaming objects … we pass into a world of mist and uncertainty, the realm of the lie. Why this transformation? Precisely because objectivity becomes impossible where human beings are involved. The reality of a landscape, of an object, coincides with their appearance. The eye can know them and fix them, at least at a given moment. When we look at Françoise Mallet-Joris' characters, on the contrary, our eyes are met by their appearance only, that is by what they are willing to let us see. Their truth hides behind the fortress of lies which they have erected, in a secret realm where they are overcome by fear when faced with their nudity and vulnerability, with what the novelist sometimes calls their soul.

She is the first one to encounter this opacity of beings. She cannot see more than their external aspects, their physical features, their attitudes—in short, their masks. To surmount this obstacle, she has but a single means: to carry her objectivity to the extreme, that is, renounce all personal intervention and judgment. The author's objectivity then becomes the character's subjectivity. The two possible techniques for such a reversal are narration in the first person, used by Françoise Mallet-Joris in her first two novels (Le Rempart des béguines and La Chambre rouge), or the interior monologue, of which she makes more and more use in the next two novels (Les Mensonges and L'empire céleste).

Whatever the technique, the look remains for...

(The entire section is 854 words.)