Places Discussed

(Critical Guide to Settings and Places in Literature)


*Franche-Comté (franshe kohn-TAY). Mountainous area in France southeast of Burgundy and near the border with Switzerland. Franche-Comté is a popular resort area, and it is here that The Other One opens. Fanny Farou and her playwright husband, known simply as Farou, and their son, Jean, are at the Villa Déan for a summer vacation. Also a member of the party is Jane Aubaret, Farou’s assistant, sometime mistress, and Fanny’s friend—and rival. Jane is the “seconde”—“number two,” or perhaps “second fiddle.” Both of these meanings are suggested by the French word.

The heat, the dry terrain, the unkempt vegetation, and the mountainous horizon constitute the principal features—and drawbacks—of the villa setting. Farou comes and goes, frequently commuting to Paris, where he has plays in production. Fanny is initially uncomfortable during the family’s first summer at the villa. She finds the landscape dreary, the heat unpleasant; even the beautiful sunsets, she thinks, are for other people on the other sides of the mountains. In her view, Jane too is unnerved by the frequent thunderstorms and begins to weep over lost love affairs. Colette’s descriptions here emphasize the shrubbery, flowers, and unpruned trees; the leaves and branches of some of the latter even encroach upon the house.

There is a certain wildness to the place. Sixteen-year-old Jean, who falls in love with Jane, though she is twice his age, often seems to inhabit the shrubs, trees, and shadows, leaping from them unexpectedly. Disorder manifests itself, too, in Farou’s infidelity to Fanny—including his ongoing fling with Jane, thus intruding into the tranquillity of Fanny and her household. And finally, Jean’s...

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