Places Discussed

(Critical Guide to Settings and Places in Literature)


*Paris. Capital city of France and, in French eyes, the very definition of civilization. Paris is metaphorically personified in the plot by Monsieur Denoisel, a “true Parisian” who sells the land he inherits and invests the money in the stock exchange, thus rendering his capital theoretical rather than concrete. Various artifices and compromises allow him to live well on a modest income. He lodges in a snug three-room flat close to Boulevard des Italiens, dining at clubs and restaurants. Whenever his income is exhausted, he disappears from Paris and lives more cheaply in a country inn, where tobacco is his only indulgence, or even more cheaply in Florence, Italy.

The first Parisian setting featured in the story is the tastefully decorated house on the rue de Madelaine, where Madame Mauperin visits the fashionable Abbé Blampoix. She moves on from there to Henri’s flat in the rue Taitbout, with its ominous pair of swords set atop the bookcase, where he holds solemn parties that are more like academic conferences. It is close to the rue de la Chaussée d’Antin, where Renée was taken as a child, in company with Noémi Bourjot, to the lectures that Henri still attends, sometimes dropping into the Café Bignon on the corner.

Other Parisian settings featured include the auction rooms where Madame Mauperin and Renée go to see Lord Mansbury’s art collection; the library in the rue Richelieu where Renée overhears the fateful detail that costs Henri his life: and the Ville d’Avray, beside whose frozen lake Henri exchanges pistol-shots with Boisjorand de Villacourt.


*Bourmont (bor-MOHNG). Town in the Haut-Marne in which Charles Mauperin settles on his return to...

(The entire section is 717 words.)


(Great Characters in Literature)

Baldick, Robert. The Goncourts. London: Bowes and Bowes, 1960. A very brief but excellent survey of the Goncourts’ novels. Concentrates on biographical background to the novels, but also provides some exploration of major themes in the works and aspects of literary style. Emphasizes the Goncourts’ scorn of the bourgeoisie’s lack of aesthetic sensibility.

Billy, André. The Goncourt Brothers. Translated by Margaret Shaw. London: A. Deutsch, 1960. The standard biography of the Goncourts focuses on events in the lives of the brothers from which the novels emerged. Also provides examples of contemporary reaction to their novels.

Grant, Richard B. The Goncourt Brothers. New York: Twayne, 1972. A solid survey of the life and works of Jules and Edmond de Goncourt. Integrates the lives of the authors with detailed stylistic and thematic analysis of their novels. The chapter on Renée Mauperin elaborates the brothers’ political views and traces their derogatory commentary on bourgeois taste.

Nelson, Brian, ed. Naturalism in the European Novel: New Critical Perspectives. New York: Berg, 1992. An assortment of essays by prominent scholars. Includes several important discussions of the Goncourts’ role in the development of social documentary as a literary genre.

Silverman, Debora. Art Nouveau in Fin-de-Siècle France: Politics, Psychology, and Style. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1989. Although Silverman’s book primarily concerns itself with the collecting habits and art criticism of the brothers Goncourt, it provides some valuable insight into their fictional works from a feminist perspective.