Characters Discussed

(Great Characters in Literature)

Aléxandre Mortin

Aléxandre Mortin (ah-lehk-SAHNDR mohr-TA[N]), a failed author and would-be historian. At the age of twenty, he published some poems in the Fantoniard, the local newspaper, and then earned a scant living as a hack writer. With his small mustache; old, greasy hat; and pince-nez glasses, he was a common sight in the village of Fantoine as he went about collecting all forms of printed matter—newspapers, advertisements, and catalogs—and gossip in an effort to chronicle the history of his family and region. Given to drink and perhaps senile in his later years, he never organizes all the papers he accumulates. His death is mysterious; various accounts claim that he died of a heart attack, committed suicide, was strangled or poisoned, or was stabbed by his maid, by her nephew, or by his own nephew and heir. Aléxandre’s failure to make sense of the information he has gathered, like the multiple accounts of his death, reveals the impossibility of knowing, the uncertainty of what passes for truth.


Théodore (tay-oh-DOHR), Aléxandre Mortin’s godson and nephew, or great-great-nephew, and heir. As a child, he may have lived with Aléxandre, whom he affectionately called Dieudonne or Dodo, because his own mother was too poor to support him or because Aléxandre bribed her and kept the boy as his...

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The Characters

(Literary Essentials: World Fiction)

Like all Robert Pinget’s other works, That Voice challenges the reader to sort out the characters’ identities, a task that ultimately proves as impossible as organizing Alexandre Mortin’s papers. In the preface to the French edition, Pinget highlights this problem: “Someone is speaking, someone is lying, someone is playing at dying by degrees and at killing his family circle. Who is the uncle? Who is the nephew? Who is the maid?”

Alexandre Mortin is Theodore’s uncle, or great-great-uncle, but Alexandre also bears the name Dieudonne, which is the French version of the Greek Theodore—the gift of God. Theodore further fuses his identity with his uncle’s by going to live in Alexandre’s house or grave, or both, and by assuming the lifelong task that his uncle had set for himself. As Pinget writes, Theodore works on his uncle’s papers “until the day when he realizes that he himself has become this juggler at the end of his tether, and that the story of this contorted, concocted, controversial manuscript is now well and truly his own, Mortin reincarnated in his nephew.” Theodore even wears his uncle’s glasses. Moreover, Theodore is also an uncle, and just as his uncle bequeathed him the dubious legacy of the papers, so he leaves the manuscript to his niece, who in turn assumes her dead uncle’s task of codification.

Just as Alexandre and Theodore meld into each other, so both fuse into Alfred Mortin, another...

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(Great Characters in Literature)

Henkels, Robert M., Jr. Robert Pinget: The Novel as Quest, 1979.

Livington, Beverly. “From A to F and Back: Pinget’s Fictive Arena,” in Yale French Studies. LVII (1979), pp. 72-85.

Marantz, Enid G. “The Conflict of Words and Voices in Pinget’s Cette Voix,” in The Review of Contemporary Fiction. III (Summer, 1983), pp. 134-140.

Updike, John. “Between Pinget’s Ears,” in The New Yorker. LIX (July 11, 1983), pp. 96-99.