Violette Leduc SIMONE de BEAUVOIR - Essay


(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

Violette Leduc does not try to please; she doesn't please; in fact, she alarms people…. Leafing through [her books] you glimpse a world full of sound and fury, where love often bears the name of hate, where a passion for life bursts forth in cries of despair; a world laid waste by loneliness which, seen from afar, looks arid. It is not in fact. (pp. v-vi)

[In La Bâtarde, Violette Leduc's autobiography, she is a] schoolgirl of fifty-five … writing down words in an exercise book. And sometimes, when her memories do not suffice to illumine her emotions, she whirls us off into strange flights of fancy; she exorcises the absence that tortures her with violent and lyrical phantasmagoria. Under its real-life covering, the dream life shows through, running like filigree through stories of the utmost simplicity.

She is her own principal heroine. But her protagonists exist intensely. (pp. xii-xiii)

Because she is "never satisfied" she has always remained open to new experiences; any encounter can appease her hunger or at least distract her from it: everyone she meets is an object for her acute and attentive observation. She unmasks tragedies and farces concealed behind facades of apparent banality. In a few pages, in a few lines, she can bring to life the characters who have established a claim to her curiosity or her friendship…. Moving, unusual, they take the same hold on our interest as they did on hers.

She is interested in people. She cares about things…. For Violette Leduc,… language is to be found in things, and the risk a writer runs is that of betraying them. (p. xiii)

She can extract the warmth, the softness, from a child's sock. She inhales the odor of her poverty tenderly from her old rabbit-fur coat. She finds succor in a church chair, in a clock…. (pp. xiii-xiv)

Violette Leduc paints tortured landscapes which resemble those of Van Gogh…. But she can also describe the peace of autumns, the shy approach of spring, the silence of a sunken lane…. We perceive abstractions through our senses when she evokes "the playfulness of the cow-parsley flowers … the anguished scent of fresh sawdust … the mystic vapor of flowering lavender." There is nothing forced in her notations: the countryside is talking spontaneously about the men who cultivate and inhabit it. And through this countryside Violette Leduc is reconciled to those who live in it. (p. xiv)

All writers who tell us about themselves aspire to sincerity: each has his own, which resembles no other. I know of none more complete than Violette Leduc's. Guilty, guilty, guilty: her mother's voice still reverberates inside...

(The entire section is 1115 words.)