Characters Discussed

(Great Characters in Literature)

Antoine Montès

Antoine Montès (ahn-TWAHN mohn-TEHZ), age thirty-five, who arrives in a small town to take possession of a vineyard inherited from a father whom he has never known. His mother had left the town and Antoine’s father after she discovered him making love to the maid. Montès fires the bailiff, who refuses to uproot his own family from the property. Montès makes the acquaintance of several people in a town that generally rejects him: Rose (with whom he falls in love), Maurice, distant cousins, the notary, and a stranger (the narrator) whom he meets in a photography shop.


Maurice (moh-REES), a pretentious and nosy fertilizer salesman. He tries to befriend Montès and discovers that he is hiding stolen goods for Rose. He steals a note written by Cécile to Montès and tries to blackmail her father with it.


Cécile (say-SEEL), the younger, tomboyish daughter of Montès’ distant relative. She breaks off her relationship with her fiancé as she becomes enamored of Montès and writes Montès a note. When she is found out by her older sister, she forces her former fiancé to make love to her.


Hélène (ay-LEHN), the older sister of Cécile. She discovers Cécile’s relationship with...

(The entire section is 604 words.)

The Characters

(Literary Essentials: World Fiction)

Antoine Montès has no clear identity since all that is revealed is what the other characters think about him, and they see primarily what is on the surface: unkempt appearance, tattered raincoat, beret, camera always hanging from his neck. Montès looks older than his age and is said to resemble someone who has just escaped from a concentration camp or “one of those characters that seem to have stepped out of Daumier: dusty, heron like and threadbare.” Montès is a walking contradiction, seeming both apelike and aristocratic. His gentle nature makes him seem almost saintly, but he is also dangerously naive. (Claude Simon has acknowledged the influence of Fyodor Dostoevski’s 1868 novel The Idiot, English translation 1887.) Montès has a “catastrophic gift of attracting trouble the way other people attract dogs or money” and has a “fundamental inaptitude for being aware of life, things, events except by the intermediary of his senses, his heart.”

Montès affects people by making them, without any effort on his part, think that he has qualities belying his appearance. He works an “incomprehensible spell” on people—especially women and children, those considered weak by his society. When Cécile asks why he pretends “to be such a fool,” he is unaware of any pretense. Rose has a similarly mysterious effect on him, making him “sense the secret pulsation of her blood.” The only lengthy conversation they have involves “perhaps the...

(The entire section is 604 words.)


(Great Characters in Literature)

Birn, Randi, and Karen Gould, eds. Orion Blinded: Essays on Claude Simon, 1981.

Fletcher, John. Claude Simon and Fiction Now, 1975.

Jimenez-Fajardo, Salvador. Claude Simon, 1975.

Loubere, J.A.E. The Novels of Claude Simon, 1975.

Sturrock, John. The French New Novel: Claude Simon, Michel Butor, Alain Robbe-Grillet, 1969.