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Extra resources for A World Abandoned by God: Narrative and Secularism
In the episode of the secret note, the narrator compares politics in the novel to a pistol shot in a concert (‘‘The noise is shattering without being forceful. It doesn’t harmonize with any of the other instruments’’ [304; 376]). To continue this musical comparison, the world of Le rouge can be read as a discordant orchestra; without what Brombert called explicatory transitions, the novel resonates not so much as a symphonic whole as a compendium of various melodies, one on top of the other. The cacophonous composition of scenes, for instance, the introduction of Falcoz and Giraud, the episode of the secret note and Castane`de’s inexplicable opposition to the note’s delivery, the adjudication scene and the visit of Geronimo, the encounter with Don Diego Bustos, introduced and then abandoned, the continuous alterations in sentiment, Julien’s love for Ma- 34 A WORLD ABANDONED BY GOD dame de Reˆnal, then for Mathilde, then, suddenly, once more for Madame de Reˆnal, produce this discordance.
This is his most spontaneous action and it is also, significantly, his most unreadable. From the moment he steps out of the house, his actions are dramatic, erratic, and peculiar. The narrator writes: ‘‘On this swift journey he was unable to write to Mathilde, as he had intended to do; his hand formed nothing on the paper but illegible scrawls [traits illisibles]’’ (362; 449). Unable to read or represent himself as other than the manipulated and mediated character that he was in the Paris mansion, Julien cannot make sense.
Writes Georges Poulet, ‘‘For the first time in the history of the novel, human consciousness shows itself as it is, as a sort of core, around which sensations, thoughts and memories move in a perceptible space. ’’7 In the natural world, Poulet states, the mind ‘‘radiates’’ out to what is around it. ‘‘S’e´pandant dans toutes les directions’’ implies the mind’s vast and perhaps boundless domain, its extension into and onto the world around it. So it is for Emma in Rouen. But it is worth noting that this extension, while celebrating the range and centrality of the mind, stands at the same time to eliminate God and the notion of the outside.