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sont-ils retirés, dorment-ils de leur dernier sommeil, murés dans la pierre
de taille de leurs demeures, aux larges bow windows ? Flora Fontanges
craint plus que toute autre chose de réveiller des fantômes et d'avoir à
jouer un rôle parmi les spectres. Elle presse le pas, marche de plus en plus
vite. Comme si on pouvait la joindre à la course. Évite soigneusement de
passer la porte Saint-Louis. Ne verra pas aujourd'hui les façades grises de
l'Esplanade ni la haute demeure de sa fausse grand-mère qu'on a transfor-
mée en hôtel. En passant près des anciens tennis du parlement, la vue des
montagnes et du ciel, au loin, un instant, lui entre dans le coeur par sur-
prise. [21-2; The Grande-Allée with its tawdry theatrical finery extends as
far as the St. Louis Gate … No births or deaths (except for accidents) inside
the stone houses daubed with colour. But where are the people? The real
ones? Those whose lives are tied to the dark woodwork, the nasty cellars,
the exhausting staircases, the stacked-up storeys, the roaring fireplaces.
Have they gone away, are they sleeping their final sleep walled up inside
these stone mansions with their broad bow windows? More than anything
else, Flora Fontanges is afraid of awakening phantoms, of having to play a
role among ghosts. She quickens her pace, strides faster and faster. As if she
too could join the race. Carefully avoids the St. Louis Gate. Will not see to-
day the grey house fronts of the Esplanade or the tall mansion of her false
grandmother, which they have transformed into a hotel. As she walks past
the old tennis courts of the parliament buildings, the sight of the distant
mountains and sky briefly, surprisingly, touches her heart. (13 -14)]
The opening comparison of the Grande-Allée to a theatre extends this
recurrent verbal and visual metaphor; in essence, as suggested by the
novel's epigraph, the city becomes the stage on which the character's
psychodrama will play itself out and from which, eventually, we'll
catch the conscience of the actress. 6 Already, early in 'act one,' the reader
discerns a certain pattern in the setting/sets, as the houses on the
Grande-Allée, like that of the 'fausse grand-mère' on the nearby and
even more elegant Esplanade, have been 'transformed' from their past
identities into a more modern usage ('transformée en hôtel'), just as the
city's railway station has been displaced.
The nested analogy of the city to the houses within it extends further
to the walls encompassing both ('murés dans la pierre de taille') and
masking mysteries of identity: 'Mais où sont les gens? Les vrais.' The
inquisitive Flora, ironically but consistently, refuses to question her own
past by avoiding the gate ('la porte Saint-Louis') that leads through the
walls and towards her own truths. Raynald Leclerc expresses a similar
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