Travel Reference
In-Depth Information
on the wooden promenade. Two currents meet, collide and mingle on the
resonant boards, like the movement of the river when sweet water meets
salt, briefly blurring, then each follows its briny course. (30)]
Under the coinciding signs of verticality ('sous'), immensity ('le ciel'),
multiplicity ('la foule'), binarity ('haute ville … basse ville'), and hy-
bridity (the fresh water mixes with the salt water, just as the residents of
the upper city and the lower city mingle together), the description also
marks a transition in the story, as Flora's meanderings take her increas-
ingly to the lower city, the site of the city's origins, and thus, perhaps,
deeper into her own. 8
The Lower City
The lower city, like la Grande-Allée, is saturated with the past and simi-
larly compared to a theatrical set: 'Elle est seule au bord du fleuve dans
la partie basse de la ville, là où tout a commencé il y a trois siècles. Cela
ressemble à un décor de théâtre.' (49; She is alone by the side of the
river in the lower part of the city, where everything began three centu-
ries ago. It resembles a theatre set [34].) Moreover and more pointedly,
aided by Raphaël's knowledge of history, Flora will spontaneously in-
vent, then play, a series of historical roles, not to explore her own ori-
gins but precisely to escape from having to do so.
Role-playing enables Flora not only to avoid images of Maud that
begin to assail her (49-50), but also to assume identities other than her
own: 'Elle cherche un nom de femme à habiter. Pour éclater de nou-
veau dans la lumière.' (49; She is seeking a woman's name to inhabit.
To shine forth anew in the light [34].) In bursting into light, however,
she relegates large segments of her own history to darkness. In a later
moment of heightened consciousness (and Hébert repeatedly invites
the reader to superimpose passages separated by the temporality of the
text), Flora acknowledges the repressive value of the roles, both theatri-
cal and historical, that she continuously, impulsively plays: 'Tant qu'elle
jouera un rôle, sa mémoire se tiendra tranquille et ses propres souvenirs
de joie ou de peine ne serviront qu'à nourrir des vie étrangères.' (106;
As long as she is playing a part, her memory will be at rest and her own
recollections of joy or sorrow will serve only to nourish lives other than
hers [85].)
Ironically (and skilfully managed by Hébert), however, the very roles
that Flora musters to mask her memories of joy and sorrow, serve, on
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