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dependant on men - 'la destinée amère des filles' (105; the bitter destiny
of girls [83]) - then leads Flora to her previous theatrical role of Ophelia
in Shakespeare's Hamlet , and the memory of her lover at the time. From
there, it is but a small step in her memory to her title role in Racine's
Phèdre and the resurrection, recounted at Raphaël's request, of the affair
that led to Maud's birth, despite the wishes of Flora's lover, Maud's
father, already married, whom Flora would never see again.
The increasingly personal revelations prompted by the memory of
previous roles culminate with the recollection of the role of Fantine in a
theatrical version of Hugo's novel Les misérables . To better play the role
of the prostitute who has to give up her child, the young Flora was
forced to plunge into her own past: 'Flora Fontanges n'aura qu'à puiser
dans sa propre enfance, là où elle s'était promis de ne plus remettre les
pieds.' (112; Flora Fontanges can merely draw from her own childhood,
go back where she had promised herself never again to set foot [91].) At
that time, shortly after Maud's birth, Flora failed to see the irony that,
by immersing herself in the role of Fantine, fed by her own feelings of
being abandoned as a child, she initiated a pattern of abandonment of
her own child that came to characterize and ruin their relationship. This
revelation comes later in her life, but earlier in our reading of the novel
in an episode to which we now (re)turn.
During Flora's first visit to the apartment housing the 'commune' in
which Maud and Raphaël had lived, Flora had noticed a series of post-
ers of herself in previous plays, pinned to the wall and interspersed
with newspaper clippings of missing person appeals authored by Flora
at various points in the past to hopefully reach the runaway Maud. As
is so often the case, the theatrical allusions enable, even oblige Flora to
come to a realization about her own past, in this case her stormy rela-
tionship with her daughter and why the latter is also presently missing:
'De là à croire que Maud disparaît dans le noir chaque fois que sa mère
monte à nouveau sur une scène, en pleine lumière, face au public qui
l'acclame.' (62; As if it's clear that Maud vanishes into the dark every
time her mother comes back on stage, to face the lights, the cheering
audience [45].)
Maud's present departure, like her past ones, is caused then by her
mother's career, not just because Maud must share her with an adoring
public, but especially because, in acting, Flora becomes someone else,
threatening Maud's identity as her mother abandons her own. As Flora
reflects on this problematic relationship, which, in separating mother
and daughter, mirrors her own status as an orphan, she is visited by
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