Travel Reference
In-Depth Information
One task remains to fulfil Flora's vow to 'affronter seule la ville' (159;
tackle the city alone [131]): revisiting the site of the traumatic fire in the
Saint-Roch quarter, which she does by descending via the Côte de la
Couronne into the lower city, at night, as if into the depths of her past.
The fictive hospice Saint-Louis, like the real-life hospice Saint-Charles
on which the episode is based, was consumed by fire in December of
1927. 20 Despite the disappearance of the building itself, the very site
causes precise images to leave the shadows of the past and surge into
Flora's consciousness: 'Voici que des images surgissent, à la vitesse du
vent, plus rapides que la pensée, une promptitude folle, tandis que les
cinq sens ravivés ramènent des sons, des odeurs, des touchers, des
goûts amers et que se déchaînent les souvenirs, en flèches précises, ti-
rées des ténèbres, sans répit.' (167; Now images are looming up at the
speed of the wind, faster than thought, a wild quickness, while the five
senses, stirred to life, bring sounds, smells, touch, bitter tastes which
unloose memories, precise arrows drawn from the shadows, without
respite [138].)
Having faced the past, Flora is now prepared to face up to her present
age (she is nearing sixty despite her penchant for hanging out with
Maud's friends and flirting with Raphaël!) and the aging process repre-
sented by the role of Winnie in Beckett's Oh! les beaux jours , which she
had previously put off but now embraces (172). Having thus resur-
rected the repressed parts of her own personality, Flora is now ready to
reach out to others, and, on cue, Hébert brings Maud on stage. The con-
trite young runaway promptly proposes returning to France with her
mother, who, now aware of the fragility of their relationship and that 'le
premier jardin' lies permanently in the past, is able to 'faire semblant de
croire au retour possible du paradis perdu' (174; pretend to believe in
the possibility of regaining a lost paradise [144]) and to convince Maud
that they must wait at least to honour Flora's contract. Afraid of en-
countering the unfaithful Raphaël, Maud remains confined to Flora's
hotel room, even when her mother is at rehearsals, until, one day, she
declares that she can't stand being shut up and wants to go out (181),
leading her mother on an odyssey through the city's night spots that
ends with Maud's reconciliation with Raphaël. Flora reluctantly but
resolutely accepts her solitude, once again enlightened by a theatrical
role: 'Et c'est Winnie qui parle par la bouche de Flora Fontanges. Cette
femme connaît déjà les quatre saisons de la vie alors qu'une saison de
surcroît lui est donnée, transfigurant joies et peines quotidiennes,
pour en faire une parole véhémente éclatant sur une scène, en pleine
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