Les Jeunes filles is the only other Montherlant text comparable to Les Olympiques as it is composed of letters, conventional narrative, journal extracts and newspaper advertisements. The author may have adopted this disparate composition in order to appeal to a public more interested in sport than in literature, which 66 would find self-contained portions of text more accessible.
Montherlant became interested in sport in before enlisting. Il alla voir le Dr de Martel qui permit le foot et la course courte The reader is at times irritated, as the older author also confesses himself to be, by the pretentiousness of youth, but cannot help but be impressed by the confidence of the writer, who, even at 25, is 24 25 26 Raimond, Michel Les Romans de Montherlant, Sedes, Paris, , p. PE, Such statements in Le Solstice de juin are procollaborationist, but also constitute an attempt to inculcate a sense of values in the young French person, who is encouraged to strive, through sport, to form a sense of quality and an awareness of what is right, which will serves him in later life.
PRI, The land as an image of the human body is not arbitrary. Sport is a means of breaking the body down into its constituent parts because it emphasizes certain muscles or limbs. Beauty represents the divine on earth. The human body and the land are 68 intermingled and the heroic body is a map defined as a specific country, France. Athletics, football, boxing allow the narrator and author to re-enter the privileged environment where the young person exists.
In this milieu, integrity, love and the most excellent part of the self are to be found.
Postface. Les volontés de puissance, par Paolo D'Iorio
Just as the privileged space created by war and military life allows the narrator to pass from an adult macrocosm to the purer, more lucid regions of a microcosm populated by adolescent soldiers in Le Songe, in Les Olympiques, the stadium is the enclosed idyllic space within which the privileged relationship between older and younger adolescent occurs.
PRI, — The narrator of this passage yearns for order and finds it in the school, the battlefield and the sports stadium. The heroic state can be attained only within strictly determined confines. In this arrangement, the individual is separate from and yet together with his companions.
The team allows the isolated individual to have company without emotional demands. The class, the platoon and the team offer Montherlant the ideal 69 environment for congenial company, which keeps its distance. The Montherlant hero pits himself against his fellows and, through competition, betters himself.
Sport is one means of reaching a perfect or almost perfect state of being, which, contrary to the scenario envisaged in Le Songe, may, in Les Olympiques, be achieved with a companion. I am indebted to Pierre Sipriot for presenting me with a copy of this rare publication. In fact, betrayal, profound sadness at the thought of decline and death are states through which the narrator passes. They explain a point, but are also used to denote the end of an old way of being and the start of a new period. It is a notion in keeping with the concepts of love, growth, learning and a higher state of being.
For Montherlant, the body means more than physical presence, especially if the body concerned evokes the perfect beauty of youthful form; Montherlant believes in a spiritual body, which is not the vessel of a divine presence, but is, in itself, divine. In one of the short essays of Les Olympiques, the nature of the spiritual body is examined. Montherlant perceives that for the child, the artist and the lover, the spiritual body is fathomed by examining separate parts of the physical body, as if each had a life of its own. God, for Montherlant, is Man.
In the above passage, the author appeals to humanity to recognize its own divinity in the loveliness of this young man. The propensity for divinity lies in man, both in terms of his physical beauty and in the higher form of being described above, where, through communion with nature and with each other, the adolescent sportsmen and women achieve heroism and are thereby elevated to the realm of the gods.
Montherlant is, above all, concerned with the real, the elements of perfection which are available to us in the here and now. Peyrony has sacrificed heroism by betraying his sports club and wanting to join another where his chances of becoming a national player are greater. Ses bras glissent comme des bielles. Comme elles, il est tout musique. The broken body of Le Songe is reconstructed in Les Olympiques by re-constructing each constituent part and watching this part function independently.
The pleasing harmony evoked above is likened to the mathematical balance of the movements of the planets. The miracle of the re-created human body is related to the miracle of the universe, all represented in one Rodin-like male form. Throughout Les Olympiques the pre-eminence of the youthful body is emphasized. PRI, The former perception is external and the latter internal, but both express a feeling of awe before the wonder of the human body related to musical harmony. The narrator is filled with reverence at the metamorphosis he feels taking place within himself when he runs.
The human body in its youthful perfection is divine for Montherlant. Les Jeunes filles is not the only novel to portray women. They are represented, albeit briefly, in Les Olympiques, where, by participating 74 in sport, women cease to be marginalized and dependent emotionally and economically on husbands, fathers, brothers, lovers. The woman is rejected in Le Songe, but accepted in Les Olympiques, as she achieves heroic status through sport.
PRI, — Through sport, this daughter of a Breton aristocrat is transformed from a plain, uninteresting girl, for whom marriage offers the only possible alternative to a life of crippling poverty on her father's manor near Morlaix, into a heroine, a goddess, who runs as if she flies, who is the conduit of the gods.
The story of her short-lived salvation from this fate is a sad one, tenderly recounted. This act of hope ends in despair when she is 24 seconds over the record. The narrator claims kinship with this exiled aristocrat as she makes a futile attempt to regain her form. As with Peyrony, the narrator takes on the role of parent when witness to courage and sensibility in another human being, male or female. Montherlant is ever anxious to educate parents, to correct his own parents, to take on the role of his perpetually absent father, to become husband to his mother and save the son [his beloved companions] from disastrous parenting.
The father—son paradigm reveals more of Montherlant than any memoir could have done, in that it throws light on a sensibility still haunted by childhood. The novels read as manuals to good parenting; the protagonist or narrator is frequently cast in the role of the parent to his 75 younger, beloved companion, urging him towards self-improvement. Montherlant, in constantly re-enacting the role of ideal parent, fails to accept the other as separate and fails to accept difference in himself; the repressed is refused as an integral part of identity and, therefore, wholeness is forever allusive.
Heroic Friendship: Maturation and Degeneration Inevitable degeneration of friendship results from the innate destructiveness of the heroic enterprise. Virile friendship is played out in the interchange of values between the narrator and Peyrony. Peyrony has in fact learnt from his older friend, who has also absorbed a lesson from their friendship. The narrator admits, in a dramatized final conversation with Peyrony, that he cannot face the seriousness of life. In loving his companion, the narrator has gained entry into the world of the body, of the senses.
He deliberately turns away from reasoning, since there is no rational way of explaining life, to embrace the domain of the game, where the senses may be satisfied. PRI, — Montherlant criticizes his youthful concept of heroism. Peyrony is a person of quality, aware of his intellectual and spiritual responsibilities in life. Yet, the narrator accuses him of treachery. The words encapsulate stoicism in the face of danger and inevitable death, but they also acknowledge the pain felt by the author on his day of reckoning.
Montherlant recognizes that nothing lasts in life and, knowing this, conduct is all-important. It is not living or dying that counts, it is the way one lives and dies.
The end of intimate friendship between two young men or between an older man and a younger boy is accepted with stoicism as a fact of life. The recurring theme of abandonment and rejection is allied to that of renunciation. The youthful Montherlant hero seeks fulfilment in a loving friendship, but considers solitude to be an inevitable stage in his progress towards the ideal. On the other side of the sublime state is the untouchable entity, which is either too pure [Dominique] or too defiled [Peyrony]. In the travel writings [Moustique, Encore un instant de bonheur and La Rose de sable], the older hero encounters younger companions, falls in love with them and their ensuing absence leads to his evolution.
In the later novels, abandonment and separation are permanent. Finally, the Montherlant protagonist is unable to reach the 30 78 Duroisin, op. The phrase occurs in Sienkiewicz, Henryk, Quo Vadis? It is achieved momentarily in loving encounters, treasured and yearned for by the ageing hero of the later plays and novels.
When the possibility of intimate encounter with the beloved is removed, the hero is finally isolated and enters a realm of nihilism where absolute knowledge is possible. The heroic enterprise is doomed because the Montherlant self deforms identity by displacing weakness, desire, cowardice onto the other. The opposite face of divinity, to be attained through heroism, is the forbidden, the outlawed.
Repression produces rejection and abandonment of the beloved, played out in the paradigm of renunciation. A young man who re-creates his recent past in search of an ideal heroic state writes Les Bestiaires. Montherlant cherishes above all, the preciousness of youth, knows this period will soon be lost and is anxious to fix it in time. The vegetable world is just as essential to Les Bestiaires as it was to Les Olympiques but, whereas animals occur infrequently in Le Songe and Les Olympiques, Les Bestiaires is the novel most concerned with animals, not only with bulls, but with a greyhound dog, pigeons, cats, and horses.
The narrator of Les Olympiques achieves heroism on the sports field and through communion with nature as he pushes his face into the grass and totally immerses himself in the vegetable world. Alban of Les Bestiaires achieves heroism through the integration of his body into that of the bull. Union with the beast transforms man into a god, in an act of sacrificial bloodletting. The text is formally more coherent than Les Olympiques or even Le Songe. It consists of eight chapters and an epilogue.
As usual with Montherlant there is some confusion over ages and dates. Raimond puts his age at 16 and situates the action over a period of 6 weeks.
Chrétien de Troyes
Pierre Sipriot gives the year as , which is incorrect. MA, The subject of the novel is the body, the body of the animal and of youthful man. Des corps? Quand 31 32 33 80 Raimond, op. MA, — For Montherlant, the youthful human body is eternal as it is passed on from generation to generation; the miraculous workings of the human body personify the divine in man. The sexual act ultimately celebrates the body and regenerates it where possession consists of energy being given from one partner to the other. Looking at the youthful body or possessing it is a source of life, as we shall see when Alban possesses the bull; here the sexual act and the act of killing are one and the same.
Les Bestiaires recounts the game of erotic love in human [Soledad and Alban execute a dance of love according to the rules of the courtly love tradition] and in animal terms [the dance of death executed by bull and matador]. Eroticism and death are closely allied. The symbol of blood is ever present, the spilling of blood being interpreted as a sacrifice which will cause the youthful body to be fruitful in a spiritual sense. PRI, A series of to and fro movements, electrified by passionate energy, are then executed by Alban and Soledad.
PRI, The final partner in this intricate dance of sexual desire and death is, of course, the bull. The bull dance is an act of love, compared to which the intricate steps executed by Alban and Soledad are a mere reflection of this more real and passionate exchange.
The game of bullfighting is transformed into the reality of living; the pleasure principle governs the movement of the lovers and this is the high point of the novel as it is of life. This passionate exchange in the act of love is what makes life worth living. Through their bodies, the bull and the man accomplish a spiritual apotheosis, which can only culminate in the death of one or other partner. For Montherlant, as for Duras, death represents the ultimate satisfaction of desire. Mithra, Hero and God Montherlant re-works the classical legend of Mithra in Les Bestiaires, using this non-Christian figure to depict the achievement of the heroic ideal so long sought by the adolescent protagonist, Alban.
Montherlant used the well-known work of Franz Cumont as a source for information on the Mithraic religion. Les Bestiaires is a reenactment of the Mithra legend, both in terms of the actions of the hero, Alban, who represents the god Mithra, and in the roles of secondary 36 Cumon, Franz. Lamertin, Brussels, , There are crucial reasons why this particular set of religious beliefs and practices appeal to the author. Most significantly, Mithra is a god who is eternally youthful; this is an essential element for Montherlant. In Les Bestiaires as well as in other works [Moustique, La Rose de sable and Les Olympiques for example] Montherlant demonstrates sympathy for ordinary people, as opposed to those of his own class.
They rated strength higher than gentleness, and preferred courage to lenity. The Mysteries of Mithra includes plates portraying ancient statues of Kronos or Mithraic Saturn, who represents boundless time. These youths bore the enigmatic epithets of Cauti and Cautopati, and were naught else than the double incarnation of his person.
The renewal of life, taking place after the death of the bull, is an essential feature of the novel. Thus, through the sacrifice which he had so resignedly undertaken, the tauroctonous hero became the creator of all the beneficent beings on earth; and, from the death which he had caused, was born a new life, more rich and more fecund than the old. PRI, This gesture re-enacts the pledge of brotherhood amongst the youths of ancient Greece.
The Mithraic religion is thought to stem from contemplation of the Orion constellation portraying the warrior god with the constellation of the bull and the dog nearby. The chapter, set apart from the rest of the text, introduces new characters. Alban is presented as a novice priest, being tutored by a chief priest; they are sun worshippers and also Christians, members of the Saint-Georges and Notre-Dame de Montserrat monasteries, designating an imagined integration of pagan and Christian religions. There is a small company of young men, led by the chief priest whom Alban calls his cousin.
The piece evokes spirituality and highlights the theme of love between man and animals. Montherlant believes that communion with animals is necessary for man to live healthily; he further propounds that the violent death of an animal, killed by man, can be a source of good, provided that the death is swift. Heroism may only be attained in an idealized fantasy world, where perfect harmony between fellow human beings, between man and beast and between ancient and modern religions is enacted in a format which bears no relation to the real world. The protagonist is always aiming for selfimprovement, working his way towards an ideal of heroism.
The relationship evolves to a certain degree in the direction of amelioration and then disintegrates, leaving, nevertheless, the sense that some growth has been achieved. The conclusion of each friendship lies in renunciation, followed by abandonment and finally rejection, but in a spirit of acceptance by the hero that the particular conclusion is somehow right.
The killing of the bull constitutes the only act of consummation in this series of early works. Desire in these novels functions according to the youth and beauty of the object, which is finally repudiated for fear of disruption of the self.
The phrase imparts a nihilistic isolation of the self when confronted with the forces of darkness or death, associated with loss of self. Montherlant uses this mantra, as noted above, in times of adversity or to strengthen himself in the last few weeks of his life [at the time of writing Mais aimons nous]. The History of Sexuality, vol. In this context, the phenomenon of renunciation occurring in each of the three novels discussed here is related to the conception of love as a quest for truth and heroism, for lover and beloved: it becomes apparent that Platonic erotics [ The young protagonist achieves transcendence in conjunction with his companion.
Renunciation of sexual gratification is an essential part of the evolution towards a higher state of being. Throughout the novels, the hero is primarily concerned that he and his beloved should recognize reality and truth. Through this knowledge, they will each, separately, achieve self-knowledge and spiritual advancement. Thus betrayal, abandonment and rejection may either be seen as a nihilistic movement towards further and further isolation of the subject or as a movement of ascendance, through loving, learning and parting, as circumstances and growth dictate.
Both pessimistic and optimistic tendencies have informed the evolution of the love relationship between younger beloved and older lover in these novels depicting the mythic adolescent hero. The adolescent is concerned with the spiritual progress of his beloved only for a brief period of time. Alban is more taken up with his own reaction 38 Ibid. The protagonist is ultimately concerned with his own progress or movement towards the mastery of truth, which will result in spiritual improvement and achievement of heroic status. The essays refer frequently to reaching down into the depths of the self to bring the essence to the surface.
These metaphors of mining the self refer to authenticity, to seeking the truth of the self as part of the heroic enterprise. PE, In knowing and being true to the self, the individual is asked to live authentically and, therefore, according to principles of quality. The fatal flaw in Montherlant system of values is lack of relativism; difference is rejected and, therefore, true knowledge of the self cannot be achieved.
Les Bestiaires is the only one of these three novels in which the protagonist does achieve heroic transcendance through association with the god, Mithra. Heroism is an unattainable prize, which Montherlant keeps in view throughout his work. Recognizing not only the absurdity of life but also the futility of striving for the ideal, the Montherlant protagonist sets up a set of principles according to which he lives, as if heroism were possible.
PE, The Montherlant protagonist is guilty of mauvaise foi because, although wholeness is sought through the heroic enterprise, repression and denial of multiplicity in the self leads to delusion and failure to recognize truth. The early novels, in their very attempt to define an ideal of heroism, indicate failure by the author to put his theoretical argument about truth into practice.
It deepens like a coastal shelf. The heroic enterprise of his early novels underwent a profound change, as the writer matured in the climate of insecurity and fear engendered by the events taking place in Europe during the s and 40s. The inspiration for his plays came from Greek classical drama, combined with his personal preoccupations relating to sexual orientation, familial conflict and the continued elaboration of a philosophical reaction to the pervading atmosphere in France, with the onset of the second apocalyptic conflict of the century.
Montherlant is still primarily concerned with the improvement of the individual, but acknowledges the futility of heroism as conceived by his younger self. In the plays, the multiplicity of the individual is painfully acknowledged; the playwright, unlike the novelist, can no longer deny alterity, in an attempt to create the hero. The prefaces and postfaces are supplemented by notes made during rehearsals and by reactions to critical and audience assessments. Each play is, therefore, a continually expanding artistic creation, whose interpretation extends over a period of years.
Je ne le vois pas ainsi. PT, Montherlant portrays the plural nature of the human being, stressing that multiplicity is typically human. The individual achieves his salvation through acknowledging the truth of his complex and contradictory nature. The early novels are twodimensional, portraying an adolescent hero, who rejects alterity, whereas the plays provide examples of the individual who is capable of good or evil acts and who displays the gamut of human qualities and faults between these two extremes.
The human flaws examined in this theatre are revealed in a paradigm of familial relations, usually structured around the Greek concept of the eraste—eromane relationship. Nobility of the human spirit is attained when the tragic hero reaches the ultimate point of suffering, either through external forces, or, more often, through the weaknesses in his own nature, he becomes closer to the divine. By experiencing tragedy, man is exalted beyond his human nature and achieves, through suffering, purity akin to that of the divine.
PT, Montherlant allies himself with the Greek classical playwrights and distances himself from the drama of action, which he sees as a characteristic of modern theatre. God is dead and, as a virtuous, heroic being, so is man. PT, Montherlant sets his writing apart from that of previous centuries and from that of his contemporaries, but his philosophy, like that of Malraux, Camus and Sartre, is centred on man.
His vision is darker than those of other writers and thinkers of the same generation. The hero sacrifices himself or those he loves not to a set of ideals imposed from outside, but rather to his own weaknesses. Mais il est aussi un grand sensible. PT, In constructing a personal philosophy, Montherlant emphasizes emotion and feeling rather than reason; hence the predominance of the love relationship in his novels and plays. He distinguishes himself from other writers and thinkers by this fact. They too contemplate the despair of modern man in a world which is absurd, but whereas Sartre and Malraux propose a solution initiated by the intellect, Montherlant appreciates, on a more pragmatic level, that we rely equally on our feelings and senses to react to the world.
The pre-eminence given to sensuality aligns Montherlant with Camus. And this tragedy is present in two main forms. It is also obviously present in the heroism, in some way thwarted or rendered sterile, of the main characters. A sense of tragedy comes to us mainly on the aesthetic level. In the second case we meet tragedy in human, emotional forms. In consequence, Montherlant is described as a realist, in that his main aim is to portray man in as real and honest a fashion a possible.
This may appear to be a strange notion for a playwright, many of whose characters are extraordinary rather than ordinary. In fact, Montherlant disclaims this notion of grandeur underlining his wish to present the real-life complexities of the human being as a mass of contradictions, for example, in a BBC interview given in July — Mes oeuvres [ PT, pp. PT, , , , , , , Dramatic action takes place within the main character, who is progressively isolated from his fellows, through his own decisions and actions.
Degradation of the individual is characterized not only by his descent into old age but also by his ultimate solitude, frequently provoked by his deliberate alienation of those around him. The interest of this theatre lies in what happens to the human being when he is irrevocably alone. The world has no sense and the individual must evolve a system of values, based on justice, honour, truth and the human experience of love to deal with the essentially absurd nature of the universe.
Action has not been relinquished; it has been moved from an external to an internal plane. The action of the play takes places on an emotional and psychological level, without resort to outside influences. In his theatrical works, Montherlant abandons the heroic ideal propounded in his early novels for a more realistic portrayal of the human being, where the protagonist initiates his own downfall, explores his own strengths and weaknesses, evolves towards or regresses from a system of morality, conceived in terms of the absurdity of existence in which the only certainty is death.
Montherlant, with roots in classical theatre, is very much a twentieth century writer, with his major concern not only the individual, in a general sense, but the self, in a most particular sense. Man contains all possible emotions and drives for good and evil within his self; everything is possible for a human being and it is this capacity for containing contradictory parts within the whole, which lends the individual his nobility and enables him to reach towards the divine.
Car Montherlant enseigne la distance. John Batchelor also recognizes a movement towards a metaphysical drama. Once a certain point close to perfection is reached, instead of remaining static, the person in whom the movement takes place comes down again, and it is the total movement, the rise and fall, which is dramatic. This movement within the individual also corresponds to the ebb and flow of attachment and detachment in relations with those around him.
The young person in the plays acts out infantile sadism in a destructive fantasy aimed at the parent figure and provoked by him; the adolescent or child is then motivated by feelings of reparation, wishing to restore the destroyed object. In the plays set during World War II, the child is destroyed and in the historical plays the movement is reversed. Adversity and generosity are inherited from the Romans, as characteristics, which mark a point 5 6 Ibid.
The generosity, which redeems the hero, is a momentary virtue, almost idiosyncratic, but constitutes a sign of nobility. The theatre serves to heighten the family conflict and to draw the spectator into the events enacted before him. The different characters are different aspects of the self, where human interaction may be interpreted through the dilemmas and conflicts going on within the individual consciousness. In reality, each family, like each individual, contains good and bad, with abnormality necessarily present in every family because of the heterogeneous nature of the unit.
The issues treated are, on the surface, the disintegration of the traditional Western European patriarchal family, the influence of class on family structure and roles, the study of sex differences, sexuality and the complexities of loyalty and patriotism in war. The subtext of the plays is the drama of the human subconscious, where infantile sadistic fantasy, reparation and desire are enacted in a constantly replayed model of destruction, betrayal, death and transcendence.
The spectator is drawn inexorably into this drama of the family, which reflects the essence of the human psyche. The earliest manifestation of the generation gap, then, is the gap between the selfhood of the growing child and the attempts of other people to control and define them. As an over-zealous admirer of young people, who spent as much time in their company as possible, Montherlant recognizes their fragility and resilience. The plays claim that some young people thrive in conflict situations, as long as the love—hate complexities of the family structure are not too extreme.
The playwright attempts to convince us that the problematic aspects of family interactions may lead to the positive emotional development of the child. Hence, Philippe, in the end, finds the courage to leave his mother, to do what he thinks is best. Montherlant was banned from publishing for one year after the armistice, because of the anti-French sentiments expressed in Le Solstice de juin. On the other, the figure of the son enacts the possibility of recovering courage and of living according to heroic values. Fils de personne and Demain il fera jour are set in occupied France and depict the son as a central character who is controlled and, finally, destroyed by the cowardice of the father.
Fils de personne is set in Cannes in and involves three characters: an illegitimate son, Gillou and his parents, Marie Sandoval and Georges Carrion. The boy has been brought up by his mother, meets his father again at the age of twelve and the play relates a period during their renewed acquaintance, when Georges belatedly takes charge of his family.
He is, however, bitterly disappointed in Gillou, who does not live up to his expectations. Georges disapproves of her action, which is dangerous for both herself and her son, but abandons Gillou for the second time, considering him unworthy of paternal love and attention. The continuing hostility between Georges and Marie makes Gillou the victim of their selfishness.
Gillou attempts to break the fatal pattern of family structure and his own submissive role, by joining the Resistance. Failure of his enterprise occurs because he informs his parents of his decision and waits for their approval. Finally, Georges sacrifices his son, hoping that by allowing him to join the Resistance, he will atone for his own sin of collaboration and avoid persecution.
Homosexual desire informs the destructive instinct and the playing out of passion in this family drama set in wartime France. These two plays are an important contribution to French Second World War literature, in that they explore a divisive and humiliating episode in French history by pitting a father and son against one another.
Montherlant demonstrates that man is both admirable and despicable, but places his hope for the future in the hands of the young and in their instinct to move towards nobility, even when the corruption and selfishness of parents blocks their way. Their friendship may well have continued over a longer period than that indicated by his letters to Peyrefitte, but the last letter mentioning the family is dated 5 December Correspondance, Laffont, Paris, , p. The triangular pattern of behaviour within the family forms the framework of both Fils de personne and Demain il fera jour.
The emotions portrayed within this structure are love, jealousy and fear. Each kills weakness in himself. Mais comment, tandis que je te vois si indigne? Serait-ce jalousie de votre propre jeunesse? Initially he is opposed to the idea, claiming that while he no longer loves Gillou, he does not wish to see him die. His change of heart indicates that fear has eroded all nobility and morality.
He professes to have a rigid code of behaviour to which his son, on pain of rejection and withdrawal of paternal love, must conform. Montherlant explores the entire gamut of parental failings, which trap and eventually destroy the child. PT, His statement, which equates maternal and paternal love, is a double condemnation.
Even at this point, Gillou is caught in a trap. His mother leads him into danger in the last scene of Fils de personne when she takes him with her to join her lover in Le Havre, which is being bombed by the Allied forces. His father condemns him to death in Demain il fera jour by allowing him to join the Resistance. By their respective natures, Georges and Marie are already fated if not to a tragic, at least to a futile and mediocre existence. It is significant that each parent changes their mind as to whether or not the son should join the Resistance.
At first, Marie approves, both in order to please him, as Georges claims, but also because she is not fully aware of the danger. This about-face is typical of the uncertain atmosphere within the family; neither parent is consistent in thought or action, resulting in confusing role-models for the child. The reason for their constantly changing stance is their hostility towards one another. Familial conflict reflects the situation in occupied France, where factions were fighting amongst themselves and the insidious atmosphere of fear and humiliation, together with uncertainty and changing loyalties, led to betrayal, mistrust and suppressed guilt, present in French society, even today.
Tenderness, even towards Gillou, is strictly limited in the case of Georges, who does not allow himself the luxury of indulging in expressions of affection. The scene is referred to in Demain il fera jour PT, and clearly symbolizes sleep as a presentiment of death. It further represents repressed homosexual desire; the father figure hides sexual desire in refusal and rejection. Marie, on the other hand, loves too much. She is not sufficiently distanced to make the right judgements. Both parents are detrimental to the well-being of the child, whether through loving or expressing love inadequately, or through loving too sentimentally.
The plays were not well received because the audience recognized themselves all too accurately in Georges and Marie and wanted to escape from rather than confront issues related to collaboration and the German occupation. The audience found the theatrical representation of French collaboration and concomitant familial conflict disturbing. Gillou attempts reparation, trying to make his parents whole again; Marie too adopts the role of saviour pitted against the destruction of Georges. Coupable envers vous. Coupable envers tous. Toujours coupable, et jamais puni. Greek pederasty has its source in a pedagogical system, whereby the older member of the homosexual couple is the educator and the protector of the younger.
Motivated by fear of rejection, Georges withdraws his love. In Demain il fera jour, Gillou is lucid, mature, more than able to argue on the same intellectual plane as his father, a hero of the people and of his own generation, more genuinely human and less aristocratic than Alban de Bricoule. PT, Although Gillou dies, his father is left to a living death. Murder and suicide are the outcome of this drama of passion, where desire, jealousy and war destroy the lives of the protagonists. Parallels may be drawn with the accursed family of Atreus in classical tragedy.
Georges sacrifices his son in the same way as Agamemnon his daughter PT, and, like Clytemnestra, Marie condemns her son by following her lover. PT, The family is the labyrinth. The tortuous ensnarements of the spiralling trap suck the characters into a fatal pattern of behaviour, which destroys nobility and virtue.
He refuses, admitting that his motives are personal rather than patriotic. PT, 65 Throughout the play, the parent is subordinate to the child. This is the reverse of the power structure between adult and child depicted in Fils de personne and Demain il fera jour. The greatest difference lies in the personality of the young character. Gillou is passive, accused of mediocrity. Philippe is anything but mediocre. He has high self-esteem, intelligence, and a forceful personality. All three plays examine the problematics of morality in a war situation, dealing with the opposition between patriotism and personal interests and highlighting the overriding importance of feelings in the decisions taken by human beings.
PT, 45—46 Philippe proves that her patriotism is skin deep. PT, 33 In all the war plays, Montherlant attempts to convince his audience that appearances are deceptive and people are neither heroic nor cowardly but both, making a plea for the complexity of the human being, in anticipation of post-war retribution against those whose position was less than equivocal. He yearns to extend their idyllic schoolboy friendship to the battlefield so that their bond will be strengthened by this shared experience. Montherlant is concerned with the personal rather than the public, demonstrating that duty and patriotism are empty ideals, when compared with the bond of love, which unites human beings.
The individual is loyal to his self only within the bounds of privacy; his public persona makes up reasons to satisfy his private needs. The characters are motivated by their feelings for one another, rather than any high-flown sense of duty. PT, 12 Love as portrayed in these plays, fascinates the reader or spectator, precisely because of its complex nature, containing love, hate, jealousy, suspicion, distrust. In fact, the gamut of possible forms of love is treated in the plays. Parental devotion is destructive, as is filial love.
Because of her emotional blackmail, he becomes morose and uncommunicative. He resents his mother and despises himself for not being able to defy her. Georges encourages Gillou to join the Resistance for selfish reasons, to save his own skin. Marie is so sentimentally attached to her son that she cannot see the dangers involved in membership of the Resistance. All three parents fail their children, in their desire to satisfy their own needs. The real family is full of conflict, jealousy, selfishness, love and hate, of human weakness and folly.
Only in La Ville do the adult characters survive together with the children. It has an unreal quality which is absent in the other family plays. Parental or pedagogical power is wielded not in the interests of children but for the sake of power itself. As Foucault argues, sexuality is controlled and monitored from the earliest age, as are other manifestations of individuality. He makes Sevrais promise to refrain from physical intimacy with the younger boy.
La Ville dont le prince est un enfant is an intricate piece of theatre, in which ecclesiastics are acting in loco parentis. Sevrais is portrayed as purer than the adults, with his own code of honour, to which he adheres regardless of the consequences. Ironically, this punishment is exactly what de Pradts had asked of Sevrais, except that the boy accepted his fate with greater grace than the priest. The true innocent, who acts most naturally, is the child, Souplier.
He perceives the corruption of the others, is amused when de Pradts lies twice to avoid taking a telephone call PT, — and is offended when Sevrais asks him to lie. PT, Each boy is portrayed as a hero in his own way. In Kleinian terms, the prodigal, who gives up physical relations with the beloved, repairs the damage wreaked upon the parent by the act of rebellion. Souplier, is the first to recognize what will happen to the friends when they are discovered together in the tuck shop storeroom.
PT, This instinctive knowledge is acted on: he extends his hand to his beloved friend, in a gesture indicating that they will indeed never meet again. Their lucidity, courage, energy, poise and sense of justice13 lead to their expulsion. Golsan, Richard J. PT, The pattern of betrayal, sacrifice and rupture in the novels is manifested in the plays which follow a similar scenario, except that the hero is a mature man, drawn towards stoicism and nihilism as a means of dealing with the absurd.
In the early novels, difference is rejected when the beloved friend acts autonomously to the hero. In the plays, a more realistic scenario is enacted involving human tragedy. The ageing hero projects his flaws onto his son, companion or lover, whom he perceives as his younger self, and then banishes him. The pederastic relationship forms the framework for a complex psychological process of creation, which is in itself, an act of reparation.
He, nevertheless, agrees never to see his friend again, in order to deliberately sacrifice that which is most dear to him. Sevrais sacrifices physical contact with his beloved friend to an ideal of the best in himself, and their loving friendship is preserved forever in time. Sacrifice is motivated by an aspiration towards the ideal noble self, a conscious or unconscious desire to preserve the perfect relationship between two near-perfect beings. The boy heroes, petrified in time and in a world of fantasy achieve nobility, whereas the older protagonists, grounded in reality, are lucid failures.
In these plays, the cult of youth triumphs; it ennobles the young and preserves them in a kind of Utopia of the spirit. PT, The playwright makes much of the fact that the triangular nature of heterosexual passionate love is essentially tragic, but also appears ridiculous. Ravier, a man of fifty-eight is in love with Christine, a girl of eighteen, whilst Mademoiselle Andriot, a woman of sixty, is in love with Ravier. In this way, she places herself in the position of being grateful to Ravier. After first sending her away, he possesses Christine, knowing that he will suffer through his love for her.
Christine is a prickly young woman whose surrender to Ravier seems, at first, at odds with her initial proud selfassurance and refusal of friendship. Andriot is even closer to death than Ravier himself. Mlle Andriot is far too dedicated to Ravier for his liking and her love is oppressively maternal. The attraction of the other, in this as in all the plays, is their mercurial quality, the ability constantly to elude the grasp of the lover.
Ravier will save her father from prison. Christine is a modern heroine, an independent woman, aware of the debilitating effect of passionate love, both for the lover and the beloved. Pour personne. PT, By giving herself to Ravier, she retains her independence. Curiosity and a degree of desire are not entirely absent from her act. As Ravier rightly predicts, she will leave him and he will suffer, although his last words are optimistic; he hopes 15 Batchelor, op.
The mask worn to cover passionate love is part of a taxonomy of secrecy adopted because the playwright chose to disguise homosexual love as paternal love. It functions, nevertheless, within the same context of human passion. The immolation of the hero is caused by the destruction of his love relationship, as well as by loss of political or social power. His passionate involvement is of a particular kind, the passion of a mature person for someone who is very young.
It is not sufficient to rationalize desire by suggesting that the ageing hero wishes a youthful companion in the hour of his death. The explanation goes much deeper than that of mere companionship as the lover wishes to become the beloved, or at least those parts of the beloved, which are most desired.
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The fact is that the ageing hero wishes to possess the young person because he is no longer innocent, young or enjoys living. By desiring the being who has these characteristics, even without possessing him physically, the hero holds the concept of innocence, youth, the ability to enjoy life, inside his own mind or spirit. Time and again in his notes, commentaries and journals, he stresses that mutual physical pleasure, affection, tenderness and genuine caring make life worth living.
References to love, totalling thirty-seven, far outnumber those to any other subject in the Carnets dated from to The drama of the family, with the familiar elements of Greek theatre, relates to the Oedipal theme in an innovative way. In the plays the ideal heroism of the early novels is abandoned for a more realistic portrayal of the human condition. The form of heroism changes with the presentation of a man, who is not divine, but is completely human, prey to vanity, pride, fear and 16 Arnold, Josephine V.
Death is a major preoccupation, as the most important influence on life. In old age Montherlant returns to the novel form by creating an anti-hero, the opposite of Alban de Bricoule. Odysseus drew the old man fainting to his breast and held him there And cradled like driftwood the bones of his dwindling father. In the historical plays, the notion of the failure of heroism is further explored as the aged, corrupt figure is contrasted with the younger person.
Knowledge is valued as the ageing central figure of the plays is made more acutely aware of his faults and weaknesses. Montherlant seeks order through 1 Cruickshank, op. Ailleurs il les transgresse. Batchelor, op. The historical plays present an ageing figure at odds with his social and historical context, with those around him, and, in the final analysis, with himself. Contrary to the family plays, which are set in modern times, these plays are set in or prior to the seventeenth century and are based on historical fact.
The playwright adds and subtracts from what is historically known about a person and creates an imaginative re-construction of real events. These theatrical works portray a youthful secondary character with whom the central figure has a special relationship. In striving for the higher state of metaphysical being, the central character finds his model in the young person.
The attainment of perfection close to divinity is, however, a momentary state. Man imposes order on an essentially chaotic and meaningless existence through articulating his lucidity or awareness of his condition. Ferrante of Portugal, the King, arranges a marriage of convenience between his son Pedro and the Infanta of Navarre. In the presence of the Pope, Malatesta finds he cannot murder him, but is then held under close watch and prevented from returning to Rimini. Isotta [his wife] pleads successfully with the Pope to grant her husband a period of release in Rimini.
On his return home, he is poisoned by a disgruntled courtier, Porcellio, who feels obligated to Malatesta for saving his life. History tells us that Malatesta died of natural causes. La Reine morte and Malatesta depict secondary characters, both thirteen years old, a page called Dino del Moro in the former and a girl called Vannella, mistress of Malatesta, in the latter. Dino del Moro brings light relief to the more serious overtones in La Reine morte.
Johnson, op. The figure of the young person in Malatesta is less strongly drawn as Vannella appears in one scene only. Act IV, Sc. The tragic hero hopes to be purified and redeemed through characteristics which mirror those of the young: naivety, vitality, mischievous originality, creativity, innocence, beauty, allied to naturalness, which represent the divine in man.
The older adolescent has a different role from that of the younger and is a source of discord, refusing to conform to the demands of the ageing father figure. As in Fils de personne and Demain il fera jour, portrayal of the older adolescents illustrate the problem of the generation gap.
The post-pubescent son is the source of disappointment, betrayal and hostility, for example, the son-in-law, Camerino, is a surrogate son to Malatesta and is also involved in the betrayal of his benefactor. Je suis content de te voir. Superficiality and artificiality are imposed on the nature of man and produce a falsehood. For Montherlant, true morality is to be found in living as fully as possible, once one appreciates the significance of death as the only certainty.
Montherlant speaks of desire for plants and animals and for human beings who are closely related to him. The pursuit of desire is part of the pantheistic concept involved in accepting life in complete awareness of death. Relations between father and son, on the other hand, are overlaid with passionate feelings of love, hate and revenge, which lead to betrayal.
It is unsatisfactory to attempt to explain this breach of faith on the part of the younger man by the natural movement from one generation to another or by rivalry between males. We have already noted that, in the case of Georges and Gillou, the complex web of behaviour is based on homosexual desire of the older man for the adolescent. The same is true of this type of relationship as depicted in the historical plays.
This does not explain why betrayal and separation inevitably result from desire. The appetite for satisfaction is maintained by transforming the object of desire [which is attainable] into an impossible satisfaction of the need for love, which, because it is unattainable, maintains desire. Lacan, op.
Malatesta is motivated only by desire and his very vitality depends not on the satisfaction of desire, but on the constant re-kindling of this vital force. Desire must, therefore, never be satisfied and the betrayal of the object of desire is provoked consciously or unconsciously to maintain this state. Lacan describes the process of transference of the object of desire [attainable] into the impossible proof of love [unattainable]. The heroes grasp desperately at sexual passion in a failed attempt to motivate themselves to act. In the end, both action and contemplation prove futile in the battle against the human condition.
The individual is finally overwhelmed by the meaningless of life. The old men resent their decline and lash out at anyone who is close to them. This articulation of pain is the natural reaction to death and to life and power passing on to the next generation. Cisneros serves two masters: a conception of the Absolute in Christianity, and Power in the form of political government. To act, in the way Cisneros continues to act, is to contradict his wearing of sandals and the frieze under his robes. Cisneros represents the latter option and the Queen the former, pointing out to the Cardinal that his political governance means nothing in the light of the meaninglessness of existence.
Cisneros, like Ferrante, dies in the last scene, abandoned by his courtiers and friends and betrayed by Cardona and by the young King Charles, whom he has helped to become monarch of Spain. The point made, in these series of dialogues, is that man must choose between the contemplative and the active, which are both valid responses to the full realisation of Absurdity, but that man cannot undertake both positions, as Cisneros is attempting to do. Montherlant opposes prevarication and, in the theatrical debate, argues that the responsible human 12 Batchelor, op.
After , Montherlant increasingly withdrew from the public scene, choosing in his own life, the option of artistic creativity and contemplation over political action. This severity stems from the sense of duty valued by Montherlant, together with all the duties and responsibilities, which that implies. Both the nephew and the young King, whom Cisneros serves loyally, are responsible for the fatal blow to the Cardinal.
In this act, both executioner and victim achieve purity, within the context of the pagan Mithraic belief in purity achieved through sacrifice in the putting to death of the loved one by the one who loves. Such dialogue frequently takes place between a father figure and his son as a process of teaching and learning. The debate in La Reine morte centres, for instance, on the conflict between love and duty, between the emotions and the intellect. It is for that which 13 Lapaire, Pierre J.
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Henry De Montherlant (1895-1972): A Philosophy of Failure (Modern French Identities)
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