between five and six: cruising with the marquise

The Marquise Went Out at Five. Claude Mauriac put together a fine conception, worked out with a skill that few novelists have the patience or the delicacy to apply.This concept of time that knows neither past, present nor future and remains immobile is indeed a realisation of the true nature of immortality….

The novel tells the story of one hour at one spot near the center of Paris. It begins at five P.M. on a hot summer day and ends, after a welcome thunder shower, just as six o’clock strikes. The characters are nearly all Parisians. Some live near the Carrefour de Buci, just off the Boulevard St. Germain, on the way to the Seine and the Pont Neuf. Others merely pass through it. Scores of lives cross one another at this crossroads and this hour. Listening to their voices, we distinguish four different types.

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Some are quiet folk leading their ordinary lives: the policeman, controlling six streams of traffic and feeling the heat; the old man selling vegetables and fruit from a barrow; Monsieur Taconnet, the businessman, and his typist. Some, as in every big city, are passing through with interests elsewhere. A pretty redhead with blue slacks and a white blouse with no bra runs fast and dodges traffic and dives into the subway and leaves a broad wake of emotion behind her. A male extrovert in a Ferrari waits growling for the policeman’s whistle and then takes off around the carrefour “Circle of Terror.” Detectives staked out to watch for a criminal who has a date with an accomplice here, between five and six, loiter in a nonchalant silence.

—Cover art by Hans Bellmer along with two texts by Claude Mauriac and Yves Florenne in this interesting literary arts revue.
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Others again, are in the grip of crisis. A quiet little maniac believes that electrical waves from all the transnitters in France are concentrating on him. Old Monsieur Loubert tells a friend how his wife, “after thirty-five years of happiness, in the same bed,” died and left him alone. Lucien makes love to Minouche in a hotel room; and then, with her debased and conscient complicity, makes love to Ida, the maid next door. These are “transients,” but each carries within him, ticking, a cargo of frightful, explosive power.

The central characters in the book are in view or in thought from the beginning to the end. The rich and sensual Bertrand Carnejoux has broken up his marriage and is living alone, thinking out a new novel. As the book opens, his young wife Martine has just left his apartment, after bringing their daughter Rachel, aged four, to see him on a duty visit.

—Brasserie Lipp, 1969 Paris by Henri Cartier-Bresson—Read More:

Carnejoux was also one of the chief figures in Mauriac’s earlier The Dinner Party, where he had three mistresses simultaneously, one being the maid who helped serve dinner. Now he is aloneand, for the time being, liberated of all obsessions except literature. The schoolboy Patrice Reslaut is tortured by ideal love for a schoolgirl, Valeries, and by base lust for the anonymous nudes of peep shows, and by jealousy of a rival whom Valerie seems to like equally well- or better? The quiet merchant of autographs and old books, watching the rolling traffic of the Carrefour de Buci, lets his mond tove back over the history of Paris, which, like a rich wine, acquires greater strength and beauty with the passing years.

And the marquise? Who is the marquise who went out at five, talking to herself, lamenting her middle-aged spread, and still cruising up and down the streets at six? She is not a lady, but an old male homosexual called Zerbarian- one of Mauriac’s funniest characters, comic most of all in his fat frustration.

The chief technical problem in writing a book like this is that it contains no single “plot.” There is a unity of place, time and multiplicity of action and there is a contrived effort to give it something like a unity of action: partly by reporting activities that are similar, activities of the early evening, people going home, looking for love and rest, reflecting on the past day; partly by interweaving , in the mind of the antiquarian Desprez, stage after stage in the history of this quarter of Paris with this present hour which is already passing into history; and partly, and this is subtle, by projecting the whole moving spectacle on the mind of Carnejoux the novelist, so that it becomes at o

the world he observes, the novel he is preparing to write, and the novel we are reading.


( see link at end) …Given the peculiar circumstances of his birth, it was inevitable that he was brought into touch with many of the great figures of his day – Gide, Cocteau, Marcel Jouhandeau, Malraux among the older generation, Nathalie Sarraute, Claude Simon, Alain Robbe-Grillet, Robert Pinget among the younger writers.

One of his first idols was General Charles de Gaulle. From 1944 to 1947 Mauriac was his private secretary and his fifth volume of memories, Aimer de Gaulle (1978), contains many curious intimate details about the General’s daily life.

In the 1970s Mauriac developed unexpected friendships with the innovatory philosophers Michel Foucault and Gilles Deleuze, who provided him with links between literature and political engagement. It seemed paradoxical that Mauriac, hitherto decidedly right-wing, should have joined forces with these radical thinkers to follow Sartre and Genet in signing petitions, militating in favour of the excluded, political prisoners and the homeless and in campaigning against the Vietnam war or against the Franco regime.

It was a move typical of his impressionable character and openness of mind. The homosexual Foucault (later to die of Aids) became another of his heroes, as well as a close friend.Read More:

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