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Narcissus and Echo fostered, 'my evil genius, some creature inhabiting me that was not born there! , .. was it he whom my mother called Octave?' (pp, 2967). He recalls his childhood, but the memory is interrupted by the image of Nero 'when he killed his mother' (p, 298). In all these rehearsals of the dyadic relation, he evacuates what is left of the old passion. Close to suicide, he turns instead to look again at the woman. She has turned over in her sleep and exposed her breast. A comical partobject both good and bad - 'if she wanted to die, this beautiful breast would tell her she had to go on living' (p. 302) - it provokes him into deciding to murder her. Only the crucifix she wears saves her life, sending Octave into a meditation on the merits of Christianity. Jesus saves: 'how could you dare raise your hand to God?' (p. 307). Thus the patriarchy, in the nick of time, is restored. Addressing] esus, Octave ends; 'your suffering draws us to you as it brought you to your father' (p. 309); he too can aspire once more to the father who makes him good. A new Messiah, he has recognised his double, born and reposing on the mother's breast. Her suffering is now dispensable. And as if in reward, the truth is indirectly revealed after all. Opening a letter, Octave finds it dated Christmas Day and addressed to Smith, bidding him an eternal farewell: 'my destiny is tied to that of a man for whose sake I have sacrificed everything; he cannot live without me, I must try to die for him. Farewell, pity us.' (pp. 309-10). In the short third-person chapter that closes the text, Octave proves her wrong: he can live without her, and he will not make her die after all. Paternally giving Brigitte away to Smith, he makes himself interpreter of the ambiguous 'us' of her letter. She will never forget him of course. As the woman goes off to her new life, 'the young man remained alone; he took a last look at his native city ... and thanked God that, out of three people who had suffered by his fault, only one was left unhappy' (p. 315). With these closing words, the family structure is restored; he is no longer an orphan, for God has shown him the way, and as for the mother, here she is all around him nous deux maintenant! _ the Paris of corruption cleansed

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Chapter 5: Sylvze and Dominique

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'It is your fate always to regret and never to desire' (F romentin)

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If the fundamental structure in Rene and Adolphe is a pair, and that of Mademoiselle de Maupin and La Confession d'un enfant du siecle a
pattern of three, the two texts which fonn the subject of this chapter are both based on a pattern of four. But in neither case are the four figures related in the way we might expect, as they are in, say, such a classic of symmetrical adultery as Goethe's Die Wahlverwandtschaf ten (1809). There the married couple Eduard and Charlotte each fall i~ love (in rather different ways) with one of their house-guests, her niece Ottilie and his friend the Captain. Symmetry is stressed by the near-identity of their names: the palindrome 'Otto' is the Captain's first name and Eduard's second, and its root forms the first and last syllable of the twO women's names. When Eduard and Charlotte make love, both fantasising the presence of the one they really desire, they have a baby who exactly resembles Ottilie and the Captain. The poor little freak is quickly drowned in an accident by Ottilie, who d~clines into an anorexia of speech neither taken nor given forth. LIke her almost-homonym Ophelia, she continues after her death to be saddled with significances upon which other people act. Neither S.'Vlvie (1853) nor Dominique (1863) reproduces this murderous balancing act. On the contrary, their asymmetry is the crux of their problem: from the protagonist, in each case, proceeds a small, unbalanced community of others in which he can neither direct and control desire nor see himself reflected as he wishes. While the central woman dies in neither of these texts, the death or near-death of others variously reflect the violence of the protagonist's self. Nerval is one of those Romantic figures whose own life and death seem to preempt fictionalisation. In his writings, especially his poetry, the personal 'family romance' is recast as cosmic myth; it is not surprising that] ungian rather than Freudian criticism has made much of him. I want to look briefly at some motifs from Les Cbimeres and other fictions before turning to Sylvie .. Rather than die in childbirth, Nerval's mother sent him to a wetnurse in the country, then left France to go with her doctor husband to the army on the Rhine. In a parenthetic page of 'Angelique', the 121

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