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430Philosophy and Literature Plotting to Kill, by Armine Kotin Mortimer; ? & 220 pp. New York: Peter Lang, 1991, $41.95. In Plotting to Kill, Armine Mortimer examines six French novels written between the early nineteenth and mid-twentieth centuries, all ofwhich conclude "with the death of a female character modeled on a woman in the author's life, a person . . . still alive when the novel was published" (p. xi). Drawing upon extensive autobiographical sources—actually published autobiographies, private and published journals, letters and newspaper articles—she convincingly explains the process by which real life events are rearranged into narrative patterns that ineluctably lead to fictional murders. She also suggests that the reader familiar with the novelist's life cooperates in this plot to kill by validating fiction over reality. Mortimer has produced a solid narratological study with the fascination of a good detective story. She begins with Germaine de Staël's Corinne (1807) and Benjamin Constant's Adolphe (1816), mirror fictíons based on the Staël-Constant relationship. Although each novel uses the heroine's death for a different end—Corinne's death appears as an act of revenge against Staël's unworthy lovers while EUenore 's death fulfills Constant's desire for liberation from his tyrannical mistress— in both the plot is strongly shaped by the theme of the fallen, then abandoned woman. Gide's EImmoralute and La Porte étroite form another dual study of the homosexual author's ambivalence toward his wife Madeleine. His plots kill off the female protagonists Marceline and Alissa in order to express Gide's wish that Madeleine had never consented to their marriage but also to exorcize his own guilt over their unconsummated union. The death of Yvonne de Galais in Alain-Fournier's only published fiction, Le Grand Meaulnes (1913), allows the author to work through a multifaceted sense of loss involving the marriages of his beloved and his sister as well as his personal loss of sexual purity. The novel's conclusion at once punishes the offending women and poeticizes AlainFournier 's regrets. Raymond Radiguet's plot to kill Alice in Le Diable au corps (1923) radically rewrites his youthful liaison with a married woman much his senior into an act ofrevenge on behalfofcuckolded husbands. Finally, a chapter on Simone de Beauvoir's most autobiographical novel, EInvitée (1943), sheds new light on two romantic trios involving de Beauvoir, Sartre, and another woman. More importandy, Mortimer demonstrates how Françoise's decision to murder Xavière in the novel's concluding pages can be interpreted as the author's revolt against an emotional oppression she actually experienced but also as a means of creating an authentic form of fiction that refuses to conform to the reader's expectations or to traditional novelistic conventions. Mortimer has painstakingly researched her novelists' lives. Her rich analyses of how the actual experience of these writers enters the main plots and subtexts of their fiction bring new insights to these well-known works. Plotting to Kill is Reviews43 1 slighdy marred, however, by the cumbersome critical apparatus Mortimer constructs in the opening chapter. Drawing upon the work of Genette, de Man, Lejeune, Barthes, Brooks, and others, she tries to establish the concept of "the plotable," which is neither the finished plot of the novel nor the act of plotting, but "a combination of both. . . . The plotable is the domain of the plot's lifeof -its-own; it is independent of the narrator, sometimes even of the reader" (pp. 8—9). "The plotable" is too vague to be of much use; it seems, moreover, to contradict Mortimer's insistence in every other chapter that these six novelists knew they would kill their female protagonists from the inception of their novels. If these conclusions were always in their creators' minds and often survived numerous revisions, should we not attribute them to authorial intention rather than to "the plotable"? Similarly exaggerated is the claim in the concluding chapter that we read neurotically, as fetishists, sadists, paranoiacs, or voyeurs, when we seek traces of the author's life in fiction. Fortunately, the introduction and conclusion are not necessary to our understanding of Mortimer's central thesis, that the novel...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1086-329X
Print ISSN
0190-0013
Pages
pp. 430-431
Launched on MUSE
2011-10-05
Open Access
No
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