Fall 1991, Volume 8.2


Narrative Cure and the Silence of the Other in Julien Green's L'Autre

In response to Julien Green's novel L'Autre, published in 1971, critical comments were directed at what Petit calls "the ambiguity of the title."1 Is the "other" meant to be God or the devil or the two main characters' narratees, the audience intended by what is revealed in each of their respective life-narratives? If so, why would Green have decided on using the coyly evasive term "l'Autre" to designate a supernatural being for whom conventional appellations exist? Why would Roger and Karin refer to each other or think of each other as "l'autre" once the intimacy of their relationship progresses beyond a knowledge of names? A cursory reading of the novel discloses the changeable sense of the term, its application in the course of the story to various entities the characters mention. Initially, the "other" may allude to the anonymous collectivity of unspeaking strangers who, by withholding their names, not engaging in dialogue, leave the protagonists estranged from themselves.2 To Roger, it is the sunbathing, blonde-haired "Danoises" who imprison him in incomprehension (761); to Karin, the censorious neighbors who condemn her to live "behind thick walls of silence" (829). Referred to as "l'autre" are a Danish soldier, a uniformed figure to whom Karin is drawn; the God-usurper who takes Karin's place as the object of Roger's devotion; and lastly, the divinity in its corporeal form, as the Jesus who appeared in Judea, a God one might talk to, who would attend to one's needs and was not unreachable and remote by his silence. Thus, it seems that the other is born in the novel of the language of speakers and writers, as the addressee susceptible of idealization by reason of his or her absence.

Counteracting the language used for exclusion or ostracism, the two main characters leave their own written records, transposing themselves as a narrative text, that "moi-même devenu autre" (myself become another) (Blanchot 305), a document whose sense of alterity is neutralized once assimilated to the self of the narrator. Segregated and victimized by having been subject to a kind of linguistic quarantine, both Roger and Karin use words that at first are the sign of their status as other, but that later become the sole means of effecting a reconciliation with their past selves. Isolated, they write because, as Karin remarks, "je me sens moins seule quand j'Zcris" (I feel less alone when I write) (817), because textual production presupposes a reader who is empathic, attentive, and caring, and who replaces the judgmental listener that rejects them by deliberately misreading their message. Once the other is generalized as interlocutor/reader for whom narratives in process are tailored, Green's text is shown posing the problem of the dynamics and conditions of its own reception. This paper will argue that the successive "rZcits"Ñof Roger and later of KarinÑexchange what Spence calls their "historical truth" in favor of their value as narrative (Spence 30-32), and act in the manner of "case histor[ies raised] to the sort of narrative intelligibility we expect from a story" (Ricoeur 869).3 The confessional purpose of the characters' texts is essentially that which concerns them: their "conversion" from memory to story, reporting to rhetoric, and self-doubt to faith. As a patient responds to the transference climate and Green's characters attend to their listeners, so their author will say of his unfinished novel, it is pleasing, "mais qui le lira?" (but who will read it?). (Journal 473). Yet uncertainty over the response of an audience is ultimately judged to be positive, enabling the narrator to feel less constrained in voicing his deepest concerns. Green's meta-narrative confers a new value on the other's reluctance to speak, not linking "silence-as-resistance with separation, and then separation with death" (Kurtz 233), but showing it as a vehicle for self-affirmation through a trusting connection to others.

Opening the novel is a scene occurring at the chronological end of the story, where a few among Karin's small group of friends watch her body being fished from the water. Because of the dead woman's reputation as having been the mistress of German officers during the war, the prevalent opinion among the onlookers is that her drowning had in fact been a suicide. The main body of the text is divided into two embedded narratives, the first by Roger, who had come to Denmark to escape from the war that was imminent. Attempting to initiate sexual liaisons in order to deaden his worsening fears, Roger seeks the assistance of Mlle Ott, who promises to introduce him to French-speaking women. Yet is spite of himself, Roger is gradually captivated by the enigmatic figure of Karin, the daughter of a man who had himself died by drowning and of a woman who had eventually gone mad. Succeeding in overcoming resistance by Karin, her persistent religious scruples, Roger is finally able to make her his lover only days before returning to France. Next, after a period of ten years had elapsed, the story resumes with the narrative of Karin, who because of her conduct in the course of the war, was an outcast among her own peers. With the reappearance of Roger in Copenhagen, Karin has hopes for relief from her life of enforced chastity, but learns that now that her own faith is gone, Roger has come back to try to convert her. Inverting the structure of the earlier narrative, Karin manages to seduce her former lover, but finds that her religious sentiments are awakened when she visits a Catholic priest to whom Roger referred her. Once she reaches a stage of self-acceptance, Karin is unable to continue her narrative, and while walking one day by the docks is accosted by two men who make sexual threats. Attempting to flee, she trips and falls in the water that stifles her cries, her accidental drowning disproving the theory that her death might have been self-inflicted.

Retrospectively casting light on a life that was interpreted wrongly by others, Green also questions the reliability of information supplied in the characters' narratives. Thus, initially, both Roger's and Karin's account may seem revisionistic, flawed, and self-serving, its purpose to exculpate themselves of an action forgiven through the process of telling it. While Petit asserts that the story of Roger seems gratuitous, implausibly motivated (Petit 1699), and that Karin's narrative devalues its content to question its receiver's intentions, the fact is each character has a past that is shameful and that is likely retold through distortion. While Roger may suffer from sexual frustration due to his inability to understand Danish, his ostensible reason for coming to Denmark is to run from the war that was nearing. Corresponding to the cowardice of Roger is the collaborationist whoring of Karin, as she succumbs to the lure of Nazi occupiers' uniforms as she had to the one of her countryman. Each character turns into a linguistic expatriate, with Karin derisively called "l'Allemande"; both pay more attention to the garment or signifier than to the body of that which is signified. More than fear or loneliness, it is the desire for contact that motivates Roger and Karin, a self-revelation that would be met with acceptance in a secure and controlled environment. Despite frequent claims about his sexual hunger, Roger is not shown as being resourceful, makes no use of his violet eyes and striking black hair to overcome the problem of language. And notwithstanding Karin's having prostituted herself, she maintains that she only wants "tenderness," so the seductions described in the course of the novel remain verbal in purpose and practice. Whether flirting or proselytizing, calling to Church or to bed, the characters speak to try to convince, not telling their story because they believe what it says, but so their listener might be made to believe.

Frequent references are made to the fact Karin is not always exact in the accounts that she offers, and along with her admission: "J'invente quelquefois" (I fabricate sometimes) (723), is her lover's complicitous silence. When fictionalizing her past, telling of liveried servants who poured liqueurs from crystal decanters, she acts "comme quelqu'un qui se grise d'une histoire dont il s'est persuadZ qu'elle est vraie" (like someone who becomes intoxicated with a story of whose truth he himself is persuaded) (795). But whether the episode recounted is screen memory or falsehood, it is not overtly disputed by Roger. While the reason for the latter's post-war return is to rekindle his lover's lost faith, he later acknowledges his own belief is not solid, and seems more interested in persuading his listener. Despite occasional lovemaking, their relationship is pursued on a conversational level, with speakers represented through narrated memories that the other reconstructs and interprets. The archeological aim of uncovering the past is subordinated to present concerns, the partners' emotional needs superseding a respect for historical truth (Spence 186). For example, why would Roger dismiss as invention the recollections that Karin relates, since he is clearly as intent on explaining her mystery as he is fascinated with Karin herself? Karin, as the single French-speaking young woman Roger meets in the course of his travels, arouses ambivalent feelings in him, since her speech is both clear and opaque. Dialogue is not so much the medium of their love as that on which love is displaced, their letters not vehicles for the expression of passion but metonyms for the beloved. Having ripped up a note that Roger had sent as if repelling a ghost who alarmed her, Karin reassembles the pieces as though resurrecting the man she believed killed in the war. Similarly, Roger receives a letter from Karin and then bestows a kiss on her signature,4 her writing unrealizing their relationship and restoring it as a sublimated collaborative fiction. Then he remembers feverishly throwing himself on his bed, calling Karin's name into the pillow, saying it repeatedly "avec tendresse . . . comme cela se passe dans les livres (with tenderness as often happens in books) (776).

Even as their affair evolves over time, it develops in the manner of narrative, with each character advanced as a construct of language that is shaped by his listener's wishes. The historical background or pretext for Roger's decision to visit Denmark is notably presented in language that physically embodies its own threatening referents. Desiring to flee, not just the dangers of war, but the media that forecast its outbreak, he is journalistically repatriated, exposed as a reader to German troops as they mass for invasion. The signified thus is turned into the signifier, as newspapers become the aggressor, and the particular fonts used, the size of the headlines are the enemy that fosters hysteria. He says of the titles that grew perceptibly larger as they appeared from one day to another "[qu'ils] faisaient l'effet de venir vers moi . . . pareils ˆ des soldats vêtus de noir" (they gave the impression of coming toward me, like soldiers all dressed in black) (807). Yet the subsequent memory of documents predicting the portentous conflict to come is rid of its virulence once it is textually dismantled by a comforting substitute narrative, as an upsetting truth is retrospectively euphemized by the story he tells to himself. Once adapted to the needs of receivers, the medium turns into the same thing as its message; keeping open the channel is deemed as important as the substance of what is transmitted. Ott, as French-speaker and "entremetteuse," trades in people as well as their fluencies, promises Roger the names of girls who speak his own language and supplies the "charmantes personnes" themselves. Conversational overtures proleptically signal the sexual giving of self, so that the courtship in dialogue between Roger and Karin may be consummated through verbal exchanges. The sharing of language and of understood meanings likens the other to the self of the subject, makes the interlocutor a text that can be quoted from memory, can be personalized and fit to one's ideolect. Thus, ironically, Ott, who had profited in life from people's wish to speak the same language, in death loses her individuality and reappears as a new edition of self in her brother Ib(idem).

Yet before past experience is made present as speech, the competing language of the world must be silenced. Early on, Roger had exhibited an awareness of objects' refusal to convey one's intention, their recalcitrance in serving as signs that expressed the personality of the people who used them. Furnishing, clothing, and artworks that presumably signified the self of their owners, to a reader "ne sont que des substitutifs qui . . . soulignent la privation d'autrui" (are only substitutes that emphasize the absence of others) (Tamuly 249-50). Ott's garish upholstery of "peluche grenat" accuses her stridence and tastelessness, qualities imposed on those she receives in her vulgarly appointed drawing room. Even the hats that are left there are not personal statements, vestimentary signatures left by their wearers, but denunciations of the fatuity and pretense of those who are exposed by their dress as impostors: "Sur un long canapZ . . . , les chapeaux des invitZs paraissaient rZflZchir ˆ la frivolitZ de leurs possesseurs" (On a long couch, the guests' hats seemed to reflect on the frivolity of their owners) (751). Since the importance attached to the text of the self can be judgmentally deflated by readers, its mythical language, as Barthes has described it, revealed as tendentious hyperbole, Roger understands that his own written record might be expropriated and misread by others. No matter the nationality of those he is with, he is always surrounded by foreigners, who inadvertently or deliberately fail to recover intact the message transmitted. This social sense of linguistic estrangement is a feeling that next is internalized, extending the inability to make oneself understood to a failure to match thoughts to words. Having noticed that the volumes on Ott's Ztagère "were all in Danish or English," he is suddenly seized "with a nameless despair," made inarticulate in his own mind. The enemy is the one who cannot decipher, like the Danes, seen as allies of Germans, and Roger becomes an animal trapped in a narrowing circle of incomprehension. Eroticism, he realizes, does little to compensate for this communicative paralysis, since after sexÑ"dZgrisZ"Ñhe still is alone, "even if the woman was still there" (751).

Without viable listeners, there is a sense that one's voice becomes unrecognizable as well to the self, the sole sound one emits an inhuman whimper that can only signify panic (751). Thus Karin, subjected to community censure, never addressed or acknowledged by others, uses a kind of formula department store art as a unilateral means of expression. But when the epistolary relationship with Roger resumes after a hiatus of almost a decade, she finds that even when she talks to herself, her voice does not sound the same. "Il y avait trois longues annZes que je n'avais pas vraiment embrassZ un homme," she confides (It had been three long years since I had held a man) (820), the intellibility of her speech now lost as a consequence of its not being heard by another. So when she cries out "in a frightening manner," her fear is shown as both message and impact, the feeling and the effect that it has on a listener who over time has turned into herself: "chaque fois le silence se refermait autour de mon cri comme pour l'Ztouffer, car c'Ztait ˆ peine un cri humain" (each time the silence closed around my cry as if to stifle it, because it was hardly a human cry) (820). Indeed, the silence or non-responsiveness of others was also a source of anxiety to Green, concerned as he was with offering an "edifying" book to an indifferent audience.5

Thus, the mutual attraction between Roger and Karin seems basically grounded in language, arising from an impulse to convert frightening experience into a therapeutically solacing narrative. The masses of featureless, tactiturn strangers form a text that forever is changing, its fluid configuration establishing an impenetrable hermeneutic code of its own. The wide public square that Roger traverses "faisait songer ˆ une page sur laquelle le destin Zcrivait des choses avec des lettres qui n'Ztaient autres que les passants. Les lignes Ztaient loin d'être droites et beaucoup se trouvaient incomplètes; de plus, elles bougeaient sans cesse, mais vu de haut, tout cela prenait peut-être un sens" (called to mind a page on which destiny wrote with letters which were none other than the passers-by. The lines were far from being straight and many were incomplete; moreover, they were constantly in motion, but seen from above, all that perhaps took on meaning) (743). Incapable of reading the page of the world, fluent neither in life nor in Danish, Roger later supplies a retrospective account that gives meaning to what lacked coherence. The contemporaneous existential document of experience without recognizable structure or closure is rewritten as a narrative laying claim to the truth once recounted and heard by another. Shunning society, Roger is similar to Karin, who is excluded herself as pariah, and is like her in telling his life-story "comme c'est l'ordinaire des personnes qui n'ont pas encore vZcu" (as is often the case with people who haven't yet lived) (723).

Yet having sought out each other as ideal narratees they both tend to communicate badly, suspecting the other of withholding, posturing and other dissimulative strategies. In his narrative, Roger admits disbelieving Karin's own retrospective "rZcit," one that fills him with irritation, he says, "par la crZdulitZ que me supposait la narratrice" (because of the credulity its narrator imputed to me) (795). And Karen responds to what she later will characterize as Roger's affectations of dress, his "funeral cloak" (823), the shepherd's hood that projects an air of religious coquetry. Dialogic exchanges with both participants present are marred by these kinds of constraints, by the need to assimilate historical "facts" into an ongoing self-representation. The characters' attempts at verbal seduction convey a wish to be freed of these problems, to construct in language a self not falsified by others' erroneous readings. Green's character, as Annette Tamuly has remarked, "tente de passer par-dessus toutes les difficultZs inhZrentes de la vraie rencontre: la rZciprocitZ de la communication, la mise en question par l'autre" (tries to go beyond all the inherent difficulties of interpersonal contact: the reciprocity of communication, the susceptibility to being questioned by the other). Thus, despite the intention of making genuine contact, conversation entails alienation: "le dialogue ne rZalise pas cet espoir d'une prZsence . . . Il dZbouche toujours sur une absence d'autrui" (dialogue does not fulfill this hope for a presence . . . It always ends with the absence of others) (Tamuly 255). So their relationship is structured around diachronous episodes, encounters that are poorly coordinated, via letters which require no immediate response, missed rendezvous and other evasions. Notwithstanding the fact that they realize one never says what he means at the time, their retreat into a remorseful past conditional frame of what could have been spoken or done ("I imagine everything that might have occurred if I had only been more clever," writes Karin [828]), both Roger and Karin seem to welcome a silence that relieves them of communicative responsibility. Karin lapses into Danish at a critical moment, leaving her interlocutor surprised and dumbfounded, and Roger returns not to listen, but to reconvert the lost soul whose downfall he caused. Karin feels herself liberated in composing a letter in which she unburdens herself of obsessions, at ease because of its receiver's absence: "je n'avais aucune intention de la faire parvenir ˆ son destinataire" (I had no intention of having it reach its addressee) (837).

Paradoxically, as the other is banished by dialogue, deferred correspondence can reintroduce him. Disencumbered of the other's asphyxiating presence, the writer enjoys an ideal self-communion, and while claiming "il me semble que de t'Zcrire me rend ta prZsence sans laquelle je respire mal " (it seems that writing you restores your presence without which I am scarcely able to breathe), Karin uses her letter to suppress its receiver and to resurrect the Roger of memory: "la pensZe me vint que je m'adressais au Roger de 39, celui qui n'existait plus" (the thought came to me that I was writing to the Roger of 39, the one who no longer existed) (898). Like unheard confessions that are committed to paper, then are torn up and simply discarded (899), the characters' narratives that comprise Green's own novel are most eloquent in the absence of readers. Yet masking the futility of a communicative enterprise in which texts are intended for no one, the audience, left nameless, repressed like the message, is brought back as a generalized "other." Because of their inability to tolerate loneliness, for which the word is an abyss in itself (827), they cultivate the illusion of presence that justifies the solipsism of their own monologues. These factitious exchanges which foreground the speaker and mediate the self to the self are based on the non-directive stance of a listener/therapist to whom one tells all. Imparting one's narrative truth "to an imaginary person who understands everything" affords an associative freedom that brings a self-knowledge that before was impossible. Then an unavailable Roger is linked to an unspeaking God and an empathic reader, synthesizing the addressees of literary texts, conversation and worshipful prayer. "When one talks to him, he exists" Karin says of the God she invokes and effaces (894). As Karin later calls God "l'innommZ" (the unnamed) (979), Green leaves his audience unspecified, not because of an authorial lack of self-confidence, but from a wish not to censor his feelings.

In the face of the unedited text of experience, in which "rien ne veut rien dire" (nothing means anything) (981), the world's meaninglessness and refusal to speak elicit a compensatory use of language by people. Yet a memory reactivated in the moment of telling still requires that someone will hear it; even the cosmic indifference of the star-dotted canopy would be no message if it were not deciphered.6 Indeed, the initial human response is a recourse to speech with the self as the listener, the solitary discovery of the pleasure of language whose use need communicate nothing. It is possible that Karin is attracted to Roger because of her self-conscious mastery of French, her translations that focus more on her discourse than on the effects of her words on another. In a curious passage in which Karin is acutely aware of her message's impactÑintent on flattering Roger's masculine vanity, appearing contrite and seductively docileÑher attention is drawn to a grammatical usage and away from the man she addresses. In an attempt to disarm him with frankness, she comments: "l'homme que je vois ce soir n'est plus le jeune homme que vous fztes" (the man that I see this evening is no longer the young man that you were), then mentally notes: "'Fztes' me causa un plaisir sensible. J'aurais voulu pouvoir rZpZter ma phrase" (I was pleased with the word "fztes." I would have liked to be able to repeat my sentence) (863). Not intending the other, her language instead is turned into gratuitous play, the listener's presence eclipsed by the speaker's attention to her rhetorical flourishes.

When, in speaking to God, Karin later remarks: "It is your silence that is unacceptable" (886), one might interpret her comment in the opposite sense and say that silence is most conducive to prayer. In devotional "dialogue" the only audible voice is finally the supplicant's own which, when directed at God, makes the Other exist but leaves him conveniently unobtrusive and absent. Thus "la voix intZrieure qui parle un langage bouleversant" (the interior voice that speaks an upsetting language) is the one used in Karin's own monologues, but still is "l'instrument anonyme dont l'Autre se sert pour sZduire une ame" (the anonymous instrument the Other uses for the purpose of seducing a soul) (Matuschka 239). On several occasions Karin notes that she prays indiscriminately to God and to Roger, the latter deified when he has gone back to France and no longer responds to her pleas. Similarly, God's mediator, the priest, is depersonalized by Karin's reference to him as "l'homme noir" (the man in black), is idealized by being himself "innommZ," inaccessible like the God whom he speaks for. Like Roger, who had vanished into the letters he promised to send from his own native land, the priest is reduced to his telephone number, an open communicative channel for Karin: "n'hZsitez pas ˆ faire appel ˆ moi" (don't hesitate to call me), he offers as Karin departs, explaining that through his disembodied voice on the line, she can still reach the God who "is there"Ñ"je serai lˆ, moi aussi, puisque en plus de celui qui est tout il vous faut celui qui n'est rien" (I will be there, too, since beyond the one who is everything, you still need the one who is nothing) (920).

It is around this dialectic of presence and absence that each communicative act seems to center, the assumption of an uncritical other's consent to listen to the subject's own discourse. Indeed, there occurs a phenomenon seen elsewhere in Green when the worshiper's prayer is most fervent: the shortening of the message to a kernel of meaning which is the same as the addressee's name. On two separate occasions, Karin is described as unable to say more than "Notre Père" or "JZsus" (849, 980), the involuntary suppression of her speech indicating communication in which words are superfluous. Adapted to contritional dialogue are the listening strategies used in analysis, so that succeeding the pleasure of self-disclosure, whereby the verbal exhibitionist is gratified, comes a conviction that the self can be expressed and accepted outside of the medium of language. Yet apart from these instants of ecstatic muteness, unspeaking self-revelation to God, it is the expiatory impulse toward self-accusation that motivates the characters' narratives. While Karin asserts that recounting her life "would simply mean dying again" (817), the confession of her compromised past presupposes an audience who hears and absolves. And while Petit discovers no clear rationale for Roger's unflattering account of his past, it is easy to characterize it as a remorseful apology that is intended to earn him forgiveness. One can imagine both magnifying the sense of their guilt, exaggerating their transgressive actions, so that as self-damning fictions, their stories might generate more belief and redemptive acceptance. As they tailor their narratives to fit what they see as the expectations of readers, their concern for veracity is subtly subordinated to a wish to convince and to please (Spence 95). In her capacity as penitent, Karin is aware of the Catholic convention of self-inculpation, knows the priest who professes to be receptive and caring and hears her confession according to formula. Thus, coupled with the sincerity of her intention to tell the unvarnished truth of her sins is the desire to make use of her candor as artifice, to strike "[une] attitude parfaitement dans le ton." "Seigneur," she thinks, "Zpargnez-moi le ridicule de profZrer des choses gênantes" (Lord, spare me from looking ridiculous by saying embarrassing things) (985).

The account of past actions becomes true as a construct of language approved by a listener,7 so that prior to its incorporation into narrative, the text of experience is perceived as a fiction. As autobiography assigns more importance to the truth of "the 'life' of the signifier" it deemphasizes the value of its narrated content and discredits "the life being signified" (Renza 1). So while Karin has a premonitory vision of a self put to death in her (hi)story, the death that she actually fears most of all is the obsolescence of her function as narrator. Having finished the final lines of her text, Karin then feels herself at a loss: "elle regrettait de n'avoir plus rien ˆ Zcrire et sa main immobile ne l‰chait pas sa plume" (she regretted not having anything more to write, and her immobile hand did not let go of her pen) (987). Yet when she puts her manuscript away in a drawer and surrenders her role to Green's narrator, she anticipates being consigned to extratextual space with the self-referential end of the novel. "'Fini,' s'Zcria-t-elle. 'Fini ˆ jamais. Je m'en vais.'" (Finished, she cried. Finished for good. I'm leaving.) and then adds "'S'en aller où?'" (Where will I go?) but hurriedly answers "'Cela n'avait pas d'importance. Sortir. Sortir de ce roman'" (That isn't important. Get out. Get out of this novel) (987).

Karin's reluctance to terminate a curative narrative that converts a life-history to fiction is also reflective of her author's intention of extracting art from experience, "car la vie est un roman qui a besoin d'être rZcrit," as Green once observed (for life is a novel that needs to be rewritten) ("Mon Premier Livre en anglais" 1441). As Karin refashions herself as a text, read by God who "will judge her and loves her" (916), Green's story is dependent on the appraisal of readers whose collaboration makes it come true. Indeed, the function of silence as portrayed in the novel is the same as in psychoanalysis, where the therapist's refusal to respond to his patient evokes an early experience of loss, since the "fear of silence [is] rooted in . . . separation anxieties and the terror of abandonment" (Greene 186). Karin's obsession with the prospect of suicide by drowning as reenacting the death of her father, her awareness of signs of the incipient madness of the kind that afflicted her mother, extend to a worry over Roger's desertion and the non-responsiveness of God. Yet she is able to benefit from the therapeutic practice of putting her life into language, assisted by the non-interventionist stance of a listener who is likened himself to a judge.8 Object relations psychology teaches that the therapist's silence can foster communication by patients, so that coming to terms with the death of a parent, as was necessary here for Green's character, is easier when the analyst remains quiet and listens until the object loss is worked through (Greene 196). Reawakening the memory of the death of her father were God's silence and Roger's departure, and these various losses that had broken her heart, "pour que Dieu y entre," says the priest (so that God might enter there) (978) seem to mirror the author's own fearful uncertainty about his reader's benevolent interest. But by equating the reason for producing his text with determining its means of reception, Green manages to incorporate and prescribe in his novel a treatment for the problems he outlines. While the loss of the object, the withdrawal of others, give the initial impulse for writing, it is the reliance on the tacit support of a reader that is able to change truth into narrative, through the fictionalization of painful experience, the use of silence as a medium of healing.


1 Echoing the confusion of critics, Petit writes: "Qui est l'autre? 'L'autre n'est pas le diable,' affirmait Pierre-Henri Simon; 'l'autre est aussi le diable,' disait AndrZ Blanchet. L'ambivalence Zvidente et volontaire de ce titre a même choquZ: 'L'Autre . . . que signifie ce titre? Il a besoin d'être expliquZ, et c'est un tort de l'auteur' (Henri Clouard)." (Who is the other? "The other isn't the devil," asserted Pierre-Henri Simon; "the other is also the devil," said AndrZ Blanchet. The evident and deliberate ambivalence of the title was even considered shocking: "L'Autre . . . what does this title mean? It needs to be explained and that is a fault on the part of the author." [Henri Clouard] (Petit, "Notes" 1694).

2 "C'est une altZritZ anonyme, absente dans la mesure où on ne peut la nommer, prZsente nZanmoins comme l'atteste son formidable pouvoir de bouleversement. Faut-il tenter de lui donner un nom plus prZcis? Sans doute pourrait-on Zvoquer ici le jugement de la sociZtZ, le sur-moi que la morale et l'Zducation crZent dans chaque être" (It is an anonymous other, absent to the extent that it cannot be named, but present as evident in its formidable disruptive power. Must it be given a more precise name? Perhaps it may evoke society's judgment, the super-ego created in each person by his sense of morality and his upbringing) (Tamuly 252).

3 Thus, the present interpretation conforms more to what Spence defines as a "construction"Ñ"a creative supposition"Ñthan to a "reconstruction that is supposed to correspond to something in the past," (Spence 35) as to the meaning originally intended by an author/narrator.

4 Similar episodes can be found elsewhere in Green. See, for example Adrienne Mesurat 435.

5 Karin, too, wishes to "[Z]viter la fin Zdifiante" (avoid the edifying conclusion) (987). See also Petit, "Notes" 1712.

6 In a posture typical of many of Green's characters, Karin is shown looking at the stars in the night sky: "Elles semblaient vouloir dire quelque chose, mais quoi? Il est certain qu'elles attiraient vers elles cette partie de moi-même qui n'avait pas de nom, mais dont je sentais la rZalitZ, et elles disaient . . . . J'avais mal ˆ la nuque ˆ force de rester ainsi, la tête jetZe en arrière. Elles disaient que rien n'avait d'importance. Voila ce qui me venait de leur message, si message il y avait" (They seemed to want to say something, but what? It is certain that they attracted toward them that part of me which had no name but whose reality I sensed, and they said . . . . My neck hurt from having stayed this way, with my head thrown backward. They said that nothing had any importance. That's what I got from their message, if there was any message at all) (71).

7 See Spence's chapter on "Narrative Fit and Becoming True," 175-214.

8 Spence writes: "Because the patient is speaking to a specific other, his words carry a rhetorical message, and the limits of that message will wax and wane with the state of the transference . . . . If the rhetorical side . . . begins to prevail, the patient's report will be slanted to the side of persuasionÑhe speaks in order to win some sort of response from the analyst. Under these conditions, the truth value of what he says may tend to deteriorate" (95). Yet later Spence amends these remarks when he adds: "If an interpretation is seen as an artistic product, we might further argue that it achieves its effect [being perceived as true] through something analogous to the well-known suspension of disbelief. An interpretation may produce the desired result because the patient . . . may allow himself to suspend disbelief in the literal meaning of a given interpretation and thereby make himself accessible to its artistic and rhetorical surround" (289).


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---. "Mon Premier Livre en anglais." Oeuvres complètes II. Ed. Jacques Petit. Paris: Gallimard, 1973.

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