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SHIFTING BORDERS, SHIFTIN G SELVE S: THE CONSTRUCTION OF THE RUSSIAN MIGR'S IDENTITY IN THE AUTOBIOGRAPHICAL FICTIONS OF HENRI TROYAT AND ANDRE MAKINE BY MARILEE PRAY A Thesis Submitted to the Division of Humanities New College of Florida in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree Bachelor of Arts Under the sponsorship of Dr. Jocelyn Van Tuyl Sarasota, Florida May, 2010
ii Contents Abstract.. iii Introduction 1 Through Memory's Cloudy Lens: The Creation of an Author in Troyat's Aliocha 8 Shifted Lines Constant Snow: Isolation and Romanticization in Makine's Au Temps du fleuve amour and Le Testament franais .. 29 Conclusion .. 57 Works Cited ... 61
iii SHIFTING BORDERS, SHIFTING SELVES: THE CONSTRUCTION OF THE RUSSIAN MIGR'S IDENTITY IN THE AUTOBIOGRAPHICAL FICTIONS OF HENRI TROYAT AND ANDRE MAKINE Marilee Pray New College of Florida 2010 ABSTRACT This thesis examines the relationships migr characters have with Russia, the country they leave, and France, the country to which they move. The focus is placed on three autobiographical novels: Aliocha by Henri Troyat, and Au t emps du fleuve amour and Le t estament franais by Andre Makine. Both these authors left the Soviet Union for France, where they became prolific and celebrated novelists who published in their adopted language. In this thesis, I examine the ways the authors look at aspects of cultural identity through their characte rs who are, like the authors, faced with displacement and a sense of being an outsider. This thesis examines how personal identity is shaped by the lack of a reliable historical narrative available to the characters in the novels. In the first chapter, f ocusing on Troyat's novel, I investigate the formation of the artist narrator through Aliocha's interpretation of French culture and his difficulty with accessing memories from his country of origin. The second chapter looks at the Makine novels, focusing on
iv how French culture acts as a source of optimism for adolescent boys growing up in what they see as a brutal country. Dr. Jocelyn Van Tuyl Division of Humanities
1 Introduction Exiled people are border crossers. For migrs from the former USSR the concept of borders is extremely complex. After the revolution of 1917, Russia no longer matched the identity it had had for hundreds of years. Instead, the country attempted to era se its history and start anew with a communist government. For those living within the country, there was a loss of a sense of national identity because of the extreme rupture between the past and the present. However, for those who left the changing cou ntry, the loss is more complicated. How can one speak of the home one has left when that home no longer exists? In this thesis, I will be looking at three novels by two Russian migr authors who wrote in France: Henri Troyat and Andre Makine. In their novels, these authors recreate the exiles they experienced, drawing largely on their personal narrative s but also creating fictive narratives In the novels I will be examining ( Aliocha by Troyat and Au t emps du fleuve amour and Le Testament franais by M akine ) the authors write about childhoods that are both based on their own and not their own experiences. The representations of adopted cultural history and complicated pasts are very personal, but also blur the lines or cross the border s between realit y, or autobiography, and fiction. The works thus occupy, like their authors, an intermediary space. Makine and Troyat, in fictionalizing the past, make it reflect their uneasy assimilation into another culture by making their novels similarly lack a home representing the struggle for the creation of a self identity when the world around them is so uncertain Nostalgia, though an almost universally experienced concept was defined in 1688 and was considered a medical condition instead of a natural emoti on. The word, whose roots mean "an ache to return home" in Greek, was coined by the Swiss doctor Johannes
2 Hofer (Boym The Future of Nostalgia 3). Though the word only came into use in recent centuries, as a concept, nostalgia is much older. All humans, according to the Old Testament, have been cast out from their home in Eden. Because of the expulsion from the original home, humankind was sentenced to experience lives of pain and suffering (256). There is a wholeness in Eden that is exemplified in the unity of signs and the objects they signify; in paradise, the sign was the same as the signified object. While linguistic fragmentation occurs after the first loss of home, the story of Babylon furthers the concept. Though people in Babylon had not been at home (in the garden), they at least were able to share their experiences and pains in a shared language. After the separation of languages, sharing the experience of nostalgia became more complicated with the inability to express the pain of homesickn ess. While people almost universally feel the yearning for a more simple time before their lives became painful, those who have experienced exile in their lifetime interpret the event as a trauma. Svetlana Boym explains in The Future of Nostalgia that for Vladimir Nabokov, a prolific Russian migr author writing in the United States, "the only way to survive the exile imposed upon him was to mimic it, to improvise constantly on the exilic theme" (251). In an attempt to re access the past, the ex ile author repeatedly revisits the exile and recreates it. However, as the author is an artist, the reproductions become more like recreations, half truths that can only come close to telling the author's true story. The exile is not only an object of ob session, but it is also an impetus for the attempt to create something. According to Boym, "Inability to return home is both a personal tragedy and an enabling force (251). Retelling the story, often with new flourishes, allows the author the ability to cope with the event, to try to communicate his pain, and to
3 produce art all at once. Boym explains that exiles "often become artists of their lives, remaking themselves and their h omes with great ingenuity" (251 ). This type of fictionalizing of reality is not limited to the worlds of the novels, but also exists in the lives of the novelists. The exile sees himself as a character performing a new role, so the fictionalized protagonists reflect the authors beyond the shared experience of the loss of home in that the author fictionalizes himself in his new environment. Henri Troyat's self fabrication is evident in his name change. He was born in 1911 in Moscow as Levon Aslanovitch Tarassov. His father was a wealthy merchant, which afforded Troyat the abi lity to learn French through a Swiss governess who lived with the family. In 1917, the family left at the first signs of revolution. Troyat and his family spent over two years travelling before they finally reached France, settling in Neuilly sur Seine. Troyat's group of friends in middle and high school was made up of intellectuals; the students formed a sort of artist's circle. In 1935, with the publication of Troyat's first novel, the author decided that he needed a new, more French name. After some deliberation, he settled on Henri Troyat because he thought the names stuck together well and had a clear sound (Gutirez 137). In a new country, Troyat took on a new name, somewhat erasing his ties with his own past by having that past no longer match u p with his name. Troyat's change of name acted, in a way, as a rebirth. Troyat won the Prix Goncourt for L'Ara i gn e in 1938 and was elected to the Acadmie Franaise in 1959 after years of prolific writing. He wrote over 100 titles during his lifetim e, before passing away in 2007. A large portion of these works is made up of biographies about figures in French and Russian cultural history; his fiction includes multi volume works about people leaving France for Russia and leaving Russia
4 for France. H owever, it wasn't until the author was 80 years old that his most autobiographical work Aliocha was published. Though the novel pulls the majority of its content from Troyat's personal history, the author insisted on its constructedness as a work of fic tion. He once stated, "I'd have felt uncomfortable telling my own story" (Riding). However, his own story does get told, even though it is injected with just enough fabrication not to be truly autobiography. It is unclear where the line between fiction and reality could be drawn, since Troyat created with his new name a second identity blurring the lines of his own identity In Aliocha which was published in 1991, Troyat tells the story o f a young boy named Alexis Krapi vine who emigrated from Russia t o France with his parents after the 1917 revolution. He struggles to fit in at school, where he sees himself as a constant outsider. He finds friendship in Thierry Gozelin, a physically disabled boy whose intellect is unmatched at school. The boys becom e close, and Alexis sees Thierry as the key to French intellectualism and cultural history. However, for Alexis, adopting French culture as his own is complicated because of the insistence of his parents that they return to Russia once things have settled politically. There is an intergenerational tension between Alexis and his parents, centering on the pulls of the past in the "home" country and the adopted home's present and future. Andre Makine has a similarly complicated "true" narrative. Born in 1957 in Krasnoarsk, Siberia, Makine grew up speaking both French and Russian. However, in interviews, Makine evades sticking to a single answer for the question of how he learned French. Sometimes a French grandmother is the source of his bilingualism, and sometimes the source is a childhood friend. He left the USSR for France in 198 7, the
5 reason for which he maintains was his objection to perestroika (the loosening of communist economic policy towards the end of the Soviet Union, which allowed for som e privatization of business). Makine maintains that he did not want his art to be transformed into a trade, which he says he feared would happen if he remained in the USSR as it moved towards capitalism. He did, however, move to a less socialized country so the truth behind his reasoning is questionable, seeming more like a romanticization of the artist's struggle to remain uncorrupted by questions of economics. Upon his arrival in Paris, Makine slept for a while in the Pre Lachaise cemetery, which is something several of his characters do in his novels (Fairweather). In an interview with the Independent he explained that he was reluctant to stifle either of the Siamese twins that are me and my writing by defining too closely where one ends and the other begins'" (Fairweather). Comparison between Makine and his narrators is openly invited in one interview, he said the unnamed narrator of L'Amour h umain was him self by explaining in the style of Gustav e Flaubert, "Madame Bovary, c'est moi" (Freehil y); his novels remain fictive nevertheless, and viewing them as recitations of his history would be incorrect. Makine also admits that his own history is constantly in the process of being recreated in dealing with the loss of his home: For me, Russia is like an old lover I have an image of her, of the way she used to be and what she used to mean to me, in my head and I am frightened of destroying my internal Russia, which I still need to draw on in my writi ng, by revisiting the country and replacing my preci ous old memories with new ones" (Fairweather). It is impossible to discern the boundaries between the world of his novels and reality, especially since he maintains a self awareness in his quotidian life This creation of imagined worlds plays with that in
6 the novels: Makine's literature reinvents his own history similarly to how literature in his novels informs the development of his characters. Au temps du fleuve amour first published in 1994, tell s the story of such characters. The novel concerns three boys growing up in the Russian steppe, a large grassland area in Siberia. Their lives seem to them to be full of violence and devoid of emotion until one day they hear about a film playing in a nea rby town. The film, L'Homme de Rio stars Jean Paul Belmondo and draws the boys back for almost twenty viewings. The boys see in Belmondo a romantic existence that opposes the emotional lack they feel in the USSR They idealize Belmondo, each boy hangin g on to the qualities of himself that he sees in the hero. Though the development of the boys is informed by a work of fiction, their lives have already been fictionalized, which is appa rent in their names: Samoura, Ou tkin, and Don Juan. The three main figures of the story are referred to almost solely by their sobriquets, constantly reminding the reader of the construction of characters through their life experiences. Le Testament franais is a more autobiographical work than Au temps In the novel, published in 1995 and the winner of both the Prix Goncourt and Prix Mdicis, Makine writes of a boy growing up in the steppe who spends his summers visiting his French grandmother, Charlotte. He and his sister listen to stories of belle poque France and learn French through Charlotte, who describes the France of her past as a romantic lost continent, leading the narrator to refer to it as Atlantis ("Atlantide" in French). The narrator feels out of place in Russia, seeing himself as a crossbreed who does not really have a home. Eventually, the narrator learns of the violence of his own uncertain history; he then decides to move to France, where he is confronted with a country that lacks the
7 romantic qualities of the Atlantide of his childhood. He is home less and spends his first nights in Paris in the Pre Lachaise cemetery (like Makine). This homelessness and questioning of personal history is something present in much migr literature and comes up again in other works by Makine. This thesis is divi ded into two chapters, the first of which will examine the novel by Troyat. I will be looking at questions of personal and national history in Aliocha as well as the interplay between Troyat's own history and the history of his invented protagonist. Ali ocha is a short novel, but in the discussion of it I will set up themes that are pervasive in the two Makine novels, such as the homelessness of the protagonists and the uncertainty of history as well as the intersections between the author's life and the story of the character I will also be looking at the different ways each narrator characterizes France and Russia, examining the attitudes when looking towards one country, looking back at home, or revisiting the imagined nations the narrators create. The secon d chapter which is longer because of the length of the works discussed, will look at the two Makine novels by building upon the themes explored in the first chapter. This chapter will, however, focus more closely on the characters' experiences w ithin the Soviet Union as they look towards France, and how their environment creates their sense of self identity.
8 Through Memory's Cloudy Lens: The Creation of an Author in Troyat's Aliocha Troyat's autobiographical novel Aliocha presents the portr ait of an adolescent boy attempting to assimilate himself into French culture, a difficult task with his parents constantly reminding him of his Russian origins. The novel problematizes the idea of cultural belonging what does it mean to come from a partic ular culture? How does this affect Aliocha's relationship to other cultures? For the titular character, living in France after having lived in Russia means that he constantly feels unnatural. Though he dives into a French identity, what he considers French is crystallized to such an extent that it is a fabrication, since a definite cultural identity is impossible to define Because Aliocha wants to exemplify what it means to be French, he lives his life as a performance, and his existence is never wholly tr ue or wholly false. Because of this impossibility of remaining completely honest and faithful Troyat's story is not designated as nonfiction, but instead exists as a piece of fiction. The issues of personal identity and history are a reflection of problem s of national history. Growing up during a time of rewritings of the past causes Troyat to give his account in a similar way, acknowledging that the past is not a stable entity but is changed and shifted with the passing of time. Central to the discussion in this chapter, I will be looking at the way memory works in the novel. Additionally, this chapter will examine the ways that Russian culture and French culture exist for the protagonist, as well as how the novel addresses the creation of the artist. In Aliocha, the titular character' s parents experience a strong pull back to their home country. They see their time in France as a temporary displacement as they wait hopefully for their old Russia to be resurrected. Instead of accepting their identities as
9 French citizens, they refuse to accept their new residence as their home. The first introduction to them in the novel comes when Aliocha (the Russian diminutive name for Alexis') hurries home for lunch to report t hat he has earned a place as the second best student in French in his class. Instead of paying attention to this important recent development in their son's becoming French, they tell him, "Nous aussi, nous avons une grande nouvelle t'apprendre, Aliocha Lnine est mort!" (Troyat 9) Their minds linger on details of the only country to which they feel an alleg iance, while simultaneously ignoring the absorption of French culture by Aliocha. They seem to have blinders on when it comes to their French su rroundings, and they can only take in information pertaining to the land from which they fled. Along with following politics, the Krapivines also attend an Eastern Orthodox church, retaining the religion of Russia in a predominantly Catholic country. The ir only friends are also immigrants from the n ow defunct USSR ; through these details the Krapi vines hold so strongly onto an identity that belongs to a now nonexistent country by reenacting scenes that could have existed in their former home, but now take place in a new country. Even the way the parents are referred to in the text reinforces the image of them as tied to Russia. Aliocha's mother is referred to as Hlne Fedorovna and his father is referred to as Georges Pavlovitch: while the spelling of th eir first names are made French, they are called not only by these names but also by their patronymics, which reinforce the idea of descent. Their names are a reminder not only of their fa milial homeland but also literally name their fathers (for example Georges, son of Pavel ). This naming prevents them from being severed from a decidedly Russian past and their clearly Russian identities.
10 Their experience of nostalgia is very real to them, which is displayed to the reader by their inability to stop conc entrating on their lost home. However, their shared experience of nostalgia involves a high level of artifice. The parents have recreated within their small, single bedroom apartment a burrow of Russianness an imitation of their country of origin : Aux murs, des gravures reprsentant des paysages de Russie, des photographies anciennes, une lithographie en couleurs do Nicolas II, le tsar martyr, toute la panoplie de l'migration. [ ] Ils recevaient peu de monde. Rien que des Russes qui parlaient du pass en buvant de la vodka (Troyat 9). The home is filled with relics from different aspects of a Russian history the landscapes, the old political regime, and religious icons from the ir former home are all present, covering the gamut of the culture they refuse to abandon. The apartment, with its Russian visitors partaking in Russian drinks, is a s imulacrum of their former home. In this, it is an uncanny space, meaning that it contains elements that are familiar or homely heimlich in German b ut at the same time also unfamiliar or unhomely un heimlich which translates to uncanny (Freud) It has all the elements of a Russian home, but its Parisian setting is a reminder that it is un natural in its disp lacement. This is not the only aspect of the home that is uncanny: the country whose image is being recreated within the Krapivine household no longer exists. The tsar is dead, and what constitutes the Russian landscape has changed as well since the Sovi et Union expanded to include areas outside of Russia. The relics within their home are from a dead country, so the apartment seems almost haunted. All the things that a re signs of a certain political or cultural identity no longer truly correspond with t hat identity; instead, the religious icons and portraits of fallen,
11 "martyred" leaders float around without a home, as they can no longer point to their original meanings. The creation of the Soviet Union acted as a rewriting of history during which some histories were erased Previous political regimes were stripped of their significance, and all aspects of culture were open to reinterpretation with the creation of a new economic apparatus. Additionally, Soviet culture was not commensurate with Russian culture, not only because it included what were previously politically separate countries but also because of its strict censoring of art, rejection of religion, and redefinition of t he experiences of its citizens by emphasizing the collective over the in dividual. Though Soviets often still ide ntified with and felt attached to their Russian pasts, the Communist Party's rhetoric attempted to sever the USSR from Russia's history. Russia was still the USSR 's past, but it was a past that was largely ignored. In The Future of Nostalgia Svetlana Boym explains, "Preoccupation with tradition and interpretation of tradition as an age old ritual is a distinctly modern phenomenon, born out of anxiety abo ut the vanishing past" ( 19). Looking at the Krapivine s attemp ts to recreate their lost home, one sees that they not only are homesick but are also attempting to maintain the existence of their past, a manifestation of nostalgia mentioned in the introduction. The reproduction of their history keeps them in synchronic, or non linear, time, constantly returning to something in the past. There is a religiosity to this obsession. I n religion, the celebration of a holiday is full of ritual which serve s as a way of recreating the original act. Thi s resuscitation of the past makes it so that the event is always happening (once a year in most religions), and time seems not to progress away from the original act, but instead move in a circle, always returning to the origin. Thus, though the parent s h ome
12 no longer exists, in their ritualized reenactment of Russian existence, they keep the past whose total erasure has been attempted, visibly inscribed on their lives. They themselves also become signifiers of a Russian identity, embodying the qualities and performing the acts of Russian people. However, like their displaced apartment, they too are displaced and their inability to accept their separation from their past reinforces th e idea of nostalgia as illness. The nostalgia of the parents also manife sts in their dwelling on the implications of the revolution. The word "revolution" is demonstrative of the Krapivine's experience. "Revolution" means both an overthrow of the past, which is replaced by a new regime, and also one repetition of a circular m otion. Thus, the Russian Revolution implies not only that the former political system was replaced by the Communist Party, but also hints at the lack of progress of the past. Russia's previous identity stagnates in the past, and to experience it the Krapiv ines must also do so. While the parents never cease to feel the pain of their loss, their son does not experience the same yearning. He has taken to France and its culture readily, becoming one of the top students of his class in French language and litera ture. He comfortably progresses away from his parents who never move forward in time. When asked by Thierry the protagonist's best friend and model of Frenchness, if he has precise memories of Russia, Aliocha responds, Des souvenirs, ou i quelques uns. Mais je me demande s'ils sont vraiment moi ou s'ils m'ont t souffls par mes parents (Troyat 51). Aliocha is only fourteen years old and the novel takes place in 1924. Therefore, he was only seven at the time of his family's departure during the 191 7 Revolution, too young to have been able to have a comprehensive understanding of what was going on at the time or to have established strong memories of Russia. The question of memory is
13 important how can one ever be truly sure of what one remembers? Thi s question is especially difficult to answer for Aliocha, since different factors compl icate his situation: his parent s obsession with an idealized Russian past would prevent him from maintaining his own memories, since the parents' narratives could drown out Aliocha's. Additionally, the creation of the Soviet Union also complicates Aliocha's ability to remember his first home, since during the Revolution, Russian history was manipulated and distorted by a regime attempting to paint the t zarist country in a negative light (Wolfe 39 44) While his parents rewrote an idealized Russian history, a huge political system was writing an opposing history. Aliocha attempts, however, to reconstruct bits of his past when, for his cahier journal or journal writing, a ssignment, he writes down some of his memories of his family's escape from Russia. His teacher, Monsieur Colinard, announces that Aliocha received the best grade in the class for the assignment and reads a couple of pages of it out loud to the class. When he has finished reading, one student calls out, C'est pas juste, monsieur : il a tout invent to which the teacher replies, J e suis sr que Krapivine a vcu tout ce qu'il raconte. D'ailleurs, mme s'il a quelque peu brod sur la ralit, il mrite d' tre flicit, car son devoir est rdig avec soin et sentiment (62 63). There is a slippage in the teacher's certainty that Aliocha's account is completely accurate and honest. He insists on his belief that it is the true history of the Krapivines, but a t the same time admits that the possibility of embellishment. The narrator states that the confession is so sincere, only Aliocha's parents could fully appreciate it. However sincere it might be, the account is not necessarily accurate. As Aliocha has prev iously revealed to Thierry that his memories have been informed by later events, the reade r
14 understands that as much as Aliocha attempts to retain fidelity toward the past, he might be incapable of doing such. This reflects Troyat's own remembrance of his past, which is very closely aligned with that of the titular character. Though this novel is a fictionalized account of the assimilation of a boy living in exile, Troyat also rewrote the experience of living in Revolutionary era Russia in his Tant que la terre durera series, while the theme of return to Russia is the central theme in his La Lumire des Justes series. Instead of relying on his own uncertain memory to attempt to reconstruct his own narrative, Troy at repeatedly visited the themes of exile through his fiction. While Aliocha is more autobiographical than these other novels, which follow the lives of completely fictionalized families that are distanced from the author's own, Troyat still maintains that it is not truly autobiographic because of his inability (as well as perhaps his unwillingness) to discern reality from fiction. Julia Kristeva, a French philosopher who fled her native Bulgaria in the 1960s, outlines another possible reason for this ficti onalizing: The foreigner [ ] does not give the same weight to "origins" as common sense does. He has fled from that origin family, blood, soil and, even though it keeps pestering, enriching, hindering, exciting him, or giving him pain, and often all of it at once, the foreigner is its courageous and melancholy betrayer. His origin certainly haunts him, for better and for worse, but it is indeed elsewhere that he has set his hopes. ( 29) Aliocha's cahier journal was written because of Thierry's supplications that h is friend's history be put down in words. Though Thierry finds Aliocha's origins mysterious and fascinating, Aliocha does not dwell in his lost past like his parents do. M. and Mme
15 Krapivin e did flee th eir origin but they only fled Russian soil and not the country they had loved since the country they left was not the same at the time of their departure as the country they had known ; for this reason, they do not set their hopes elsewhere, while their s on does. At the point in his life that is detailed in the novel, Alexis has spent equal parts of hi s life in France and in Russia. He has at least as strong an allegiance for France, as it has been his home for half his life. Furthermore, at this point i n his life, the protagonist is reaching the peaks of adolescence. Not only has he literally moved away from his ancestors, but he is now also distancing himself from his parents not only spatially but also ideologically. Russia does not haunt him in the same ways it haunts his parents because Alexis was too young to have had a firm idea of an origin at the time of his departure. Instead, the feeling of displacement recorded in the novel, the fact of being an m igr, is treated as the origin. It is the i dentity that Alexis ( like Troyat) first remembers clearly, and it is during his displacement that the protagonist chooses to move away from the home defined by his parents Alexis exhibits an incredible level of self consciousness throughout the narrati ve. He obsesses over what things he chooses to like and dislike (laboring over picking which painting in a museum is his favorite or what novels he chooses to read). He is very aware of the identity he is crafting throughout the novel, vehemently rejecting the great Russian novelists of the nineteenth century, for whom Thierry shows a great appreciation, in order to appear more fully assimilated into French culture. According to Boym, "Immigrants always perceive themselves onstage, their lives resembling so me mediocre fiction with occasional romantic outbursts and gray dailiness. Sometimes they see themselves as heroes of a novel, but such ironic realizations do not stop them from suffering through
16 each and every novelistic collision of their own life" (Boym The Future 254). Aliocha fits this description perfectly: he sees his home life as a drab daily repetition of nostalgia, always with the same topics of conversation. However, his encounters with Thierry occupy the most important space in his life; they are the "romantic outbursts" of which Boym writes. The novel spends little time discussing the intricacies of the relationship between Alexis and his parents, and instead allows the reader to infer the distance between the generations not only by how the characters do interact, but mostly by focusing on the protagonist's preference for Thierry's company, his constant desire to be near Thierry. When they are not together, Aliocha is thinking about their future rendezvous. Boym's characterization of immigr ants also complicates the book's existence as autobiographical fiction. Since there is a novelization of the immigrant's life in his fictionalizing of the self (accomplished through his conscious decisions to make himself into a certain type of person), it only makes sense that it would become the subject of a novel. At the same time, how does the autobiography of an immigrant qualify as nonfiction if the life it is describing is a performa nce? It is difficult to draw the border between fiction and nonfic tion when the true life experiences fictionalization and performance, making even a completely accurate description of t hat life seem to be metafiction self conscious fictional work that addresses the relationship between reality and fiction wi th the reader constantly reminded of the performance of the characters. Alexis understands and sees his own performance, but does not want it to be no ticed by others. Thierry quickly notices Alexis's knack for performance during the protagonists' poetry recitati on in front of the class. Thierry tells Alexis, J e veux tre crivain. Et toi, Krapivine, tu seras acteur [ ] Je t'ai entendu, en classe. Tu as tout ce
17 qu'il faut pour monter sur scne Tu joueras mes pices !" (Troyat 34) Alexis, however, does not want to be recognized only as a performer, wishing to have authorial power over his own life. Even if he does perform, he wants to perform a character he has written for himself. The notion of performance also comes up during both Thierry's first visit to the Krapivine home and during Alexis's first visit to Thierry's home. When Alexis visits the Gozelin (Thierry's ) family for the first time, Thierry asks him to recite t he poem he memorized for class. Alexis's reaction is of extremely strong r ejection of suc h a performance : U ne stupeur mortelle frappa Alexis Perclus de timidit, il se disait que jamais il n'oserait se donner en spectacle des personnages aussi considrables que M. et Mme Gozelin La gorge sche, il bredouilla, Non, ce n' est pas possible '" (Troyat 37) Though Alexis's daily existence is highly performative, he freezes up when that performance is acknowledged. He performs to assimilate, but he feels that being called upon to perform makes him more of a spectacle, marking him as different, which negates the attempts of h is performance of assimilation. Though recitation of literature is commonplace in French culture, Alexis does not want his cultural performance to be so explicitly evident. He becomes literally unable to perform, being crippled and nearly aphasic with his dry throat and loss of eloquence. Similarly, a fter Thierry's visit, Alexis is annoyed at his parents for allowing their foreignness to show so clearly. However, he recognizes that he cannot f a ult them for being themsel ves. Q ue pouvait il leur reprocher? D'tre fidles eux m mes ? De ne pas jouer la comdie devant un tra nger ?" (Troyat 45). Here, he acknowledges that he is not being faithful in his representation of himself by admitting that he would have preferred his parents to do the same (though he is resigned to the fact that they will not) Alexis is aware of his own
18 performance of Frenchness, but he cannot talk about it with his parents because it will draw attenti on to his own self fabrication. Though the p rotagonist's constructed identity is apparent to the reader, it cannot be so to the other characters in the novel because the point of the performance is to fit in. However, as soon as others within the novel acknowledge the performance, the protagonist is not just a participant in the French lifestyle, but one who pretends to be such. Alexis's performance is hampered by a detail he cannot ignore: his name Like his parents, he has a distinctly foreign name that reminds him and others of his foreignness. Alexis, his mind lingering on the writer Anatole France (whose given name was Franois Anatole Thibault), realizes the importance of an author's name. He strongly associates Anatole France the author with France the nation, and he believes this associatio n to be rooted in the name. Pondering his desired future as an author, Alexis thinks, I l faillait un sacr cu lot pour choisir un pareil pseudo nyme! Alexis songea qu'il et aim, lui aussi, crire sous un nom trs f ranais" (Troyat 47). This desire is reflected in Troyat's own life. Henri Troyat is the name assumed by the author, who spent time deliberating over what French names sounded right together while also embodying the national identity to which the author wished to belong. Havin g a French name, Alexis believes, will allow him to fit into the French intellectual tradition. In addition, taking on another name is the final step on the road to assimilation for the protagonist. However much Alexis attempts to become French, though, he is always truly foreign and the steps in his becoming French are instead multiple identities that he assumes. Kristeva explains, "Without a home, he [the foreigner] disseminates [ ] the actor's paradox: multiplying masks and false selves' he is never compl etely true nor completely false "( 8) The
19 fictional but heavily autobiographical novel then works as another one of these masks: t he author portrays a childhood that is based on his own, but the subject has a different name, allowing Troyat to talk ab out himself without talking about himself. In doing this, he can tell bits of his history without unmasking himself, remaining in control of his history by manipulating and crafting it. Since Troyat, as a foreigner, is "never completely true nor complete ly false," it only makes sense that his story would reflect the same blurred lines. For Aliocha, being French means to embody certain chara cteristics that he sees as well defined aspects of a national identity. These traits include intellectualism, roman ticism, and feminization all of which reside in Thierry. Thierry's bedroom is an encapsulation of this identity. The walls are lined with bookcases full of literary classics, as well as works by modern authors. As beautiful as the apartment is, demonstr ating what Alexis thinks is the French aesthetic, the apartment, and the France it embodies, is suffocating and lacks virility. Troyat describes Alexis's first encounter with the home: En gravissant les marches, Alexis avait l'impression de pntrer da ns u n mus e o la richesse et la beaut avaient tu la vie. Tout coup, il se dit que ce dcor fastueux, ce domestique en livre lui rappelaient quelque chose de lointain et de familier la fois: l'appartement de ses parents, en RussieIl tait si pe tit alors! Avait il jam ais vcu ailleurs qu'en France? (Troyat 32 33) This apartment represents pure intellectualism, which is contrasted with physicality. The Gozelin home, its walls adorned with tapestries and paintings, is compare d to a museum; the wor d "museum" means not only a space where art is displayed, but the word also
20 connotes a place of learning or study. In a museum, though, objects are static. Things generally are not to be touched, and the items within the walls are so removed from daily li fe and activity that they seem very dead. However, in the Gozelin home, the lack of life of the typical museum goes further by seeming to have "killed life." It is impossible, in Alexis's eyes, for the Gozelin home to be conducive to health and vigor. At the same time, Alexis feels as if he has penetrated a familiar setting, likening the apartment to the one in which he lived with his parents in Russia. He does not, however, call it his apartment, but instead calls it his parent s apartment Memory is again problematized here is this truly what the Russian home was like, or is this how the parents imagined it and described it to Alexis? Is this simply Alexis's reinterpretation of the memories, grafted onto the French identity he desires so s trongly? This last possible situation is insinuated when he asks himself if he has never li ved anywhere other than France. He has, in fact, lived in another country but his experience of that country has been tampered with by his experience in France. H e only views his Russian memory through a French lens, and he is unable to be sure of what a Russian identity means because his identity has been so heavily informed by living in France. He was too young in his former home to have felt a real connection t o it and to have establish ed a firm memory of what it was. In French culture, when a child reaches the age of seven they are said to have reached l'ge de la raison or the age of reason. Alexis left Russia before he became a fully sentient and conscious p erson, only having lived there as a small child, unable to form complete memories or ideas; for this he calls the old apartment not his own. Since the Gozelin apartment seems a world apart from healthy existence, it takes on the identity of a foreign pla ce in a way completely different from its imagined
21 similarity to t he former Krapivine apartment As much as Alexis appreciates and even idolizes Thierry for his infirmity and intellectualism, seeing the friend as an embodiment of Frenchness, Thierry is in fact not a typical French boy even within the scope of the novel Thierry is exceptionally intellectual and is first in his class; however, Alexis, not any of the French boys, is second in the class The other boys never seem e specially bright or bookis h, and the intellectual conversations remain between the two main characters and never ext end to other French classmates Thierry is not only the most intellectual, but also the only boy so mentally advanced that it shows in his weakened body He is the only physically disabled character in the novel, and no other ones are ever mentioned as even existing in this world. Though Alexis admires Thierry because he sees the French boy as being so superior, Thierry's body represents not jus t t he stereotypical f eminized Frenchness that Alexis imagines, but instead another body that is foreign and separate from the rest of the main characters' peers. Kristeva explains, "The foreigner's friends, aside from bleeding hearts who feel obliged to do good, could only be those who feel f oreign to themselves" ( 23) Alexis may be Thierry's friend because of his admiration, but the reason they truly connect is because they are both outsiders in their school, one for his literal foreignness and the other because of his physi cal markings that make him unable to assimilate to the lifestyle of his peers. Though T hierry may seem adjusted to his limited physical capacity, he recognizes that he is not like everyone else. His emphasis on literary experience is not a naturally occu rring characteristic because of his nationality, but instead exists because the boy understands that he cannot experience life in the same ways as his peers. He resigns himself to this fact, and allows himself to be content with e xperiencing life through b ooks. One example of this is when
22 Thierry discusses his inability ever to cultivate a romantic life. He explains to Alexis, Je regarde les filles, je me dis qu'aucune, jamais, ne voudra de moi Je su is comme Baudelair e comme Maupassant: je ne vois dans les femmes qu'un instrument de plaisir. Plus tard, je me paierai des poules. Sans au cun sentiment. C'est la sagesse" (Troyat 34). He comforts himself by making comparisons to great French authors, and one is not sure if this comparison is true or simply a way of coping with the grim prospects of his love life. Does Thierry truly see women as "instruments of pleasure," or does he objectify them as such in order to keep himself from being offended? He distances himself from women to such an extent that eve n in discussing paying f or sex, he does not call women femmes but instead poul es a word equating to "chicks." This distancing, this lack of sentimentality and romanticization, seems not to be in accordance with the characterization of the feminized, roma nticized national identity Alexis imagines. This is because the characterization of France that Alexis imagines is just that: imagined. It is impossible for Thierry both to embody a pure intellectualism and to experience physical pleasure with real sentim ent, so he puts all his focus into a literary existence. The contrast between Alexis and Thierry is not explained as existing between two boys of differing physical capability, but is left as an explanation of their national identities, identities that a re clearly readable on the boys' bodies. The mind/body division is m ade especially clear during Thierry and Alexis's trip to the Louvre. Thierry's cousin asks each boy which piece of art was his favo rite. Alexis chooses La Source by Jean Auguste Dominique Ingres, which is a painting of a naked young woman standing in a puddle, holding a vase of water whose contents spill out. Alexis admires no t the technique of the painting, nor does he admire the possible theories behind the piece, but
23 he simply enjoys t he image of a nude woman. His pleasure is very basically that of an adolescent boy as he a dmires the naked female figure. In contrast with this cho ice, Thierry picks Rembrandt's Philosopher in M editation. This painting is very complex, with extreme shadows contrasted with bright sunlight, a center spiral reminiscent of the double helix, and of course the subject of a philosopher enacting a very eleva ted, intellectual identity. There is no motion in the pi ece; even the action is completely sedentary. As a piece that represents Thierry, this painting is perfect. At the same time, it is very unusual for a boy going through puberty to place such a high value on thought and to ignore completely any corporeal existence. He does this, though, as compensation for his inability to be physically capable of a normal existence, but Alexis misreads this as a demonstration of natural Frenchness. Back at the Krapivine home, Thierry experiences a similar situation to tha t of Alexis in the Gozelin home: Thier ry se leva et, les mains dans le dos, inspecta les gravures russes pendues aux murs. Je n'en ai jamais vu de comme a! C'est naf c'est frais, c'est charmant'" (Troyat 43 44). He sees the impoverished family's tiny apartment as an encapsulation not only of migr life, but also as a visible representation of a Russian identity. The way he looks at the objects is much like an explorer encountering a native population for the first time: he inspects the objects w ith wonder, marveling at how different they are from the things he knows so well. He sees the pastoral images on the walls and imagines this to be Russian existence: nave, fresh and charming. He sees it as being contrasted with the French intellectual hi story he has inherited Rather than seeing himself as existing in the same realm of intellectualism as Thierry, Alexis's strong body and good looks make him feel inferior in terms of intelligence. Troyat describes
24 Alexis 's thoughts as he sits next to Thi erry, ct de lui, Alexis se sentait lourd et ignare. Il dcida soudain qu'il et prfr tre bossu et avoir l'inte lligence, la culture de son ami" (Troyat 33 34). Alexis does not understand that physical and mental prowess can coexist, and he does not recognize his own intelligence but instead linger s on the differences between him and his friend. He also draws a connection between culture and intelligence: the mea ning of being cultured is often confused or conflated with being intelligent. However, it is difficult to define what it means to be cultured, since in different regions of the world, cul ture is defined differently. For Alexis, with whom Thierry disagrees about cultural belonging, to appreciate and participate in one culture means to forsake another, and this complicates the ability to define what it means to be cultured. If intelligence is the same as being cultured for Alexis, it becomes more apparent w hy he sees his friend as being intellectually superior, as he naturally belongs to a French cultural history. As previously mentioned, it is not only Alexis who essentializes national identity in the boys' relationship. In addition, Alexis is not the so le enactor of a fetishization of the other, with his appreciation of the feminized weakness of the friend and the desire to embody those attributes to which he is so attracted in Thierry. Thierry also reflects a similar attitude towards the protagonist, c alling him a beau gosse multiple times, always contrasting his own weakened state with his frie nd's handsomeness and strength. The relationship between the boys is not simply one of admiring the other's national identity, though The boys are both going through puberty, but there is a remarkabl e absence of female characters; other than the mothers in the novel, the only female who acts even as the slightest character is Thierry's cousin She meets them at the Louvre, and it is she
25 who questions the boys ab out their favorite paintings. When Alexis gives his response, she mocks him, implying that his enjoyment of the painting is shallow and sophomoric A ccompanied by Thierry's attitude towards females, which is characterized by his lack of interest in th em, Alexis's experience with the cousin shows women to be sophisticated and cruel The fact that Thierry believes that a woman will only cuckold him demonstrates his disdain and mistrust towards women, and Alexis's fear of the female cousin is contrasted with his co mfort around Thierry. Alexis is upset when Thierry tells him they will be meeting up with the cousin, which seems a strange reaction from a pubescent boy who is told he will be spending time with an attractive female The boys seem comfortable only around each othe r and they are o nly interested in sharing each other's company. The boys both anxiously anticipate their time spent together and dread the prospect of being around the female Each has create d in the other the identity he admire s mo st, and each boy's body is so different from the other's (with Alexis's virility, strength, and handsomeness and Thierry's hunchbacked weakness) that the friendship acts much like a romantic relationship Since the relationship represents the cultural dev elopment of Alexis, with the desired French intellectual counterpart, the friendship also goes beyond romantic or sexual interest and reflects Alexis's desire for national identity, which to him are infinitely more important than any urge his hormones migh t bring about within him. Though neither boy can truly serve as a representative for a national identity because of the impossibility of one person embodying all the characteristi cs another might imagine belong to a particular national identity, each boy still acts as that representative to the other.
26 There is, however, one moment in which Aliocha does fantas ize about the opposite gender. The boys spend several weeks together in the countryside during summer vacation. The entire time they spend together is described much like a romantic, bucolic getaway. At one point, Alexis imagines continuing these vacations when the boys are older, and he fantasizes about when they are sixteen years old and sneaki ng off with girls at night. These are only fantasies that are never realized within the novel, instead set away in the future, and the vacation seems more like a honeymoon for the boys. At one point Alexis, who cannot sleep, goes to Thierry's room late a t night. The description of Thierry is highly eroticized: L a chambre de Thierry tait juste en face. Un rai lumineux encadrait sa porte. Il ne dormait pas, lui non plus. Alexis frappa, attendit la rponse et entra. Appuy sur un coude, dans son lit, les cheveux bouriffs, le col du pyjama ouvert, Thierry tait abs orb dans la lecture d'un livre" (Troyat 84). The doorway is lit up, as if the contents of the room were of some holy significance. The description of Thierry's body ignores his deformity and only includes sexualized aspects of his appearance: his tousled hair, his slightly exposed chest, and his posture as he lies in bed all suggest the ima ge of one who has just had sex. Even though Alexis does harbor some interest in the opposite sex, that i nterest is far off and pushed away to some unspecified later date while his present interests are very clearly focused on Thierry. Though the friendship between the boys is based on a lot of imagining and exoticizing, writing Thierry tells Al exis requires an honesty and openness that does not exist as long as the protagonis t goes on ignoring his origins. If this honesty really is necessary for an author to be successful, this text's placement as autobiographical fiction calls into question Troyat' s authorial integrity. Is he giving bad advice, since the writer
27 was much acclaimed during his lifetime without every truly embracing his life as subject matter? Perhaps it is more likely that Troyat simply does not want to present an image of himself in bad faith, that is, one that is not completely accurate so he categorizes this work as fiction, allowing for some space in terms of historical accuracy As previously discussed, since the author wrote this account very late in his life, the only way to be honest was to admit the fictionalizing in the story, fictionalizing that was not necessarily intentional but might occur simply because of the failings of memory. Many things had changed by the time the book was published in 1991. The country for which Alexis's parents longed had long been established as a lost entity, and even its replacement, the Soviet Union, was on its way to obsolescence. Because of this, Troyat, while writing the novel, was remembering what it was like to remember Russia, for his parents to remember their home, and for him to fail to remember. In the following chapter, I will discuss the same themes of problematized identity construction stemming from a narrator's confusion as to where he belongs culturally. The following chapte r discusses Au t emps du fleuve amour and Le Testament franais by Andre Makine, which are longer works than that of Troyat discussed here, and thus the chapter is more extensive. While the two Makine novels explore similar themes to those of Troyat's novel, Makine's narrators also take on more explicit roles as collectors of and disseminators for the stories of those around them Since the novels are both written in the first person, as opposed to Troy at's third person narrator, the reader sees the narrator as the product of these retold stories. Finally, Makine's novels follow protagonists who grew up in the USSR so their experience of the country is more direct and informs their self identity more h eavily than in Troyat's novel. The positions of the narrators are
28 inversed: instead of living in France and trying to look back at a vanished Russian origin, Makine's narrators hazily look to France from a distance, trying to understand that country as th eir spiritual home.
29 Shifted Lines, Constant Snow: Isolation and Romanticization in Makine's Au t emps du fleuve amour and Le Testament franais The two novels by Andre Makine around which this chapter centers are, like Aliocha autobiographical fictions. Like Aliocha, the narrators of Au t emps du fleuve amour and Le Testament franais both idealize their ideas of French cultural history, setting up their definitions of what it means to be French in opposition to the Russian cu lture that surrounds them. In Le Testament franais for example, the protagonist and narrator (named, as in Troyat's novel, Aliocha) tells his story of fascination with French historical figures while interweaving references to works of French literature However, while Troyat's Aliocha had the benefit of living in France to develop his Frenchness, allowing him to fully explore the country's culture by being immersed in its education system, Makine's characters are stuck in Russia, looking westward throu gh a foggy lens of idealization. They intercept literature, films, and other characters that are taken to be signifiers of a larger French identity, clinging to the portrayals of the masculinity of a French film star or the romantic death of a politician. Makine's characters exist without real homes or lineage, as in both novels the characters are in some way orphaned; thus, through imagining Frenchness, the characters attempt to define themselves through that western culture, experiencing dissatisfaction with the cold and unemotional world that surrounds them. Since they can only see France and its culture from a distance, there is a constant rewriting of it, which reflects upon the revisions the characters make of themselves, defining themselves through an adopted culture and through the stories of others, lending to their own constantly shifting identities.
30 In this chapter, I will be examining the ways Makine explores issues of identity through the discussion of time, language, and sexuality. Finally I will explore the ways that these facets intersect for the characters in the two novels, and the ways that the protagonists define themselves through the stories they are fed. These stories come in through a French filter, as in Le Testament Franais, in which a French grandmother acts as storyteller. In Au t emps du fleuve amour the protagonist and his friends receive images of France through a film called L'H omme de Rio which features the 1960s movie star Jean Paul Belmondo. These stories, while fi ctional, inform Makine's characters' development and lead to the characters' fascination with France, a country that acts as a formative entity. Time Compressed, Erased, and Imagined For all of Makine's principal characters, the past is something that co ntains great mystery because of its constant erasure and rewriting. This concept is introduced in Au t emps du fleuve amour from the outset of the novel: Mitya, the narrator, describes the taiga, the frozen Siberian landscape, after a snowstorm that enclos es the inhabitants in their homes and nearly suffocates them, as a womb Je m'imaginais dans des entrailles chaudes et protectrices Mon corps semblait se souvenir de ses nuits pr natales" (28). The light that barely filters in is reddish, muddled by the snow that covers the windows. The narrator has trouble breathing in the enclosed, frozen space, but instead of simply acknowledging this discomfort of his stifling surroundings, he remembers a time when he did not need to breathe air and when being enclo sed meant being protected and warm. At this point, Mitya has no referent to a world of comfort other than those first subconscious
31 memories in his mother's body. However, the memory is still unsettling and avoids being too idealized, as Mitya describes h is position within the womb as if he is submerged in entrails, something that connotes not only the innermost part of the body but also the basic bodily functions. The word, while meaning womb, is also tied to the organs of an animal or person once they a re removed from the body, connoting death even further than the connection the narrator draws between his mother's body and the feeling of being buried. The violence that surrounds Mitya interferes with his ability to return to some comforting memory, and though he does not explicitly talk about the violence here, the associations he makes reveal the lack of reassuring memories he has. Added to the complications of the womb imagery, Mitya lives with his aunt and not with his parents. The narrator never e xplains what happened to his parents, allowing the reader to assume a typical death during Makine's Soviet Union sent to the camps to perish, executed for some act of betrayal, or dead by some other source tied with the country's politics. Mitya further explains that the Soviet Union exists as if under a swinging pendulum, one that is to blame for the destruction of the family structure. The pendulum also prevents time from progressing and instead simply rocks back and forth among the same events. This idea is very similar to that discussed in Chapter One, as Troyat's Aliocha and his parents also experienced the destructive nature of the Soviet concept of time, which tended largely to ignore or overwrite history. With Makine, however, the pendulum is a much more obviously deadly force. Mitya describes the pendulum's expansive power, as it obliterates not only personal history, but national history as well:
32 Ds le dbut du sicle, l'histoire, tel un redoutable balancier, s'est mis balayer l'Empire par son va et vient titanesque.  Le balancier mesurait le temps : la guerre contre le Japon, la guerre contre l'Allemagne ; la Rvolution ; la guerre civileEt, de nouveau, mais dans l'ordre invers : la guerre contre les Allemands ; la guerre contre les J aponais.  On enfonait des clous dans les troncs des cdres, on dynamitait les glises comme pour aider le balancier mieux effacer toute trace du pass (Makine, Au t emps 22). The only method of measuring time is this pendulum attached to some cloc k that does not count the hours in a progression of time, but instead moves through a spectrum of repetitive occurrences, simply rearranging the order of things. Additionally, the narrator says that the pendulum erases toute trace du pass," but not with out help from the people in the Soviet Union who destroyed churches, aiding the pendulum in its erasure of historical and cultural markers. This movement back and forth disorients those living in the Soviet Union to such an extent that they feel no progre ssion, only the sensation of being trapped. As in Aliocha there is an uncanny or unsettling element to this Soviet time. Instead of finding comfort in the repetition of events, the inhabitants are unable to orient themselves because they lose the abilit y to grasp the repetition since their concept of history is altered through the Communist Party's denial of its existence. The same events repeat themselves, but they are unsettling because they lend a feeling of being overpowered and trapped in a non pro gressing narrative. The pendulum also crushes the familial structure as an extension of its erasure of history. Without parents, the characters have no way to trace their lineage, their family's
33 cultural history, or the personal stories of those from w hom they came. Mitya continues, depicting the pendulum as the cause for the absence of parents among his friends: Le balancier a concass aussi les familles. Il n'y en avait presque pas de compltes, part celle des vieux croyants. Mon ami Outkine vivait avec sa mre, seule.  Moi, je n'avais que ma tante.  Quant Samoura qui avait l'poque quinze ans, n ous n'avions jamais bien compris, ni Outkine ni moi, qui tait cette vielle au nez crochu dont l'isba lui servait de logis. Sa mre ? Sa grand mre ? Il l'appelait toujours par son prnom (Makine, Au t emps 24 25). The pendulum's destruction reaches bey ond the landscape over which it sweeps and permeates through to the very personal lives of the inhabitants of the Soviet Union, restructuring families until they no longer have the traditional structure of mother matriarch and father patriarch ruling over the children. Instead, the heads of households are exclusively female for Mitya and his friends Samoura and Outkine. There is a complete absence of patriarchs in Makine's depiction of the Soviet household and only Outkine lives with a biological parent (his mother). Though it is possible that Samoura also lives with his mother, his friends are uncertain about whether or not this is the case, showing that the shuffling of the parental structure is so common that the relationship between a child and a pa rent is not clearly defined. This allows for the easy substitution of a parent, with those outside the family unable to discern the difference between a traditional family and a shuffled one. The formation of memories that contradict a shifting historic al recollection, combined with the lack of known parentage, leaves the individual in Makine's USSR
34 without roots, drifting without the capacity to form a solid identity. Mitya admits this inability to substantiate his memories, treating the past as a myth ical entity by explaining, Nous, de ce pass mythique, nous n'avions hrit qu'une lointaine lgende. Un cho assourdi par la rumeur confuse des sicles.  N'est ce pas un hasard si fut irrsistible le pouvoir des rves, des chants et des lgendes sur nos curs barbares ? Notre vie elle mme devenait un rve ( Au t emps 21) The past is something far away and completely unreachable. It is called a legend because it only exists in whisperings, never made concrete through political acknowledgment. Histo ry is a "confused rumor," and there are multiple voices asserting different histories, but also hinting that none of the murmurings are certain, that they are all merely impressions of stories acquired second hand. Here Makine again emphasizes the past as dream, something that one cannot ever really grasp or that is even founded in reality, relating this to the lives of those experiencing the disconnect from the past their lives are a dream because of the extent to which events are rewritten and unsaid. The uncertainty of history makes it seem no more realistic than a myth. The mythologizing of the past is taken to an even further extent with Le Testament franais Makine's Aliocha spends his summers with his French grandmother, Charlotte. As with the characters in Au t emps du fleuve amour Aliocha's parents are hardly mentioned and the narrator avoids discussing his life with them at all. Instead, the familial situations Aliocha talks about tend to revolve around his interactions with Charlotte. Beca use she is older than a parent and because she has a stock of stories to share, she acts as a living connection with the past. Additionally, Charlotte's presence during major historical
35 events makes her someone who is able to recount a story, since she ca n express her experiences during major occurrences of the past. Et puis, [Charlotte] avait l'avantage de concentrer dans son existence les moment cruciaux de l'histoire de notre pays  Sa vie, dcalque sur le sicle le plus sanguinaire de l'empire, acqurait [aux yeux d'Aliocha et de sa sur] une dimension pique. (Makine, Le Testament 128) Charlotte is something much greater than just a grandmother with interesting stories: she is the sole version of history Aliocha has. She is not Russian, someth ing the narrator reminds us of repeatedly, stressing the differences between Charlotte and the old babushkas in her village. Because she is French, she has not fully experienced the Russian erasure of the past, and instead holds onto the ability to recall some major past events. Because she experienced such major events, she is the sole provider of what might be considered by the narrator a reliable narrative of history. As Aliocha, his sister, and their grandmother sit on her balcony, Charlotte tells t hem stories that are distanced from them in several ways: through time, through physical distance since the stories occur in France, and through cultural difference. The narrator explains the manifestation of his grandmother's stories: Nous voyions maint enant sortir de cette mare fantastique les conglomrats noirs des immeubles, les flches des cathdrales, les poteaux des rverbres une ville!  La France de notre grand mre, telle une Atlant ide brumeuse, sortait des flots" (29). As the characters i n Au t emps du fleuve amour see the past like a mythical entity, so does Aliocha, calling the Paris of Charlotte's stories a "phantom city" and talking about its emergence from a fantastical sea as if it were the lost city Atlantis (which is, in fact, what the narrator calls Charlott e's
36 France). The cityscape is crystallized into the traditional images of Paris: cathedrals and Haussmann style buildings that make up the stereotypical and romanticized description of the city. While Russia is characterized by its snowy landscape, water taking its coldest and most solid form, the stories of France emerge from water as liquid, a medium that does not only represent the mythical allusions Makine makes, but whose major property is fluidity. One cannot draw a line that separates two touching fluid bodies they flow into each other, become one body where the two exist simultaneously. The past that Aliocha seems to remember exists very much in this way, and he explains, Mais nous, peu nous importait la chronologie exacte Le temps de l'Atlant ide ne connaissait que la merve illeuse simultanit du prsent" (Makine, Le Testament 118). Similarly to Troyat's hero's parents, the past constantly exists for Aliocha and his grandmother. Time doesn't progress away from Charlotte's narratives, but inst ead the narratives meld and create an image of a time that never really existed, one in which the Great Flood of Paris of 1910 coincides with the 1896 visit to Paris of the czar Nicholas II and his wife Alexandra. The events don't really occur in the past though, according to the narrator; they exist in perpetuity. There is a similar structuring of time created through the title of Au t emps du fleuve amour : the title of the novel references time that is not measurable as a diachronic entity, but instead i s based on a body of water (like that of Le Testament franais ), an ever flowing geographical formation whose contents always appear the same though each drop of water comes from and travels to a different place. If the narrator relies so heavily on the pa st to construct his knowledge of the present, if it is so constituted by past events, then the problems of Soviet restructuring of historical narratives may likely affect a character's ability to understand the present.
37 Furthermore, even the concept of ti me as related to the present is unstable: Du Kremlin, le matre semblait imposer sa mesure au flux du temps et au soleil mme. Quand il allait se coucher, toutes les horloges de la plante in diquaient trois heures du matin" (129 130). It is not just the narratives that are state controlled, but also the schedules of individuals and the measure of time. When officials go to sleep, it is three in the morning; three in the morning is not a time that is indicated by the movement of the sun, but something di ctated by politicians. The constant existence of past events also contrasts sharply with the mission of the USSR which always had its eye on a perfect communist future. "Marxism assigned to history a strict itinerary with a rapidly approaching end poin t the boundless realm of communism. This scenario gave a strictly defined role to human agents, denying any extra historical dimension to individual experience" (Paperno 14). Aliocha directly rejects this vision of time; there is no endpoint in a circle, which is the form time takes in the narrator's consciousness. In Au t emps du fleuve amour Mitya, discussing the French film star Jean Paul Belmondo, seems almost to directly reference that constant planning for the future discussed by Paperno: Il arriv a au moment o la coupure entre l'avenir promis et notre prsent tait prte nous rendre irrmdiablement schizophrnes. Quand, au nom de notre projet messianique, les pcheurs s'apprtaient ne pas laisser un seul poisson dans les mers, et les bchero ns transformer la taga en un dsert de glace" (Makine, Au t emps 130). Though the past and pre sent coexist, the pre sent and future are separated from each other not just because the future is in its nature completely unattainable, but also because the citizens of the USSR are unable to accept the future toward which they are moving. The boys of the novel are isolated in time, living as if in
38 a vacuum; that promised future of national glory never seems to be attainable and is always pushed further and f urther ahead, causing an intense psychological trauma that is evident in Mitya's assertion that the boys were almost rendered "irremediably schizophrenic." A schizophrenic is someone who suffers from an inability to distinguish imaginary and real occurren ces and people. Indeed, the Soviet version of events was metaphorically very schizophrenic, denying truths and accepting fabrications, spinning reality until it resembled something more like a made up story. This qualification of the narrator and those a round him as borderline schizophrenic reflects the genre of the Makine novels they are neither wholly true nor wholly false. Paperno's "boundless realm of communism" is not even remotely present for the narrator. Mitya sees the future as something desola te, a time in which sources of sustenance are depleted and natural landscapes are totally destroyed. Instead of looking forward to the possible fruition of the Party's promises, he fixates on what he views as the opposite of communism, a France that revel s in a romantic, democratic, and always present history, one that is accessed through language. Language: The Power of French and the Dead End of Russian While there are echoes of intellectualism in Le Testament franais which come in through nuanced references to literature, the literature functions more as a conduit for the French language. The very beginning of the novel stresses the power of the French language as the narrator describes a photograph of a young Russi an woman, dressed in an ugly and mannish coat, but with a very charming face. He attributes the charm to the trick Charlotte taught Russian women for creating the perfect face for a photograph: say
39 the words "petite pomme" just before the photo is taken. He calls this trick le mot qui rendait belle" (17). There is a transformative power in French, one that manifests physically in those who speak words in the language. The language is also the key to Charlotte's stories: because they are told in French, the stories become more real than reality. Aliocha admits this, explaining that French is la clef de notre Atlantide La langue, cette mystrieuse matire, invisible et omniprsente, qui atteignait par son essence sonore chaque recoin de l'univers que nous tions en train d'explorer" (56). While the stories provide a link with t he past, it is really the language itself that is transformative, making the vast, empty plains of the Siberian taiga become the Parisian landscape. The narrator and his sister are not just hearing about France, but because of the language and the way it connotes a different set of signifiers, the stories create an entire universe through which they can travel and explore, indicating that the stories are not stagnant but three d imensional, always existent things. The fluidity from which the Atlantis of France emerges is also evoked here, as the qualities the narrator uses to describe language are equally attributable to water invisible, omnipresent, and mysterious. It can then be said that the France of their imaginations is not just unlocked by the language, but is fabricated out of it entirely. The narrator continues to describe the presence of the language in himself, calling it une greffe fabuleuse dans nos curs, couverte dj de feuilles et de fleurs, portant en elle le fruit de toute une civilisation" (56). Frenchness is here equated with gentleness and beauty, as Aliocha describes its presence in him as floral and covered in fruit. This is a stark contrast to the Russ ian landscape surrounding Charlotte's balcony, one that is desolate and in which all that stands are some half destroyed churches and Soviet buildings. There seems to be nothing
40 in Russia that seems even remotely fertile, but even just the French language is connected with fecundity. In Au t emps du fleuve amour there is a similar attitude to the French language. After seeing their first Belmondo film for the first of dozens of times, Mitya and his friends exclaim that the language seems to convey a pure joy, even though the boys have not heard the language sin ce it was dubbed over in Russian. They look at the actor's mouth as the corners continue their movement after the words in Russian have been spoken and they imagine the sounds that he must be making. The language belongs to that mythical world of Belmond o's films, a world into which the boys can peer when the French actor illuminates the theater screen with his world of espionage, beautiful women, and sunny beaches (Makine, Au t emps 111). The O ccident is not simply the western world for the boys though; the United States is precluded from belonging to l'O ccident and this is reflected when the narrator asserts that neither English nor German is the language of their fabled fantasyland: Non, pour nous, la seule vraie langue de l'Occident tait celle de Be lmondo.  Belmondo se mettait nous parler dans sa langue maternelle. L'envie de lui rpondre tait telle que le franais pntra en nous par imprgnation sans grammaire ni explication" (218). There is something organic about the presence of the for eign language among the boys' consciousnesses; it is grafted onto their identities in a manner very much like the greffe franaise that Makine's Aliocha describes. The description of the penetration of French as impregnation also calls upon the womb image ry Mitya clings to, with the language functioning as a new source of comfort. Additionally, t he language is not just French; it is the langue maternelle of Belmondo. The idea of a mother language is important because it reinforces the notion of
41 a heritage, of something given to a person or character by a parent. In this society of quasi orphans, viewing Belmondo's language as something that he acquired through intimacy and tenderness is foreign to the characters. Similarly, in Le Testament franais Aliocha calls French his langue grande maternelle" (17). Since he never discusses Russian or his mother (other than when he mentions almost in passing the occurrence of her death), Aliocha places a great deal of emphasis on the emotional and familial connection he has to French. It is not only a language for Aliocha and Mitya, but something that indicates a culture of frivolity, romance, and tenderness. T his portrait of the French language contrasts heavily with that of the Russian, or more precisely Soviet, language. When Charlotte visits a bureaucratic office in order to secure permission to travel outside the USSR she is confronted with a nonsensical, illogical official who only informs her of his ability to shoot her out back if he wanted. She recognizes that language in Russia has become more of a tool of manipulation, something that actually keeps communication from happening rather than being a ba sic implement of the exchange of information. Instead, words are twisted and assumptions are made, and the most important thing about Charlotte is not what she says but her accent, that which signifies her outsider status. After the e ncounter, the narrat or explains, Au retour, en marchant au milieu des champs enneigs, Charlote se disait qu'une nouvelle langue tait en train de natre dans ce pays. Une langue qu'elle ne connaissait pas, et c'est pour cela que le dialogue dans l'ancien bureau du gouverne ur lui avait paru invraisemblable ( 94) Lan guage is not something meant for telling stories, but is a tool for ensnaring those one might like to assume to be a troublemaker. Language is a political tool, and the narrator
42 does not ever comment on the cade nce of Russian speech or the beauty of its sounds; he focuses on the revolutionary language that occupies the Russian consciousness, the always present political implications of language in this environment. While Charlotte uses the French language to cra ft stories that are ornate and fabulous, there is still a reality to the language in that the words have solid, unquestionable meanings. However, the same cannot be said for Russian, so Charlotte experiences the dialogue with the official as something tha t is unrealistic, and she understands the language she just heard as unclear and murky. There is also a tension between the eloquence she mentions and the fact that she claims the Russian language is out of control or deteriorated. The flourishes of word s used by the officials do not work to embellish what is being said, but instead are the very tools that make the language pointless, something that does not, when all is said and done, convey much of a message at all. If there were a message relayed in R ussian, one that is often disassociated from the words spoken, it is not the same as those delicate stories and ponderings in French; it is menacing and threatening, and there is no romanticism in the language but only the inescapability of political disco urse. The comfort of the French language is almost a parental entity, tied to a past and the notion of comfort, while the language of the Soviet Union reflects the emotional and logical disconnect of the country. Sexual Identity: Searching for Models of Performance For adolescent characters growing up without any paternal figures, the ability to discern what it means to be a man in their world is something hard to come by. For these characters, the definition of the self as male is not an easy thing wit hout prototypes of
43 masculinity; they cannot be certain how to perform their expected roles (expected by themselves as well as presumably by those women around them) without a model on which they can base the performance. Mitya and his friends look upon Be lmondo as the only symbol of masculine power, and they never speak so favorably or admirably of any other man. Belmondo is muscular, a hero fighting evil men who torture women, a man who represents the frivolity of masculinity of l'Occident ; additionally, he very clearly performs masculinity. He engages in adventure merely for the sport of it, and of course wins a beautiful woman because of his fearlessness. There is also something more powerful about Belmondo's portrayal, which points to the difference of meanings in l'O ccident compared to reality in the boys' world. Mitya explains, Et Belmondo romancier poussait cette libert combative son sommet symbolique  Mme le tournant mortel n'avait pas, dans cet unive rs, de signification dfinitive" ( Au t emps 109). The narrator here says that there is discordance between what is an expected meaning and what is actually signified. This seems to be an inversion of what Charlotte in Le Testament franais experiences, with her feelings of the Russian language transposed onto French by Mitya and his friends. However, whereas what Charlotte feels about Russian is its circuitousness, its gravity and connotations of corruption, the boys see French as something light, something effervescent and immortal. Charlotte is threatened with death, but the boys see Belmondo, his language, and his culture as symbols that rewrite the dead end narrative to which they have become accustomed. Russian implies death, but French defies it. Belmondo is the ultimate free h ero, existing mainly as very obvious character in a fictional world, free even from the constraints of everyday mortality. In both situations, it is male characters who are able to rewrite language and
44 meaning; the difference is that the French revision o f reality is not effacing, does not delete things from the consciousness, but instead implies a multiplicity of possible meanings, representing the freedom of artistic expression and of existence in the mythical world of l'Occident In Le Testament fran ais there is a very different admiration of masculinity on the part of Aliocha. After hearing his aunt speak about Lavrentiy Beria, a notorious figure in Stalin's police force who routinely abducted, raped, and murdered women (Knight 97 98) Aliocha rea lizes that he is strangely attracted to Beria's methods. While he understands how despicable the acts committed are, the narrator is nonetheless envious of Beria's ability to disassociate sex from emotion and to go out and take what he wants. Ainsi, il y a en moi celui qui peut contempler ces viols. Il m'est possible de lui ordonner de se taire, mais il reste toujours l.  [La Russie] me permet d'envier ce chasseur de corps fminins et de me dtester. Et de rejoindre cette femme meurtrie, crase p ar une masse de chair en sueur.  Car on ne peut pas continuer vivre en portant en soi ce double qui admire Bria. (211) After this rea lization that there exist in him aspects of a very Russian cruelty, Aliocha seems to resign himself to the fact that he is, in fact, Russian and not French. That greffe franaise is not enough to override his Russianness, as the graft is overwhelmed by its Russian surroundings. Russia, with its frigid physical and political climate, does not cause the narrator to envy a rapist, but allows him to express this desire. In the narrator's admission of this, he reveals that there is an innate evil, a sort of double, present in people
45 and that Russia simply permits it to show itself. Aliocha's concept of French culture excl udes any notions of evil or malice, and because he sees France as a mythical other world, he is able to make of it a utopian civilization in which cruelty does not manifest itself. Beria is the only prototype of masculine sexual power that Aliocha sees (t he only other older male figure about which he talks even in passing is his uncle, to whom he refers as his aunt's concubine). Thus, during this period of self definition of adolescence, which is often accomplished by defining terms of sexuality, Aliocha holds onto Beria's image because it is all he has to look at for a portrayal of male sexuality. Beria is described in clearly negative terms beyond the obvious ones of being a rapist and murderer: he is fleshy, sweaty, with his small glasses fogged up. H e contrasts completely with the righteous, tanned, and strong Belmondo, providing a clear comparison of what Makine sets up as French masculinity and Russian masculinity. There is also a defeatist attitude that comes with the realization that the narrator admires Beria; that Russian masculinity he sees is not only fatal for the women who encounter it, but is also damaging for the man who contains such a repugnant desire. Having sex is not seen as something reproductive and creative, but instead is a force of destruction for all those involved. Aliocha, Mitya, and Mitya's friends all have unsuccessful experiences with sexuality, experiences that when read are often jarring and unsettling. In Au t emps du fleuve amour the narrator reveals the origin of Sam oura's name: near a river, when Samoura was a young boy, two officers attacked him. They pulled down his pants, and pried his legs apart, but through his flailing and beast like fighting, the boy escaped. After this event, Samoura made sure to train h is body so that he would never be weak
46 enough to be overpowered again. This first encounter with sexuality for a young boy is, of course, unnatural by most standards. However, in the scope of the novel's setting, the image of rape is not so unnatural. S ex connotes more of a violent meaning, and the romanticism of Charlotte's France is completely absent. The impressions of sex the boys receive are vague and heavily reflective of the lack of romanticism in the Russian language: Quant l'amourle seul mo t que nous les entendions employer tait faire'. Non pas faire l'amour', ce qui aurait dsign dj le processus, ni mme se faire une femme', ce qui aurait voqu au moins un acte de sduction, mais tout simplement : faire une femme'" (Makine, Au t emps 34). The boys hope for something beyond a name, listening for a loving description of the woman's body (of course not only to satisfy their desire for tenderness, but also for more detailed portraits of the female form), and they even desire to hear a verb that is more descriptive than simply faire The word amour is completely left out of the conversation, and any intriguing details of the prelude to the act are similarly not included. The event is almost as if frozen in time, something without any emotion leading up to it or the remnants of any feelings lingering afterward. It is discussed in very static terms, leaving the boys wondering what exactly a man does to a woman. The discussion of sex also contains an element of violence the boys only understand that one person does something to a woman, who receives that action. This description and understanding of sex makes it seem as if the woman is not really present for the act, but only incidental. There is nothing special about the woman with whom the act was committed since there are no individualistic details given, so the women seem interchangeable. It does not really matter whom a man has "done," because there is no
47 emotion attached to that specific incidence or to the person with whom he did it. Because of how difficult it is to have the desire for romance fulfilled, the boys feel a void in their quest for learning about female sexuality. This emptiness often feels like a major source of the constant questioning the boys do like many ado lescent boys, they are curious about the details of the mysterious world of the female sex, and the fact that they cannot get a satisfactory answer or even set of questions about it frustrates them. Beyond not having male elders to whom they can look up, the boys also have problems developing their own sexual identities because they do not have a clear enough idea of what female sexuality is to be able to desire it. For Aliocha, the only representations of sex he sees before actually having sex come from Charlotte's stories. The narrator repeatedly returns to her story of the French president who died in his mistress's arms. At first, the narrator sees this as simply a beautiful moment, but as he matures, he conceives it also as his first meeting with th e notion of sexuality. He understands the scene to be exquisitely romantic, and it encompasses the mix of love and death that Charlotte frequently uses in her tales of l'Atlantide something that calls upon the frailty of life and the preciousness of mome nts shared between lovers, while in Russia the only example of sex comes from the stories of Beria that contain only death rather than the delicate balance of the two elements. However, when Aliocha tries to appropriate this image of sexuality for his ow n experience, the imagining does not fit the Russian reality to which he belongs. He describes the moments after he orgasms: Ce qui m'effraya le plus, c'est qu'une seconde aprs je n'avais plus besoin ni de ses lvres, ni de ses seins pointus , ni de ses cuisses minces sur lesquelles elle avait tir la jupe d'un geste rapide. Son corps m e devenait
48 indiffrent, inutile" (Makine, Le Testament 243). He has romanticized the image of having sex because the only repre sentation s of it he has received are th ose of the French president and his mistress and Beria and his many victims. In both examples, sex is followed by death, and one could consider the fascination with Beria a Russianization of that idealized French scene of love from Charlotte's stories. H owever, in reality, neither Aliocha nor his partner dies, and he is left feeling hollowed out, without physical desire and unsure of how to act after the desire is gone. The partner is reduced to parts of the body, which are no longer described erotically but seem instead unattractive the pointy breasts, the too thin thighs. He does not understand the disconnect from emotion the rest of his peers experience, and when he attempts to talk with the girl after sex, she runs away from h im Aliocha intellectua lizes the situation too much, keeping him from enjoying the physical pleasure; he does not understand how to separate the physical and the emotional, so his attempts to connect with the girl emotionally are completely unsuccessful. The narrator is in the midst of adolescence, of which sexual exploration is a very important part, but he cannot assimilate culturally to his peers' definitions of proper sexual behavior because he has been taught something foreign. When he overhears schoolmates talking about h is inability to be physically sufficient, something revealed to them by his sexual partner who is now promised multiple boys to ensure her gratification, Aliocha gets angry not at the girl, but at Charlotte and goes immediately to visit her. He cannot dea l with the situation head on because he understands his problem to be that he has been lied to about reality, even though he actually has only been taught a different cultural standard that complicates his ability to fit in with his schoolmates. Aliocha m ust return to Charlotte, the woman whose stories have shaped his self identity,
49 to try to figure out where and how he can possibly fit in a society in which he has always felt like a cultural outsider. Bringing it All Back Home: Creating One's Own Identit y While in Troyat's novel the protagonist could easily decide on what sort of performance he would live out, for Makine's characters, the task is much more difficult. Makine's characters have to look towards France, but their visions of French existence a nd culture are so mediated by the Russia that surrounds them, with ideas of what France might mean implanted into a very Russian consciousness. The characteristic callousness around them permeates to every level of the individual experience. This is espe cially evident in the familial structure. As previously discussed, Makine's characters tend not to live in traditional households. For Makine's Aliocha, the case is especially strong: by the end of the novel, the narrator, who has already lost a set of p arents, learns from Charlotte that she is not really his grandmother. Charlotte's daughter adopted Aliocha after his biological mother, the woman in the photograph whose face was transformed by the words petite pomme, wa s put to death for political reasons. With the constant shifting of family structure, even the slightest of ideas a character might have about his history is unstable. The violence from the political apparatus reflects onto the family life to such an ext ent that the political tumult of the Soviet Union disrupts one's sense of belonging even in the very personal environment of the family. Beyond the narrator's experience of this, there is also the example of his uncle Serge. Charlotte confesses to Alioc ha that she once was raped by several men, ces bandits qui ne voul aient pas du pouvoir sovitique" (Makine, Le Testament 213) and that
50 rape produced a child, Serge. Charlotte describes the men as resistant to the Bolsheviks, implying that they lie outsid e the Soviet structures of destruction that the narrator experiences. Even so, the cruelty that is inherent and seemingly eternal in Makine's depictions of Russia surfaced in them as well. Additionally, one of the rapists tried to shoot Charlotte in the head, though he only grazed her. This is a mirroring of the sex/death combination that constantly reappears in the novel, though in its Russian forms, it is a much more violent death than in its French forms. There is a seemingly never ending stream of r apes and killings that intersect with family existence, interfering with it in a way that makes it very difficult to hold onto any stable notion of a self identity. Makine's characters always appear to be at a loss for how to define themselves, for how to identify their roots. According to Boym, this state of being orphaned is not just endemic to Makine's Russia, but is a characteristic of the country's identity. She explains that transcendental homelessness is seen not as a feature of modernist conscio usness, but as a part of Russian national identity ( Boym, Estrangement 514 ) This idea of homelessness is not literal, but instead refers to the inability to relate events to some presupposed knowledge, indicating the potential of fitting meaning from on e's own collected experiences onto an occurrence. If this homelessness and violence are pervasive throughout the country (at least in Makine's representations), they are a manifestation of the uncertain narratives of the past the characters receive. With out a foundation upon which they can build their successive experiences, each event is almost isolated, as the characters cannot assimilate it into their consciousnesses successfully. With these novels, the identities of the protagonists are constructed largely through the stories the characters receive. While the final revelation transforms
51 Aliocha's understanding of himself, it also acts as a push for him to go out and form his own identity, since he no longer can rely on Charlotte's Frenchness as a me ans of defining himself. Throughout the novel, the narrator has told his story by recounting Charlotte's stories, every summer inhabiting the world of his grandmother's memories. This tendency is caused by the lack of continuity of a personal narrative, causing Aliocha to rely on Charlotte's narrative, as Charlotte has a consciousness that is very much embedded in major historical events. Aliocha, however, lacks a historical self consciousness, which is "the sense of self derived from the coincidence of personal life and world history" (Paperno 9). Paperno explains that for children growing up in Russia after World War Two and the Revolution, there is a lack of historical awareness or a sense of being historically significant. Their parents, who have ta les of even fringe involvement in some major, world shaping events, are more able to construct their own narrative because they have participated in making history in some way. However, Makine' s characters all seem to live very uneventful lives with no r eal upheaval or major struggle, instead living in the aftermath of what has already happened. The evidence of this lack of historical self consciousness lies not only in Aliocha's reliance on Charlotte's story to tell his own, but also in Makine's own ina bility to write a non fiction memoir. If there is no "coincidence of personal life and world history," the author, as much as his characters, cannot situate his past among real events, meaning there are no exterior markers that can be used as proof of the truth or untruth of his stories. The feelings the characters experience of being ineffectual in the world as a whole might stem from the characters' existence in a place that is cut off from the rest of the world by an iron curtain, making the characters feel isolated from the outside world, unable to interact
52 with it in many ways. Aliocha's use of Charlotte's story to tell his own narrative is also reflected onto the author, who must use a fictionalized character to relate the author's past. Makine doe s something very similar, relying on Aliocha's story to give his own autobiography in a fictive way, the whole time never admitting where the similarities between him and his protagonist begin or end. The stories flow together, much like the stories of th e Atlantide and it would be impossible to try to separate the two. This sort of storytelling that relies on constantly taking a step back and using someone else to tell one's own story is further reinforced by the name of the novel. The testament of the title refers to Charlotte's last letter to Aliocha, delivered to him after she has died. This letter, which reveals Aliocha's very Russian origins, is Charlotte's final gift to her grandson she has at last told him the truth, giving him the possibility of forming his own identity rather than relying on stories and myths to do so. The final revelation also serves to undo the past that Aliocha has always known, making it seem just as fictive as the Atlantide he used to visit with his grandmother, turning hi s own history into just another one of Charlotte's fantastical myths. Through fictionalizing Aliocha's past, those summers of his youth during which he saw himself as part French belong to an unattainable mindset to which he can never return. The beauty of the Atlantide is that it represents an idyllic past where evil does not seem to exist, working as a true home for which the narrator has nostalgia as he looks back upon a time and place where life is beautiful and sentimental, rather than characterized by the unceasing brutality the narrator's family experiences in Russia. Even though he had never been to belle poque France, of course, nostalgia often centers on a home that never really existed the way one remembers, since it is so idealized, and the m emories of the home are so
53 manipulated by fondness that the memories of home and the home itself are two completely different things. The manipulation of memory continues ad infinitum for Aliocha his Atlantide memories are of a home to which he's never been, and which of course does not exist, and the line that he always understood to connect him to that home is cut when he learns the truth of his identity. While the English translation of the novel's title ( Dreams of My Russian Summers ) loses the meani ng of the testament, the gift Charlotte gives her grandson, it also emphasizes the way that these summers with Charlotte are now that home of the past that he remembers, a time when his identity might have seemed complicated but before any true complicatio ns had been revealed. The translated title also evokes the sense that these summers that revolved around the stories of France were, in fact, Russian, and that they now can be captured only as fiction. The past is as unpredictable as the future, like a d ream that can never be put in quite the right order. There is a never ending reflexivity of the past's influence and rewriting of the present, and the present's revelations putting the past in a new frame. This goes further with the two nations the narra tor inhabits, as described by Margaret Sankey: "For the French speaking reader Russian and French worlds reflect each other in an infinite game of mirrors. The French past lives in the Russian present of the narrator whose Russian past then is reflected i n his French present" (303). Aliocha's identity is constantly shifting, so the identity of his past likewise keeps reorienting itself. That relentless march of time, the march that the Soviets heralded as bringing their mission closer to fruition, also f orces the narrator to refigure what he sees as the past.
54 The narrator comes of age during the book, and the world seems to lose its magic when seen by Aliocha's adult eyes. He finally travels to France, and cannot help but feel an outsider because the o nly France he knows is one that does not really exist. Furthermore, it is when he is living in France that he learns the secret Charlotte had guarded for so long. Because of this, the narrator can never feel at home, as when he was a child he felt he bel onged in a lost French history, and as an adult living in Paris, one that does not accord with the idealizations of his youth, he recognizes that he is in every sense not French, though also not necessarily Russian. While it may seem as if the illusion of the Atlantide or the perfect past has been shattered, the narrator is actually given the opportunity to recontextualize the stories he has heard. Paperno claims that many writers within the Soviet Union saw "the end of the Soviet epoch and the end of the twentieth century  as the end of history itself" (41). Though histories may have been erased much earlier, the fall of the Soviet Union acts, for those in Makine's novels, as the end of the possibility of the glorious future that had been promised to them. At the same time, Makine and his characters must learn to exist in a world in which even that life that seemed to lack a grander meaning before now no longer has a context whatsoever. Even one's own life, whose events may seem emblazoned onto one's memory, now is in disaccord with a larger narrative. All the many lies fed to the characters during their Soviet adolescence about their origins and their identities as Soviet men are erased as much as the histories from before the USSR were erased or mo dified. Charlotte's lies are mirrored with the destruction of the state apparatus that constructed so many lies of its own. Aliocha, looking at the Soviet Union as it crumbled, admits, Personne ne se faisait d'illusions. Nous savions que ce n'tait pas seulement une station de radio qui
55 disparaissait, mais notre poque elle mme. Tout ce que nous avions dit, crit, pens  appartenait cette poque. Nous restions devant ce vide, tels des personnages en cire d'un cabinet de curiosits, des reliques d'un empire dfunt" ( Le Testament 298). The narrator feels as if his own past is disassembled along with the government and its media apparatuses of propaganda; the French boy he once saw himself as, as well as the Soviet boy he once was, both cease to ex ist other than in memory. The country he lived in is now as unreal and immaterial as the France he imagined. The narrator exists in a fictive world, because it is impossible for him to define his home in terms that may be understood universally. The fut ure is so very uncertain, and the past is just as precarious, so the narrator sees his position in time as if in front of a great emptiness. All that remains is this cabinet de curiosits a display of nostalgia. Andre Makine's two novels, while discus sing the interception of French culture by Russian adolescents, say much more about the problems of memory for those existing in Russia than about France, the country that so fascinates the characters. The discussions of France are based on such a distant perception, distanced through time, location, political systems, and cultural difference, that the characters use the idea of France, collaged out of various random events they have held onto or characters of which they have created romantic heroes, to re present a warm home they have never really known. The narrators are in a time of personal crisis they are adolescent boys who do not have their parents, and they never learn what normal sexual roles are from anyone in their environment. This is compounde d by the lack of historical past, as well as the erasure of personal history. While the characters cling to anything French as a means of creating a stable identity, this is actually very impossible because the French culture and
56 history they look toward is just as falsified as that of the country in which they live. Aliocha's case is most severe: he systematically has everything he thinks he knows about his identity dismantled. He cannot really write his own story, so he writes the story of Charlotte, w hich intersects with his and acts as a formative entity for Aliocha's identity. Similarly, the author, whose life runs parallel to Aliocha's to an unknown degree, cannot claim to tell the truth if he claims that the story is autobiographical because the c haracter's identity shifts so often that it is impossible to accurately and completely faithfully tell one's own story, so the author and narrator both use other characters to tell their stories. They step back from the narrative, absorbing others' tales without trying the impossible task of writing his own.
57 Conclusion The characters in Makine's novels and in the novel by Troyat live in very different places and in very different times. Troyat's Aliocha experiences the problems of emigrating from Russia as the country disappears. He constantly feels like an outsider be cause he knows he is not French, but also has no real attachment to the land of his parents. Makine's Aliocha also sees himself as a cultural outcast during adolescence, envisioning himself as more culturally French than Russian, though he has never even been to France. In Au t emps du fleuve amour the characters do not see themselves as having familial or logical ties to France, but rather see the occidental culture as a comforting contrast to the brutality they experience; they know they are not really French, but they also do not feel at home in the Soviet Union. In looking at France as a beacon of cultural and personal salvation, all the characters fabricate an idealized national identity that cannot correspond to what they actually experience. Troyat's protagonist cannot fully comprehend this though, because he is too young to understand that his portrait of the country he now lives in is slanted. His idealization, which is personified in his schoolmate Thierry, is reinforced by the fact that his friend dies during the novel: the friend make s a strong impression on the narrator, then disappears romantically before he can harm his own image. The narrator of Le Testament franais looks back on his life, telling the story while middle aged. He has come to France and realized that the object of his cultural fascination was really just the Atlantide the character's hallucinatory imagining of France and its history. The characters in the novels, in their fabrication of national identity, demonstrate the ways selfhood becomes difficult to deciphe r when the images of a country constantly shift. The shifting, while due partly to the characters'
58 own inabilities to accurately capture an image of nationalism, also comes in because of the disappearance of their home country; the Russia from which Alioc ha fled has been erased, and the Soviet Union of Makine's characters similarly crumbles during the period of narration. Troyat's novel shows us the pain of those who were first forced to leave the Soviet Union, while Makine's novels depict the pain of livi ng in a vacuum of a country separated from the rest of the world and from historical narratives. In both cases the protagonists seem to live primarily as migrs, never feeling quite at home and always constructing new identities of the country they left, of the country to which they fled, or of themselves. The question of memory is pervasive in all three novels, lending the main characters a sense of homelessness since none of them can accurately remember their origin, a space that is supposed to be comf orting and simplistic, a source of nostalgia. Troyat's novel is an example of the ways the migr, even as a child who does not see himself as belonging in a certain country, fits masks to those he idealizes and performs his own ideas of cultural belongin g. Le Testament franais contains a more explicit admission of this fictionalizing, since the narrator is, unlike Troyat's fledgling, a full grown adult storyteller who is aware of the ways he collects other peoples' stories to inform his own identity. T he authors of the works do something almost identical: they, like their protagonists, use other characters to tell their own stories. The primary characters of these novels are adolescents for the majority of the narrative, indicating that they are in a p eriod of self definition. The act of immigrating constitutes an act of betrayal, something that delineates the boundaries of what an individual accepts and rejects as aspects of his or her character. To leave the Soviet
59 Union means not to assume all the things that go with being a citizen of the country; for Makine's characters, for example, this means not subscribing to the belief that men should be brutal, that love does not exist, and that the world is distant and cruel. For Troyat's character, the be trayal was not immediate and deliberate for him, since he left not of his own volition; his betrayal points to his desire to be a part of a French intellectual history, though he may not necessarily recognize this as a betrayal because of his abbreviated e xperience as a Russian citizen. With Makine's characters, the immigration does actually happen of their own will, but it is much earlier that they betray their heritage, also by intellectually moving away from their parents' culture. As bildungsromans, t he displacement of the characters acts as an important factor in their emotional development. Authors writing outside their native country cannot, and perhaps do not want to, rely on their cultural heritage to define themselves. Instead, growing up outsi de one's homeland forces a character to understand the complex way he fits into society more immediately than for an adolescent who has never had to suffer the pain of displacement. The awkwardness and feeling of not belonging permeate deep into the migr , who early on has to decide what he calls home and consciously decide whether or not to abandon his mother tongue and adopt the language of his new home. The three novels discussed in this thesis also put forward evidence of the frame of mind in which ma ny migr authors dwell. Troyat and Makine both replay in several novels and works of nonfiction the movement of characters between countries (often France and Russia in their works, though other nations are also sometimes used). There is a preoccupation with the immigrant's condition, one that manifests itself in rewritings of that condition. It is almost a point of obsession, explored both autobiographically and
60 through characters very far removed from the author. The return to this idea is not just p resent in these two authors' works; indeed, for several authors who have had to leave their homes, immigration acts as a traumatic event from which the author can never fully separate himself. Vladimir Nabokov is an example of this preoccupation: several of his novels, such as Lolita, P nin and The Real Life of Sebastian Knight focus on characters living in a foreign land. Often the characters have problems assimilating because of their foreignness; they cannot understand how to act like those around the m, which is frequently a source of conflict. Additionally, there is often a fascination with France or a connection to France for Nabokov's protagonists. They speak French, which indicates that they belong to the higher echelons of society. There is som ething delicate about France and its language, something that lessens the blow of even an extremely vulgar phrase. In French, the dirtiest of ideas sound more poetic. France is gentle and romantic, and even if the images of Russia are not as harsh as tho se in Makine's novels, there is still emphasis placed on France's gentility. Irne Nmirovsky, a Russian who left her native country in 1917 and relocated to France, also relived the experience of being an migr in several of her works. Part of her nove l Le Bal focuses on a family who flees Russia following the Bolshevik Revolution. Additionally, Nmirovksy explores the idea of feeling foreign even in one's home country in Suite Franaise a novel whose first half concerns the exodus from French cities during World War II. This novel, while discussing French citizens who were, as far as the narrator reveals, born in France, also reveals the displacement anxiety that Nmirovsky experienced. The characters and the circumstances around their displacement are quite different from the author and her reasons, but nonetheless the
61 sentiments of not being at home even in one's own country are shared. The immigrant's experience is, of course, individual and particular, but it can morph into different forms to ex press the feelings of loss of home that occur in many populations. The author and her subjects have their lives shaken by different events, but the author shares the pain of displacement, which allows her to be in communication with characters going throu gh the same sorts of traumas. She dwells in her dislocation, allowing her to sympathize easily with other populations undergoing similar movements. These are only two examples of writers who repeatedly look back at the incident that marks them as differen t. While perhaps more attuned to the struggles of others, Troyat and Makine bring up the notion of an immigrant's displacement and the tumults of world history during the twentieth century to draw attention to the problems of telling one's own story. Aut hors return to their point of separation from home not only because it is a way for them to relieve their uprootedness by transferring it onto other characters, but also because it represents a schism between two aspects of migrs: they belong to two worl ds, and the rupture is the catalyst for the complication of their identity. The individual must decide what he or she will become after this fragmentation and what pieces of the self the person is willing to leave behind. From this point, the migr is m ore self conscious than those around him or her, so the migr's daily routine becomes a performance that tries to assimilate to the culture to which they feel they ought to belong. For an author trying to write an autobiography, the performance of daily life muddles the distinction between truth and falsity. This raises questions when trying to designate a genre for a book: Is it autobiography? Fiction? Memoir? When an author
62 tries to exist as a cultural hybrid, where is the line drawn and where does it blend cultural identity? No matter the genre, nor what language the stories are actually published in, the novels of migr authors tend to speak in circles, moving centripetally, always reaching back to that moment when their language became that of nost algia.
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