Cover image for Lieutenant-colonel de Maumort
Title:
Lieutenant-colonel de Maumort
Author:
Martin Du Gard, Roger, 1881-1958.
Uniform Title:
Lieutenant-colonel de Maumort. English
Edition:
First American edition.
Publication Information:
New York : Alfred A. Knopf : Distributed by Random House, 2000.

©1999
Physical Description:
xxxi, 777 pages ; 25 cm
Language:
English
ISBN:
9780679433972
Format :
Book

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Summary

Summary

A soldier contemplates the mysterious paradoxes of human existence as he struggles to resolve a moral dilemma--how to correct an injustice while remaining an uninvolved spectator to the events as they unfold.


Author Notes

Roger Martin du Gard was born on March 23, 1881 in France. He was a French author and winner of the 1937 Nobel Prize for Literature. He was trained as a paleographer and archivist. His major work was The Thibaults, a multi-volume work that follows the fortunes of the two brothers, Antoine and Jacques Thibault, from their upbringing in a prosperous Catholic bourgeois family to the end of the First World War. Martin du Gard wrote several other novels, including Jean Barois, which was set against the historical context of the Dreyfus Affair. During the Second World War, he resided in Nice, where he prepared a novel (Souvenirs du lieutenant-colonel de Maumort) that remained unfinished at his death; it was posthumously published in 1983. His other works include plays and a memoir of André Gide, a longtime friend.

Roger Martin du Gard died in 1958 and was buried in the Cimiez Monastery Cemetery in Cimiez, France.

(Bowker Author Biography)


Reviews 4

Publisher's Weekly Review

Although a Nobel Prize winner in 1937, Martin du Gard is largely unrecognized in America, but this last, unfinished novel, masterfully translated, should lift the late novelist out of stateside obscurity. The story begins in 1940, when a 70-year-old military officer, Bertrand de Maumort, begins his memoirs, evoking the belle ‚poque France of his youth, and offering a kind of personal resistance to the encroaching Nazis. Bertrand's mother died in childbirth, and he was raised by his father, a laconic military officer who presided over his rural French estate with cold hauteur. Young Bertrand is close to his sister, Henriette, and to his governesses, but when his sickly, debauched cousin, Guy, arrives, the innocent youth is introduced to the obsessions of sex. Guy plays a game of escalating sexual teasing with a tutor, who has pederastic inclinations that later lead to his suicide; the unfortunate Guy dies shortly after his flirtation with the tutor. De Maumort's painstaking analysis of his earliest erotic feelings and his concern throughout with the sexual lives of his contemporaries are strongly reminiscent of Proust. Bertrand goes to boarding school, and then to the Sorbonne, ostensibly to get into Saint-Cyr, the military academy. He mingles with the intellectuals in the circle around his uncle, a famous sociologist, and his wife. At the halfway point of this massive book, the protagonist is 19, embarking on his first love affair, with C‚lie, an older woman from Martinique. The second half of the narrative consists of fragments, accompanied by research notes and commentary by scholars and the author, sketching the proposed trajectory of Bertrand in the colonial war in Morocco, and during the Dreyfus period in France. This novel provides a panoramic view of the French bourgeoisie and richly details the intellectual, sexual and emotional development of a thoughtful and winning hero; the incompleteness of Bertrand's story only heightens the appeal of this complex character. (Jan.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved


Choice Review

Nobelist for literature (1937), Martin Du Gard had largely finished this novel by the time of his death in 1958. Written during WW II and the immediate postwar largely as a first-person journal, it is a period piece about a career officer of the author's generation. Even in 1958, its style would have made it seem anachronistic, because existentialism and the "new novel"--e.g., Jean-Paul Sartre's The Age of Reason and Claude Simon's The Flanders Road--had already established new rhetorics to explore the relationship between French history and the upper classes. The present highly effective translation is based on the authoritative text established for the Gallimard Pleiade edition (1983), but despite considerable documentation, this English version lacks the extensive biobibliographical and historical documentation deemed necessary for French readers (and probably even more necessary for Americans under the age of 75). For general readers, and extensive collections of literature in translation. M. Gaddis Rose; SUNY at Binghamton


Booklist Review

Hailed by the publisher as the long-awaited translation of a masterpiece of twentieth-century fiction, this is that rare instance where the hyperbole is justified--Lieutenant-Colonel de Maumort is the real thing. Du Gard, who won the 1937 Nobel Prize for one of the novels in his eight-volume Les Thibaults, left behind a trunk full of manuscripts at his death in 1958. Eventually they were edited into this volume, the richly imagined memoirs of Bernard de Maumort, who is born in 1870 to the landed gentry and dies on the family estate just after the Second World War. Maumort's voice is intimate and warm, his stories richly detailed and nuanced. Most of the memoirs are set in the late nineteenth century and concern Maumort's rural childhood and young adulthood in Paris; the later narrative is less complete. Throughout, one is reminded of literary antecedents, beginning with Augustine's Confessions. In the well-drawn historical and social reality, there are strong echoes of Tolstoy; in Maumort's close examination of himself and those close to him, one is reminded of Proust. In Maumort, Du Gard created a character whose complexity, through his many contradictions, is gradually revealed to us. His love for his Creole mistress, for example, does not preclude his belief in racial stereotypes. His freethinking ideas about sexuality are expressed in language brimming with judgment. Twentieth-century humanity, Du Gard seems to be saying, is capable of brilliance and beauty, stupidity and ugliness. For the aficionados, or just those who want to sustain Du Gard's creation, the volume contains letters written by Maumort as well as a sort of daybook. Lovingly translated. --Brian Kenney


Library Journal Review

Martin du Gard won the Nobel prize in 1937, but this masterpieceÄleft incomplete at the author's death and first published in France in 1983Äis only now appearing in English. (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.


Excerpts

Excerpts

My sleep has always been light and intermittent. If I had kept an hourly log of my mental activity, it would in all likelihood turn out that I have spent many more nighttime than daytime hours engaged in thinking. These bouts of insomnia have taken on a chronic character over the years: when I have slept four or five hours in a night off and on, I consider it to have been an exceptionally good one. I always have a pad of paper and a pencil within reach, to catch on the wing this turn of phrase which strikes me as felicitous, that idea which I hope to be able to examine more closely in the light of day. Adversity has its uses . . . I will even admit that, all things considered, these forced meditations bring me more pleasure than annoyance. It is only at the end of the night that I sometimes give in to impatience. All of my brethren in insomnia will, I think, know that anxiety which precedes the dawn, that interminably tiresome moment when one sits up every five minutes to see whether or not the day is going to decide to break, as at the end of a journey, at night, in a railway carriage, one constantly presses against the window to watch for the lights of the station where one is to arrive . . . This morning I am eager to set up a preliminary outline in accordance with the clear and almost panoramic vision which I had, last night, of my life -- not that I intend to follow this chronological order, but this outline will help me all the same. The only sensible arrangement to adopt for Memoirs would obviously be chronological order. Last night it seemed to me that my existence could be divided into a certain number of parts . But I am straying from the purpose that made me take up my pen this morning. And when one decides at my age to set about such an undertaking, there is no time to lose. Here begin the Memoirs of Colonel Bertrand de Maumort, born right here at the Château du Saillant on the first of July, 1870. I have always had a very accurate memory; I've been lucky enough to have kept it intact: I count on it for carrying out the task that I embark upon today. Now I am very eager to gather the childhood memories that I have of my father. But before beginning, I shall first briefly note what I know of the ancient Maumorts. A former dean of Menneville whom my grandfather encouraged to do research in the parish archives discovered the baptism, in 1505, of a male child with the Christian name of Loïs-Pierre, "son of Geoffroy de Maumort, former equerry, and of his wife, Marie Félicité de Littry," dwelling "in the place called le Saillant, abutting the forest of Mesneville." It seems likely that this Geoffroy de Maumort was the first of that name to settle in le Perche in the last years of the fifteenth century. But where did he come from? A mystery. The ending "ort" is not from the area; it would indicate some other origin. Since that date, the Maumorts, clinging firmly to their Saillant, have figured continually in the registers. It is in the middle of the sixteenth century that for the first time the family name Maumort was followed by the title of Comte de Saillant, which has been borne successively by all the Maumorts down to my grandfather, who styled himself simply: Général de Maumort. Nevertheless, in my childhood I still heard the old gardener say "our late Madame la Comtesse" to refer to my grandmother. Neither my father nor, of course, I myself ever made use of this nobiliary title, the authenticity of which I have not even verified. Among the old portraits set into the paneling of the white drawing room, thus pre-dating the eighteenth century, there are two that bear, in one corner, the arms of the house: a green shield on which three pretty little gray birds are arranged in a triangle. I believe this is rendered in heraldic language as: de sinople à trois merlettes d'argent . And on a vermeil snuffbox which my sister made into her pin box (what has become of it? it must have been pinched by the Germans), the same blazon was painted in enamel, with a streamer on which could be read the motto of the Maumorts: De male mort Dieu me garde! [May God save me from a bad death!] The designation "château," applied to our manor house, does not appear until the end of the seventeenth century in the parish registers. From this my grandfather drew the conclusion that the present dwelling, although pure Louis XIII in style, had been built by one of our own in the late years of the reign of Louis XIV. This is possible: the master masons in the province were regularly fifty years behind the architects of the île-de-France. The hypothesis seems confirmed by the date 1692, legible on the keystone of an arch which is embedded in the masonry of an outbuilding and which marks the site of an old carriage door, today walled up. Among my archives that were reduced to a pulp by the damp, I used to possess a family tree drawn in a naïve style by my grandfather; I did not unfold it often and I have only a vague memory of it. A line of soldiers and landowners, with no merchants or lawyers -- which, I confess, rather pleases me. The estate came together little by little, plot by plot, through successive acquests, sometimes by marriage, until it reached its present area: one hundred eighty-four hectares of fields, pastures, and woods, in which the grazing meadows predominate, and which were divided up among our four tenant farms: les Houderettes, les Fouquerolles, la Clergie, and le Liardon. Am I under the spell of their familiar sounds? They would, I think, have charmed the poets of the Pléiade. Whichever way one puts these four names together, they have an exquisite ring to my ear. I always hear and utter them with rapture: les Fouquerolles, le Liardon, les Houderettes, and la Clergie. I know little about my great-grandfather apart from the fact that he accepted the Revolution of 1789 and adhered to its principles -- to the great scandal of the family and of the local gentry; and that after having spurned the Empire he ended up enlisting in Napoleon's armies. The breastplate he had worn as a colonel of cuirassiers remained in the attic. My sister gave it away, along with our grandfather's uniforms, to the Costume Museum. But we have kept that mediocre portrait of him which is in the hall; certain features -- the salient arch of the eyebrows, the hooked nose, the mouth, the upward-jutting chin -- call to mind my father's face (and my own). Although I never knew him, I am better informed about my grandfather, Général Bertrand de Maumort, whose Christian name I bear. He died during the Second Empire, senator for the Orne. He was only sixty. They die young in my family: my father died at fifty-six. To judge from the daguerreotype that I have of my grandfather, he was very different from us: stocky, squat, with a flat face whose mustache continued along his jowls in those close-cropped sideburns that used to be called "muttonchops." In his senatorial tailcoat it is impossible to guess what a great warrior he was. His life was one long feat of arms. Second lieutenant in the artillery at the time of the Restoration, he was part of the French expeditionary force sent to the Peloponnesus to liberate Greece from the Turkish yoke. Scarcely had he returned when he went off to fight in Algeria in the army of General Voirol, who decorated him after the siege of Mostaganem. But he was repatriated in 1833 after the defeat at Constantine, in which he was wounded. A bad wound, inadequately tended, which festered during the crossing and caused him to be hospitalized in Marseilles, then in Arles. It was there, during his convalescence, that he met in Arlesian society the one who was to become his wife, Mademoiselle de Cambosc, a rather well-to-do orphan who introduced into the family a taste for very fruity olive oil and that ridiculous middle name of Angélina which she handed down to my sister Henriette, whose godmother she was. Settled in at le Saillant, my grandmother never returned to her Midi; but she was homesick for it and never got used to our rainy climate. We owe to her the construction of our grape hothouse, which for a long time was the only one in the region. She consoled herself for not having been able to acclimatize the cypress to our forest fogs by planting nearly everywhere in the park those thujas which still flourish there. I have always liked the idea that this little velvet-eyed Arlesian slipped a few drops of Southern blood into my Percheron veins. My natural laziness -- I mean this meandering of thought (which I call my "purring") -- would then have for an excuse its origin in that Provençal race -- refined through centuries of Mediterranean civilization, passionate when so inclined but carefree and full of idle curiosity -- which was able to push so far the subtle art of wasting one's time and of relishing those solitary amusements which daydreaming and the spectacle of the world lavish on inquiring minds. Marriage did not keep my old trooper of a grandfather in his Perche for long. When he heard that a new expedition was preparing against Constan-tine, he buckled on his sword-belt and set off again for Africa, despite being on the wrong side of forty and without even waiting for the birth of his son, whom he was to get to know only ten years later. In November 1837, he savored his revenge and entered Constantine with the victorious army. He was wounded at Sebdou, treated on the spot, healed, then attached to the staff of General Lamoricière, whom he did not leave until the end of the campaign, until the surrender of Abd el-Kader. Finally, he made up his mind to go back to France. But again this was only a short respite, since two years later, in '49, he was in Italy with General Oudinot, took part in the siege of Rome, and received the blessing of the Holy Father, whom my grandfather helped to repossess his States. (I still have, on the landing, two engravings that he placed on either side of his bed: one depicts the capture of la Smalah, the other the Pope's return to Rome.) This time, however, it was retirement, with two stars. His first concern, upon reappearing at le Saillant, was to pull his son, who was thirteen, out from under the maternal skirts and to pack him off to the Jesuit school at Sées. My father held this against him, and it is no doubt to this that I owe not having been sent to boarding school until after my fifteenth year. My grandfather had, like all of us, a taste for things of the earth; but his turbulent life had not afforded him much experience with farming and raising cattle. He had the wisdom to let his farmers do these things. But he was bored; and I think it was to escape the vexations of his rustic idleness that he lapsed into politics -- for which nothing had prepared him. In 1852, after the coup d'état and the promulgation of the new constitution, our département, which had remained one of the most obstinately loyal to the monarchy, chose this general of Louis-Philippe's to represent it in the Senate. His career as a senator was rather short and unglamorous, except for the very last day: after four years, on that rostrum which he had so very rarely mounted, a seizure struck him down as he was finishing a speech demanding the abolition of the regulations that were hampering the grain trade. My father, then a student at the école Polytechnique, summoned posthaste to the Senate infirmary, found him paralyzed, aphasic, dying. And it was in his coffin that my grandfather was brought back here. My grandmother was to outlive him by six years. Doubtless she scarcely missed her husband: he had got her used to doing without him. She lived long enough to be present at her son's wedding and at the birth of Henriette. And here, after having put a little order into the family lore, I have quite naturally worked my way back to the biography of my father, Hippolyte de Maumort. Excerpted from Lieutenant-Colonel de Maumort by Roger Martin du Gard All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.

Table of Contents

Andre Daspre
Translators' Introductionp. xi
Translators' Acknowledgmentsp. xxix
Forewordp. xxxi
Lieutenant-Colonel de Maumort
Summary of Maumort's Biographyp. 3
I. Memoirs of Lieutenant-Colonel de Maumort
Part 1 Childhood and Adolescence (1870-1887)
Chapter I. The Origins of the Maumort Familyp. 11
Chapter II. Early Childhoodp. 29
Chapter III. The Pond with the Girls. The Abbe Adryp. 42
Chapter IV. Guy at le Saillantp. 64
Chapter V. Xavier de Balcourt at le Saillantp. 104
Chapter VI. Year of Rhetorique at Saint-Leonardp. 136
Chapter VII. At the Nacquots'p. 166
Chapter VIII. The Year of Philosophiep. 203
Part 2 Early Adulthood (1887-1891)
Chapter IX. The Chambost-Levades: Uncle Ericp. 221
Chapter X. The Chambost-Levades: Aunt Map. 248
Chapter XI. The Intellectual World of Paris around 1890p. 272
Chapter XII. Xavier de Balcourt in Parisp. 299
Chapter XIII. The Drowningp. 316
Part 1

p. 316

Part 2

p. 349

Chapter XIV. Life as a Student in Parisp. 369
Chapter XV. The Hectorsp. 386
Chapter XVI. Blaise Saint-Gall and His Familyp. 406
Chapter XVII. Doudoup. 429
Part 3 Beginnings in the Army. Marriage (1891-1907)
Chapter XVIII. Claire Saint-Gall. The Marriagep. 461
Chapter XIX. The Marriage of Henriettep. 480
Chapter XX. The Story of Emmap. 495
Part 4 The Campaigns in Morocco (1907-1914)
Chapter XXI. Lyautey and Moroccop. 519
1. Maumort's Life in the Militaryp. 522
2. Maumort the Colonial Officerp. 523
3. Maumort's Memories of Fezp. 524
4. Lyauteyp. 526
5. Maumort, Military Life, Warp. 531
Part 7 World War II (1939-1945)
Chapter XXII. Maumort During the Defeat and Occupation (1940)p. 539
I. The Invasion of le Saillantp. 541
II. Maumort and the Nazisp. 554
1. Rupert Graltp. 556
2. Maumort and his guestsp. 570
3. Kertp. 573
4. Weissmullerp. 579
III. Hatred of Germany. Atrocities in the Nazi Campsp. 587
IV. Conventional Doctrines of the General Staffp. 591
V. The True Nature of the Resistance: Indignationp. 596
Epilogue
Chapter XXIII. What the Diary Was: A Diary of a Happy Manp. 598
Chapter XXIV. His Endp. 605
II. Letters of Lieutenant-Colonel de Maumort (31 December 1944-January 1945)
Letters to Gevresin
Letter I. 31 December 1944p. 609
Letter II. 1 January 1945p. 613
Letter III. 2 January 1945p. 618
Letter IV. 4 January 1945p. 620
Letter V. 9 January 1945p. 626
Letter VI. 11 January 1945p. 628
Letter VII. 14 January 1945p. 633
Letter VIII. 16 January 1945p. 641
Letter IX.

p. 643

III. The Files From the Black Box
1. General Politicsp. 651
2. Individual and Collectivityp. 655
3 and 4. Freedom. Refusal to Become Affiliated. Dissociating Oneselfp. 661
5. Justicep. 666
6. Revolutionariesp. 667
7. Communismp. 669
8. Humanism. Rationalismp. 672
9. Limits of the Knowable. Agnosticismp. 673
11. The Jewish Problemp. 675
21. Maumort's Philosophical Developmentp. 678
22. Skepticismp. 685
23. Morality. Good and Evilp. 689
24. Religion. The Protestantsp. 692
25. Cosmos and Nothingnessp. 698
26. Death and Old Agep. 699
27. Faith in Man. Stupidityp. 701
28. Progressp. 706
29. Happinessp. 708
30. Women. Lovep. 708
31. Pacifism. Against Violencep. 712
32. A Look at the World of the Pastp. 716
33. Upheaval of the Present Worldp. 717
34. Threats for the Future. State Controlp. 720
35. The Future of Francep. 724
36. The Future of Europep. 726
38. Maumort's Conservative Tendenciesp. 729
39. Miscellaneous Reflectionsp. 733
40. Determinism and Free Willp. 741
41. Today's Youthp. 742
42. The Bourgeoisiep. 743
43. Concerning Germanyp. 744
51. Inclination to Meditation. Purringp. 744
52. Bent for Psychology. Curiosity about Human Beingsp. 749
52a. Readingp. 754
53. Taste for Solitudep. 756
54. Maumort. Fondness for Withdrawal. Attitude of a Silent Spectatorp. 758
55. Tendencies to Aristocratism (Esotericism)p. 762
56. Pessimismp. 767
70. The Art of the Novelp. 769