Author: Albert Cohen
Publish Date: 1968
Page Length: Approximately 600 pages
Belle du Seigneur, written by Albert Cohen and published in 1968, is a significant work in French literature. It tells the story of a disenchanted Swiss diplomat, Solal des Solal, and his passionate, yet doomed, love affair with a married woman, Ariane d'Auble. Set in Geneva during the 1930s, the novel explores themes such as love, desire, societal conventions, and the struggle between individuality and societal norms.
The story begins with the introduction of Solal des Solal, a charismatic and renowned diplomat who has risen in prominence despite his Jewish background. Solal is discontented with his life, full of superficial relationships and an overbearing mother. He is captivated by Ariane d'Auble, the beautiful wife of a high-ranking official. Solal becomes infatuated with Ariane, relentlessly pursuing her, despite her initial resistance.
Over time, Solal's persistent charm and determined pursuit break down Ariane's defenses, and she begins to fall in love with him. The two embark on a passionate affair filled with clandestine meetings and stolen moments. However, their love is shadowed by societal conventions and the obligations that bind Ariane's marriage. As tensions rise, Solal struggles with his own insecurities and jealousy, leading to intense emotional conflicts.
Solal's actions and constant pursuit of Ariane result in jealousy and anger among his colleagues and superiors. Their relationship becomes a topic of gossip and intrigue within the diplomatic circles of Geneva. Meanwhile, Ariane is torn between her love for Solal and the societal expectations placed upon her. Conflicts arise as Ariane tries to balance her desires with her duty as a wife and mother.
As their affair intensifies, Solal becomes increasingly obsessed with Ariane. He begins to question his own self-worth, convinced that he is not deserving of her love. The couple faces numerous obstacles, including the manipulative schemes of other characters and their own emotional baggage. Despite their powerful connection, the societal pressures and Solal's own doubts threaten to destroy their relationship.
The novel culminates in a tragic and shocking climax. Solal, consumed by his insecurities and his perception of society's judgment, hatches a plan to prove his worthiness. He manipulates circumstances that lead to Ariane being shamed and humiliated publicly. The devastating consequences force both Solal and Ariane to confront the realities of their choices and the impact of societal expectations on their lives.
Belle du Seigneur delves into several important themes, including love, desire, societal expectations, individuality, identity, and the complexities of relationships. The novel explores the enduring power of passion, highlighting how love can both liberate and trap individuals in its grip. It also examines the tension between personal desires and societal norms, illustrating the challenges faced by those who resist or navigate within traditional conventions.
- Solal des Solal: A charismatic and complex protagonist, Solal is a Swiss diplomat of Jewish heritage. He is tormented by societal norms and his own insecurities, which drive his actions throughout the novel.
- Ariane d'Auble: A beautiful and enigmatic woman, Ariane is trapped in a loveless marriage. As her affair with Solal unfolds, she grapples with the conflict between fulfilling her desires and maintaining her reputation.
- Other notable characters include Hector d'Auble (Ariane's husband), Adrien Deume (Solal's friend), Madame Solal (Solal's overbearing mother), and various colleagues and acquaintances whose actions shape the narrative.
Belle du Seigneur is an important work in French literature due to its exploration of intricate human emotions, societal constraints, and the struggle for identity. Albert Cohen's novel provides valuable insights into the complexities of love, desire, and the collision between individual desires and societal expectations. The book invites readers to reflect on themes that continue to resonate today, making it a significant contribution to the literary canon.