Julien Gracq



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Julien Gracq (1910)

"Un Beau Tenebreux/ A Dark Stranger" (1945) excels especially at the descriptions of landscape. The plot, instead, is sometimes implausible.

Gerard's diary begins with the story of two lovers who are staying in the same beach hotel: Jacques and the princess Christel. Gerard takes a walk on the beach with her and she tells him of her lonely teenage years at the boarding school and how she fell in love with the theater. She thinks that she is destined to destroy her life, and she tells him that one night she saw a meteor in the sky. After that beach walk Gerard becomes her best friend. Jacques is a poet, although he does not read books. Gerard befriends a young couple, Irene and Henri, who just got married. She's a childhood friend of Christel, but she seems hostile to her. The young people entertain themselves dancing, swimming, walking on the beach, gambling at the casino and playing tennis. Jacques is the center of attention. Gerard is getting bored in that idle little town and is preparing to leave. Just then Gregory receives a letter from his friend Allan asking for accommodation at the hotel and quiet: Allan and his girlfriend don't want to be disturbed. Gerard is immediately curious about the couple. When they arrive, they immediately replace Jacques as the center of attention. Allan is athletic and charismatic. His girlfriend Dolores is very attractive, but she leaves the hotel almost immediately. Christel is equally attracted to Allan. Surprisingly, Gregory decides to leave and gives Gerard a long letter about Allan that talks about Allan's strange childhood, a very intelligent kid who was fascinated by death. Then Allan became a diplomat and a womanizer. Gregory confesses that he is disturbed both by Allan's mysterious motives and by his lover's mysterious role. Gerad plays chess with Allan and Allan wins easily. Then Allan starts a long philosophical and cryptic monologue that ends with a promise of an "act". Gerard notices that Christel has been avoiding the group, including him, and he can see that she is in love with Allan. Irene organizes a picnic. The group is assembled around Allan when he talks about the right to commit suicide. Christel shivers. Irene now hates Allan. One day Allan creates a commotion at the casino when he keeps playing with the clear intention of losing. Gerard eventually drags him away. Then the hotel owner tells him that Allan has deposited at the hotel a huge amount of money... and already spent half of it. While Allan is out with Christel, Jacques takes Gerard into Allan's room, a room decorated with souvenirs of exotic trips, and Gerard sees an unopened letter, presumably from Dolores. Christel sends a long letter to Gerard in which she admits her relationship with Allan and her terror that something is wrong with Allan, and she hopes that Gerard can help her understand who he is. Gerard confronts Allan, sensing that he's about to commit an "irreversible" act and fearing that Christel will be emotionally if not physically affected. Dolores comes back to the hotel. The letter in Allan's room was a letter announcing her return. This is the end of Gerard's diary because he is too disturbed by Allan's behavior. Someone now continues the narration, someone who heard the rest of the story from Gerard himself. There is a costume ball in which each person is supposed to adopt the persona of a literary figure. The group is curious about what costume Allan would choose. Allan and Dolores show up dressed like Vigny's lovers of Montmorency, the two lovers who decide to commit suicide; and their costumes even bear a bloodstain. Gerard is fed up with Allan's seduction of Christel. Allan tells Christen that he made a pact with the devil to win her heart, and that he hoped that her pure love would set him free, but he now is the devil himself. Gerard tells Dolores that he is in love with her. Irene seduces Jacques All the vacationers have left the hotel but the group of friends remains there, unable to part with each other despite an increasingly oppressive atmosphere. Irene, in particular, vents her anger at Allan for seducing Christel. She tells her husband Henri how much she hates Allan, Dolores and Christel, and then confesses that she sent a letter to Christel's mother who is now on her way to rescue her daughter. Irene sounds hysterical but then reveals to Henri that she is pregnant. A feverish Henri drives away until he collapses while his wife is actually in bed with Jacques. Irene scares him because she is scared of something. Christel confronts Allan in his room: she knows that he has decided to kill himself. Allan admits it and admits that it is a pact with Dolores. Christel, still a virgin, offers herself to save him, but he refuses: it would be dishonored if he didn't go through his plan with Dolores. He calls himself an "unhappy demon" who made all of them unhappy during those two months. He doesn't even tell her why he wants to die: it is not important anymore. He shows her the glass of poison and waits for her to leave. He smokes a cigarette until the door opens again: it's Dolores, and his last moment has come.
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