lunedì 16 aprile 2018


On the voyeur as a looker in "Across the Street" 

Le voyeur comme un spectateur dans "La Fenêtre des Rouet "
Il voyeur come uno spettatore ne "La Finestra dei Rouet"

The writing of Across the Street followed Mr. Hire’s Engagement by 10 years, yet both focus on voyeurism in similar ways. Two successive posts will deal with the visual and then the auditory components of this practice in the later novel. 
Near forty, unemployed and unwed, Dominique spends most of her time all alone in the only room she actually uses,” her bedroom. Indeed, “in order to feel a little bit at home, she routinely locks its door, thereby physically isolating herself from contact with the outside world. But she never closes the shutters on its window fully, always leaving at least a “crack open whereby she takes the covers off the houses across the street.” Because inhabitants over there leave their shutters wide open, Dominique “sees everything.” It is as if she is really in their rooms, as though “it would suffice to extend one’s hand to touch them.” Fortunately for her, the people she watches are unaware of her existence.” She can see them, but they cannot see her. 
Through her almost constant examination, enhanced by her fertile imagination, Dominique “knows everything. She never hears their voices […] but she observes them coming and going from morning to night, studying their gestures and lip movements: it is a long wordless history whose smallest incidents she understands.” And Simenon gives her a lot to observe and understand: young Antoinette lets her sickly husband perish, battles with her nasty in-laws, and takes up new lovers, all occurring under Dominique’s watchful eye. As the drama and tension within the household escalates, so does Dominique’s vicarious involvement. “Not yet an old maid,” she is “tormented” by “envy,” but she also enjoys “morbid pleasure.” What she sees grows increasingly exciting, “boiling and running over with all its frightening rawness.” Identifying progressively with adventuresome Antoinette, Dominique “forgets to breathe,” not wanting to miss a thing. In fact, she becomes so obsessed that Simenon puts her directly on Antoinette’s tail around Paris. This way, Dominique gets to watch Antoinette’s behavior vis-à-vis her lovers (the last, a mulatto), both in their sensual presence and distressing absence, through windows of bars and hotels in addition to her bedroom window. While Dominique is “tapping into a more vibrant, forbidden life,” she also experiences growing “torture,” requiring “liberation. 
Dominique ordinarily communicates with Antoinette through her imagination and by talking to herself. When the two women begin to make eye contact, Dominique still remains “an ordinary woman,” an unknown. But, in time, as Dominique “watches over” Antoinette, she becomes a familiar observer to whom the latter returns a “mocking smile.” When finally seen at her window and recognized for what she is, Dominique knows the Antoinette laughing contemptuously at her feels her voyeur is “a maniac.” Whereas Dominique feels “invisible bonds united” them and incapable of breaking the charm tying them together, Antoinette has managed to do just that. Up until now, lonely Dominique “could not imagine there was nothing more,” but she realizes existence without Antoinette means a “vacuum of emptiness. Making it clear “she is on her own,” Simenon provides her with a logical, final solution. 

David P Simmons 

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