Passing Time

Yesterday, on a quest to explore Sebald’s links with Alain Resnais’ L’Année derniere à Marienbad (for another blog), I noticed in Austerlitz the name Marie de Verneuil.  She is the friend with whom Austerlitz has been in correspondence since his time in Paris, and who invites him to accompany her on a visit to Bohemia, to do some research on the spas of Europe (thus Marienbad).  It would not have struck me the last time I read Austerlitz, but Marie de Verneuil is the heroine of Balzac’s first non-pseudonymous novel, Les Chouans, a historical romance based on the counter-revolutionary rebellions in Brittany.

Marie is a spy, in the employment of the revolutionary national government, whose mission is to identify and entrap the young leader of the rebels, the Marquis de Montauran.  They fall in love, and the vicissitudes of their doomed romance mirror the ebb and flow of the…

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