The image of man in the novels of Aragon
The Basel Bells depict France on the eve of the First World War. But in the novel, the thunderous atmosphere of the 30s is palpable. The novel calls for vigilance, the bells of the anti-war congress of socialists, held in Basel in 1912, sound alarmingly. The thought of the clash of the forces of the past and the future determines the composition, the system of basic images, gives the novel dynamics and drama. Reflecting the era when clearly "a crack is heard in the old building", Aragon brings to the fore the image of a person who chooses a path, overcomes "social illiteracy", goes to the people.
Building the novel on the opposition of antagonistic social forces, Aragon makes the images of women, Diana and Clara, their most characteristic embodiment. The world of struggle and great feelings opens up a little to Katerina, who rebels against the deal that is called marriage in bourgeois society and which is the meaning of Diana's life. Katerina sees more than Diana, her feelings are stronger, her impulses are more significant. This meaningful life, the existence of which is completely unknown to the superficial and conceited Diana, enters the novel along with the image of the socialist worker Victor. The new woman appears in the guise of Clara - Clara Zetkin, a prominent figure in the international labor movement. Aragon's novel ends with a pathetic story about new relationships, about true love, about a new woman born in the liberation movement of the proletariat that elevates man.
The fate of the central character of the novel "Rich Quarters" - the son of the mayor of the city of Serian Arman Barbentan - is also determined by the flaring struggle. As a result of a long evolution, as a result of the difficult experience of life in Serian, and then in Paris, where he appeared, having broken with his father, a careerist and demagogue, Armand leaves the "rich quarters". At the end of the novel, he commits a patriotic act, as Aragon emphasizes: he refuses to be a strikebreaker and joins the striking workers. The formidable power of the proletariat is manifested both in the scene of the demonstration of workers (in the first part of the novel), and in the anti-war rally of Parisian workers (in the second part), and in the strike, which is mentioned at the end of the book. A detailed reconstruction of Armand's evolution and his quest unites the material of the book around the problem of the liberation of the individual.
In the hero of the novel Travelers on the Imperial, Pierre Mercadier, the idea also matures that his life - the life of a bourgeois - is absurd and monstrous, that the moral foundations of bourgeois society are absurd and immoral. But Mercadier himself is incapable of breaking with this society. Aragon shows in great detail, very carefully, the abyss of depravity that is revealed in families from the "wealthy quarters", in the stories of Diana, Edmond Barbentan, Paulette Mercadier, who cannot stand the test of the simplest and most ordinary human feelings. These are the modern Duroys; Edmond Barbeitan does not even hide his sympathy for this insignificant and cynical hero of Maupassant.
The collapse of bourgeois families, the collapse of the "cell" of the bourgeois way of life was depicted even before Aragon. In the books of "The Real World" this decay directly fits into the general picture of the collapse of the entire social organism, which is on the verge of a catastrophe. Even in the vicissitudes of intimate stories, the character of the era is reflected. In The Bells of Basel, family stories are enclosed in a rigid frame of composition that reflects the class structure of society and the fate of classes. In the following novels, family dramas unfold against the backdrop of a modern French city (in "Rich Quarters"), and then an entire era (in "Travelers on the Imperial"). Major, large-scale chronological landmarks are emphasized: the story of Pierre Mercadier begins at the end of the 19th century, then the 20th century comes, and the whole narrative leads to the conclusion of a new page in human history.