Short summary - Thérèse Desqueyroux - François Mauriac

French literature summaries - 2021

Short summary - Thérèse Desqueyroux
François Mauriac

Teresa Desqueiro leaves the courtroom. She was accused of trying to poison her husband, but through the efforts of her family, the case was dropped "for lack of corpus delicti." The family's honor is saved. Teresa has to return home to Arjeluz, where her husband is waiting for her, who saved her with his false testimony. Teresa is afraid of prying eyes, but fortunately, at this time of year it gets dark early and her face is difficult to see, Teresa is accompanied by her father Laroque and lawyer Duro. Teresa thinks of a maternal grandmother whom she has never met and about whom she only knows that she has left home. Neither her daguerreotypes nor photographs have survived. "The imagination prompted Teresa that she too could disappear like this, go into oblivion, and later her daughter, little Marie, would not find in the family album the image of the one who gave birth to her." Teresa says that she is going to stay with her husband for a few days, and when he gets better, she will return to her father. The father objects: Teresa and her husband must be inseparable, must observe decency, everything must be as before. “You will do whatever your husband tells you. I think I am making myself very clear, ”says Laroque. Teresa decides that salvation for her is to open her whole soul to her husband, without hiding anything. This thought brings relief to her. She recalls the words of childhood friend Anna de la Trave. Pious Anna said to the judicious mocker Teresa: "You cannot even imagine what a feeling of liberation you experience when you confess to the spirit in everything and receive absolution - everything old will be erased and you can heal in a new way." Teresa recalls her childhood friendship with Anna. They met in the summer at Argeluse; in winter Teresa studied at the Lyceum, and Anna - at the monastery boarding house. Argeluse is located ten kilometers from the small town of Saint-Clair, in Landach. Bernard Desqueiro inherited from his father a house in Argeluse, which stood next to the house of the Laroques. The whole region believed that Bernard should marry Teresa, for their domains seemed to be created in order to unite, and the prudent Bernard, who studied law in Paris and rarely appeared in Argeluse, agreed with the general opinion. After the death of Bernard's father, his mother remarried, and Anne de la Trave was his half-sister. She seemed to him a little girl who did not deserve any attention. Teresa, too, didn’t care much for him. But at twenty-six, after traveling to Italy, Holland and Spain, Bernard Desqueiro married Teresa Laroque, the richest and smartest girl in the entire region. When Teresa thinks about why she married Bernard, she recalls the childish joy that thanks to this marriage she will become Anna's daughter-in-law. In addition, she was not indifferent that Bernard had an estate of two thousand hectares. But, of course, this is not the only point. Perhaps she sought refuge in marriage, first of all, sought to join the family clan, "get settled", enter a respectable world, save herself from some unknown danger. After getting married, Teresa was disappointed. Bernard's lust did not evoke a reciprocal desire in her. During her honeymoon, Teresa received a letter from Anna, where she wrote that a young Jean Azevedo, ill with consumption, had settled in Vilmege next to them, so she stopped cycling in that direction - consumptive ones terrify her. Then Teresa received three more letters from Anna. Anna wrote that she met Jean Azevedo and fell in love with him without memory, but her family separated the lovers. Anna suffered and hoped that Teresa would help her convince her relatives who wanted to marry her off to young Degilem at all costs. Anna sent Teresa a photo of Jean. Teresa did not finish reading Anna's letter, full of passionate outpourings. She thought: “So, Anna tasted the happiness of love ... But what about me? And what about me? Why not me?" Teresa in her hearts grabbed a pin and pierced the heart of Jean depicted in the photo. Bernard, like his parents, hoped that Teresa would bring Anna to reason: Azevedo are Jews, it was not enough for Anna to marry a Jew! In addition, many in their family suffer from consumption. Teresa argued with Bernard, but he did not listen to her objections, confident that she was arguing only out of a sense of contradiction. Teresa had a desire to teach Anna a lesson, who believed in the possibility of happiness, to prove to her that happiness does not exist on earth. When Bernard and Teresa returned from their honeymoon and settled in Saint-Clair, Teresa became a mediator between the spouses de la Traves and Anne. Teresa advised Bernard's parents to be softer with Anna, to invite her to travel with them, while Teresa would do something about it. Anna lost weight, grew thin. Teresa persuaded her to go with her parents, but Anna did not want to leave Jean. Although they did not see each other, for Anna was forbidden to go outside the garden, the mere thought that he was close, near, gave her strength.
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However, Teresa was persistent and finally Anna gave in. This was facilitated by the news of the imminent arrival of the Degilems - Anna did not want to see the young Degilem, whom everyone predicted to be her husband. Teresa had no pity for Anna. Her own pregnancy was also not a joy for her. "She wanted to believe in God and beg from him that this unknown creature, which she still carries in her womb, would never be born." After the departure of Anna and the de la Traves, Teresa promised to find some means to influence Jean Azevedo, but she was drawn to sleep, to peace, and she was in no hurry to fulfill her promise. In mid-October, Jean had to leave, and Bernard began to rush Teresa.
Bernard began to show the first signs of suspiciousness. He was haunted by the fear of death, surprising for such a big man. He complained of his heart and nerves. Teresa believed that Bernard was ridiculous, because the life of people like them is completely useless and surprisingly similar to death. When Teresa spoke about this to Bernard, he just shrugged. She annoyed him with her paradoxes. Teresa did not hate Bernard. At times he was disgusting to her, but it never occurred to her that another man would seem nicer to her. After all, Bernard was not so bad. She could not stand the images of extraordinary personalities created in novels, which are never found in life. She considered Bernard above her environment exactly until she met Jean Azevedo.
They met by chance. During a walk, Teresa came to an abandoned hunting hut, where she and Anna had once had an afternoon snack, and where Anna later made appointments to Jean Azevedo. There Teresa met Jean, who, recognizing her, immediately spoke to her about Anna. His eyes and glowing gaze were beautiful. Teresa spoke to him haughtily, accusing him of "bringing confusion and discord to a respectable family." In response, Jean laughed sincerely: "So you imagine that I want to marry Anna?" Teresa was amazed: it turns out that Jean was not at all in love with Anna. He said that he could not resist the charm of such a lovely girl, but he never behaved dishonestly and did not go too far. Regarding Anna's suffering, he said that this suffering is the best that she can expect from fate, that all her further sad life she will remember these moments of sublime passion. Teresa liked to talk with Jean Azevedo, she liked to listen to his reasoning. Teresa was not in love with him, she just met for the first time a person for whom the spiritual side of life was most important. Regarding Anna, Teresa came up with a plan that Jean carried out: he wrote her a letter, where in very mild terms he deprived her of all hope.
Bernard did not believe Teresa's story, it seemed to him incredible that Jean Azevedo would not dream of marrying Anne de la Trave. Teresa saw Jean five or six times. He described to her Paris, his circle of friends, where one law reigned - to become herself. At the end of October, Jean left, setting up a date with Teresa a year later. On the third day after his departure, Anna returned, she wanted to see Jean at all costs, believing that she could conquer him again. When Teresa told her that Jean had left, Anna did not believe until she was convinced of this with her own eyes. When Teresa had a daughter, Teresa did little to do with her, but Anna adored little Marie and gave her all her time.
One day a forest fire broke out near Mano. Everyone was agitated, and Bernard mistakenly drank a double dose of the medicine. Tired of the heat, Teresa saw this, but did not stop her husband, and when he later forgot whether he took the drops or not, and drank another dose, she again remained silent. At night Bernard was tormented by vomiting, Dr. Pedme was at a loss as to what it could be. Teresa thought that there was no evidence that it was due to the drops. She even wondered if the drops were really to blame? Using a fake recipe, Teresa bought drops and poured them into her husband's glass. When the pharmacist showed the doctor the prescription, the doctor filed a complaint with the court. Teresa said that a few days ago a stranger met her on the road and asked her to buy a prescription drug at the pharmacy: he himself allegedly could not do this, since he owed the pharmacist. Then this man came and took his drops. Her father begged Teresa to come up with something more believable, but she stubbornly kept saying the same thing. She was saved by the lies of Bernard, who confirmed that his wife had told him about the meeting with a stranger.
Teresa thinks about. what she would say to Bernard when she met. The only thing that would solve all the problems, he still will not do: if he opened his arms to her, without asking about anything! If only she could fall on his chest and cry, feeling her living warmth! Teresa decides to tell Bernard that she is ready to disappear, but when they arrive and she says these words, Bernard is indignant: how dare she have an opinion? She should only obey, only follow his orders. Bernard describes Teresa a new way of life: from now on Teresa is forbidden to walk around the house, food will be brought to her in her bedroom. On Sundays, he and Bernard will travel to Saint-Clair so that everyone can see them together. Marie with her mother Bernard and Anna will leave for the south, and in a few months, when public opinion believes that peace and harmony reign in the Desqueiro family, Anna will marry the young Deguilem. After her wedding, Bernard will settle in Saint-Clair, and Teresa, under the pretext of neurasthenia, will remain in Argeluse. Teresa is horrified at the thought that she will have to live in Argeluse without a break until her death. When, according to Bernard, an atmosphere of sympathy for Theresa develops in Saint-Clair, he relieves her of the obligation to attend Mass and leaves Arjeluse.
Teresa is left alone. She dreams of running away to Paris and living there, not depending on anyone. A letter comes from Bernard, where he promises to come with Anna and Degil. The young people got engaged, but before the official engagement, Degil wants to see Teresa. Bernard hopes that Teresa will behave with dignity and will not interfere with the successful implementation of the de la Trave family's plan. When the whole company comes to Argeluz, Teresa is not interested in her daughter. She is so full of herself that she despises Anna, who does not value her individuality and will forget all her high impulses "at the very first squeak of a baby that this dwarf will reward her with, without even taking off her business card." Teresa is ill. Bernard promises her that after Anna's wedding she will be free. He will take her to Paris under the pretext of poor health, and he will return to his homeland and send her her share of the income from collecting resin. Teresa establishes an even, calm relationship with Bernard.
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When they arrive in Paris in the spring, Bernard in a cafe asks Teresa why she tried to poison him. It is difficult for her to explain this to him, especially since she herself does not fully understand it. She says that she did not want to play the role of a respectable lady, to utter hackneyed phrases. In addition to the Teresa that Bernard knows, there is another Teresa, and she is just as real. For a moment, Teresa thinks that if Bernard had told her: “I forgive you. Come with me, ”she would have got up and followed him, but Bernard leaves, and soon Teresa is surprised by this fleeting feeling. Teresa is in no hurry to leave the cafe, she is not bored or sad. She is in no hurry to see Jean Azevedo. Having carefully painted her lips, she goes out into the street and walks wherever her eyes look.