Short summary - Whatever Gods May Be - Climats - André Maurois

French literature summaries - 2021

Short summary - Whatever Gods May Be - Climats
André Maurois

The first part of the novel, Odile, is written on behalf of Philippe Marsen and is addressed to Isabella de Chaverny. Philip wants to truthfully and humbly tell her his whole life, for their friendship "has outgrown the time of only flattering confessions."
Philip was born on the Gandumas estate in 1886. The Marsein family occupies a very prominent position in the area - thanks to the energy of Philip's father, the tiny paper mill has turned into a large factory. Marsena mistaken the world for a decent earthly paradise; neither Philippe's parents, nor Uncle Pierre and his wife (who have an only daughter, René, two years younger than Philippe), tolerate frankness; it is believed that generally accepted feelings are always sincere, and this is more a consequence of spiritual purity than hypocrisy.
Already in childhood, Philip manifests a thirst for self-sacrifice in the name of love, and then in his imagination the ideal of a woman, whom he calls the Amazon, develops. At the Lyceum, he remains faithful to the image of his Queen, now acquired the features of Homeric Helena. However, in conversations with peers about women and about love, he appears to be a cynic. The reason for this is a friend of his relatives, Denise Aubrey; Philip, boyishly in love with her, once unwittingly overheard her negotiating a date with her lover ... From that moment, Philip refuses romance and develops an infallible seduction tactic that invariably turns out to be successful. Denise becomes his mistress, but soon Philip is disappointed in her; and while Denise becomes more and more attached to him, Philip, one after another, conquers, not loving, young women whom he meets in the salon of his aunt Cora, Baroness de Chouin. But deep down, he still worships the ideal image of Elena Spartanskaya.
Having recovered from bronchitis in the winter of 1909, Philip, on the advice of a doctor, went to the south, to Italy. On the very first day of his stay in Florence, he notices a girl of unearthly, angelic beauty in the hotel. At a reception in a Florentine house, Philip meets her. Her name is Odilia Male, she is also French, traveling with her mother. From the very first minute, young people treat each other with easy gullibility. They spend every day together. Odilia has a happy quality that the Marsen family lacks - she has a zest for life. She opens a new world to Philip - the world of colors and sounds.
After getting engaged in Florence, on their return to Paris, young people become husband and wife, despite the fact that the Marsein family disapproves of the frivolous, "weird", Male. During their honeymoon in England, Philip and Odile are unusually happy. But upon arrival in Paris, the dissimilarity of their characters is revealed: Philippe is engaged in the affairs of the Gandyumas factory all day and loves to spend evenings at home, together with his wife, and Odilia prefers theaters, night cabarets, and fairgrounds. Odile doesn't like Philip's serious friends; he is jealous of Odile of her male friends; comes to the point that the only person who is equally pleasant to both of them is only Odilia's girlfriend Misa, Philip suffers, but only Misa and his cousin Rene know about this.
When Miza gets married and leaves, Odilia becomes even closer to her friends. Philip's jealousy grows. He torments himself and his wife, stubbornly trying to catch her with a non-existent lover. Catching her on contradictions, he demands accurate answers to questions about where she was and what she was doing, for example, between two and three o'clock in the afternoon. He considers the answer “I don’t remember” or “It doesn’t matter” a lie, sincerely not realizing how insulting such interrogations are to Odile. One day Odilia, referring to a headache, goes to the village for several days. Philip arrives there without warning, confident that now his suspicions will be confirmed, and is convinced that he was mistaken. It was then that Odilia confesses that she wanted to be alone, because she was tired of him. Subsequently, Philippe learns that Odilia never cheated on him ... until François de Crozan showed up.
They met at a dinner with the Baroness de Schrne. Philippe François is disgusting, but women all find him charming. With pain, Philip watches the development of the relationship between Odilia and François; he carefully analyzes his wife's words and sees how love shines through in her every phrase ... Odilia needs to go to the sea to improve her health, and with amazing persistence she begs to let her go not to Normandy, as always, but to Brittany. Philippe agrees, confident that François is in Toulon - he serves in the navy. After her departure, he learns that Francois has been temporarily transferred to Brest, and he understands his wife's insistence. A week later, Philip meets with Misa, she becomes his mistress and tells him about the relationship between François and Odile. When Odilia returns from Brittany, Philip gives her the words of Miz. Odilia denies everything and ends the relationship with her friend.
After that, the couple leave for Gandyumas. A secluded life in the bosom of nature brings them closer, but not for long - immediately upon returning to Paris, François's shadow darkens their relationship again. Philip feels that he is losing Odile, but is unable to part with her - he loves her too much. She herself starts talking about divorce.
They diverge. Philip is grieving over the loss, but does not share his grief with anyone except his cousin Rene; he returns to the youthful demeanor of a cynical lecher. From friends, he learns that Odilia has become the wife of François, but their family life is not quite smooth. And one day the news comes that Odilia has committed suicide. Philip begins a nervous fever with delirium, and after recovering, he withdraws into himself, abandons his affairs, he is completely absorbed in his grief.
This continues until the First World War. The second part - "Isabella" - was written on behalf of Isabella after the death of Philip: she wants to capture her love for him for herself - just as Philip captured his love for Odilia on paper in order to explain himself to Isabella.
As a child, Isabella felt unhappy: her father did not pay attention to her, and her mother believed that her daughter should be tempered for the battles of life and therefore brought up very strictly. The girl grew up timid, unsociable, insecure. In 1914, with the outbreak of the war, Isabella went to work as a sister of mercy. The hospital, where she goes, is in charge of Rene Marcena. The girls immediately became friends.
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One of the wounded, Jean de Chaverny, becomes Isabella's husband. Their marriage lasts only four days - Jean returned to the front and was soon killed.
After the war, Rene puts Isabella in the same laboratory where she works. From Rene, in love with her cousin, the girl constantly hears about Philippe, and when she meets him at Madame de Chouin, he immediately inspires her confidence. Isabella, Philippe and Rene begin to leave the three of them several times a week. But then Philip began to invite only Isabella ... Gradually, friendship develops into a more tender and deep feeling. Isabella leaves her job to avoid awkwardness in her relationship with René and to devote herself entirely to love for Philippe. Having decided to marry Isabella, Philip writes her a letter (this is the first part of the book), and Isabella tries to become what Philip wanted to see Odile.
At first, Isabella is very happy, but Philip sadly begins to note that his calm and methodical wife does not look like an Amazon. The roles have changed: now Philip, like Odilia once, is drawn to the fairgrounds, and Isabella, like Philip once, seeks to spend the evening at home, alone with her husband, and just as jealous of Philip of his friends of the opposite sex, as when- then he was jealous of Odile. Isabella persuades her husband to spend Christmas in St. Moritz - just the two of them, but at the last moment Philippe invites the Villiers to join them.
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During this trip, Philippe becomes very close to Solange Villiers - a woman in whom the power of life is in full swing, a woman who with all her ardent soul strives for "adventure". In Paris, they do not break off relations. Isabella soon has no doubt that they are lovers - she painfully notes how Philip and Solange influence each other: Solange reads Philip's favorite books, and Philip suddenly fell in love with nature, like Solange. Isabella is suffering.
Solange leaves for his estate in Morocco, and Philip is on a business trip to America (Isabella cannot accompany him due to her pregnancy). Returning, Philip spends almost all the time with his wife. Isabella is happy, but the thought that the reason for this is Solange's absence in Paris somewhat overshadows her happiness. Philip is jealous; she once became the object of his jealousy - maybe, if she began to flirt, she would be able to return her husband's love ... but she deliberately refuses it. All her thoughts are only about the happiness of Philip and their newborn son Alena.
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And Solange dumps Philip - she begins her next romance. Philip hardly hides his anguish. In order not to see Solange, he moves to Gandyumas with his wife and son. There he calms down and seems to fall in love with Isabella again. Spouses find harmony. This is the happiest time of their life together. alas, it was short-lived.
Having caught a cold, Philip falls ill with bronchopneumonia. Isabella looks after him. She holds Philip's hand in his last hour.
“It seems to me that if I could keep you, I would know how to give you happiness,” Isabella finishes her manuscript. "But our destinies and our will almost always act out of place."