Short summary - Traveller Without Luggage - Jean Anouilh. L'Alouette

French literature summaries - 2021

Short summary - Traveller Without Luggage
Jean Anouilh. L'Alouette

Events take place in France eighteen years after the end of the First World War. Gaston, a man who fought against Germany and lost his memory at the end of the war, together with Maitre Yuspard, the attorney representing his interests, and the Duchess of Dupont-Dufon, the lady patroness of the asylum for the mentally ill, where Gaston spent the last eighteen years, come to a wealthy provincial house belonging to the gentlemen Renault - the alleged family of Gaston. Several families, whose members went missing during the war, claim to be related to Gaston. Many of them are probably attracted by his disability pension, which all these years he had no right to dispose of and which now amounts to two hundred and fifty thousand francs.

With the other four families, Gaston was supposed to meet even earlier, but the Duchess decided to give priority to the Reno family, taking into account its social status and welfare. Gaston had already seen more than one family coming to the shelter to meet him, but none of them awakened memories in him.
The maitre d 'warns the guests about Renault's arrival, and they send Gaston out for a walk in the garden for a while. The alleged mother of Gaston, or, rather, the mother of Jacques, was the name of her missing son; his brother, Georges, and Georges's wife, Valentina. After mutual greetings, Ms. Renaud expresses her indignation at the way that confrontations with patients were arranged earlier under the former manager of the orphanage. Then they saw Gaston for only a few seconds. Madame Renault and her daughter-in-law stopped at the hotel after that meeting, hoping to look at Gaston just once more. Valentina even got a job as a seamstress in a shelter to be closer to him.
Enter Gaston. As before, he does not recognize anyone. Meanwhile, a servant is crowding outside the door and animatedly discusses the newcomer. Almost all of them think that they recognize in Gaston their former owner, Jacques, the youngest son of Madame Renaud, but none of them expresses the slightest enthusiasm about this, because everyone except the maid Juliette has not seen anything good from him in the past. and were glad to hear of his death.

Madame Renaud and Georges take Gaston to Jacques's room, furnished with ridiculous furniture made from Jacques's own designs. Gaston examines some unusual structure made of wood, as if it were bent by a storm. Madame Renaud tells Gaston that as a child he hated playing music and in a rage crushed violins with his heels. The music stand is the only thing left from that time. He looks at his photograph at the age of twelve. He always believed that he was a blond, shy child, but Mrs. Reno assures that he was a dark brown-haired man, played football all day and destroyed everything in his path. Soon, Gaston became aware of the rest of the circumstances of Jacques' life.
He learns that in childhood he loved to shoot with a slingshot and destroyed all the valuable birds in his mother's aviary, and once interrupted the dog's paw with a stone. Another time I caught a mouse, tied a string to its tail and dragged it along with me all day. A little later, he killed many unfortunate animals: squirrels, weasels, ferrets, and ordered to make stuffed out of the most beautiful ones. Gaston is at a loss. He wonders if he had a friend in his childhood, with whom he never parted, exchanged thoughts? It turns out that he really had a friend, but during a fight with Jacques, he fell down the stairs, broke his spine and remained paralyzed forever. After this incident, friends stopped communicating. Gaston asks to show him the place of the fight. He feels that his alleged relatives are clearly keeping something back. Gaston learns that Juliette's maid was present during the fight. He asks her to come and asks the girl in detail about the circumstances of the accident. Juliette excitedly tells Gaston that before Jacques was called up to the war, she was his mistress. His friend tried to court her too; when Jacques found him kissing Juliette, he fought with him, when he fell, Jacques dragged him by the legs to the edge of the stairs and pushed him down.

Georges enters Jacques' room, and Juliet has to leave. Georges calms Gaston, assuring him that it was just an accident, childishness. He himself, not knowing much and not believing rumors, believes that it was a fight, the reason for which was the rivalry of sports clubs. Gaston learns from Georges that Jacques is guilty of other crimes as well. At one time, he charmed an old friend of the family, an elderly lady, and lured five hundred thousand francs from her, allegedly as an intermediary for some large company. He signed a forged bill of exchange for her, and when everything was revealed, Jacques had only a few thousand francs left. The rest he let down in some brothels. The family had to pay a huge amount. After all these stories, Gaston is truly delighted with the joy with which Renault are preparing to once again accept their son and brother into the bosom of the family.
However, it turns out that the list of his "exploits" is not yet complete. Among other things, he also seduced Georges' wife, Valentina. They cannot continue the conversation due to the appearance of Mrs. Reno. She announces the arrival of numerous relatives who wish to welcome the returned Jacques. Gaston is not happy with the procedure ahead of him.

He asks Madame Renault if there were any joys in Jacques' life that did not concern school, at least in that short period of time when he had already said goodbye to textbooks, but had not yet picked up a rifle. It turns out that at that time, for almost a year, his mother did not speak to him, because before that he insulted her and did not ask for forgiveness. Even to the front, Jacques went without saying goodbye to his mother, because none of them wanted to take the first step towards the other. Gaston, in a fit of indignation that his mother let her son go to war, without even saying goodbye, repeats the words of Jacques, said by him at the age of seventeen, when his mother did not allow him to marry a seamstress. He says he hates her and doesn't want to be called Jacques.
After the departure of Jacques' mother and his brother, Valentine appears in the room. She reminds him of their former love and insistently demands the restoration of the old relationship. Gaston never twice wants to become a traitor to his own brother, he is not at all sure that he is Jacques and that he will remain in this house. Then Valentina points out to him irrefutable proof: Jacques has a small scar under his shoulder blade, which the doctors did not notice. This mark was left to Jacques with a hat pin by Valentina herself, when she decided that he was cheating on her. When she leaves, Gaston discovers this scar and sobs bitterly.

The next morning, the other four families, claiming to be related to Gaston, arrive at Renault's house. Among them is a boy who came from England with his lawyer, Maitre Pickwick. A boy, wandering around the house, accidentally enters Gaston's room. He tells him that he is the supposed uncle of Gaston, that all his relatives and friends sank along with the ship "Neptunia" when he was still an infant. Having talked with the boy's lawyer, Gaston informs the duchess that he is the boy's wanted nephew, and leaves Reno's house forever, because he does not want to start a new life with the baggage of old sins and constantly be surrounded by countless relatives who, by their appearance, will every minute about remind them.