Polyphony and counterpoint : mechanisms of seduction in the diaries of Helen Hessel and Henri Pierre Roche

Du Toit, Catherine (2015-06-25)

CITATION: Du Toit, C. 2015. Polyphony and counterpoint : mechanisms of seduction in the diaries of Helen Hessel and Henri Pierre Roche. Literator, 36(2), doi:10.4102/lit.v36i2.1193.

The original publication is available at http://www.literator.org.za

Article

Henri Pierre Roché (1879–1959), the author of Jules et Jim, has been called a general introducer, an exemplary amateur, a collector of women and art and one of the most prolific diarists and active lovers in recorded history. Author of a collection of vignettes about Don Juan, Roché was fascinated with the figure of the seducer and in his twenties planned to devote his life to the creation of a body of work which would examine moral, intellectual, social and sexual relations between women and men. To this end, he would transform his life into a laboratory where real-life experiences would become the main source of reference. Roché’s diary spans sixty years and abounds in tales of seduction. However, the most intense and captivating intrigue of seduction and betrayal in his diary, is his relationship with Helen Hessel. At the start of their affair, Roché suggested that she too should keep a diary of the maelstrom of passion into which they were plunged. Written in French, German and English, Helen Hessel’s diary captures the drama of seduction and functions on several levels: realistic, visionary, absorbed in her thoughts and emotions and yet critical of herself and others. A juxtaposed reading of the two diaries generates a fascinatingly dense texture, revealing the mechanisms of seduction at play. The counterpoint created by these two interdependent voices becomes ever more complex as one becomes aware of the intertextual references that contribute to the emerging polyphony of recorded life and love.

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