According to the writer’s plan, the novel is “something more than a literary work: it is a living being, a story about the spiritual world of one woman”, covering forty years of her life – from a carefree youth to a courageous death.
From the first pages of the novel we see “a strong, fresh girl, poured with the juices of life,” strong, fair-haired, with a stubbornly bulbous forehead, who has not yet heard anything in her life and is constantly immersed in her dreams. The situation in the society and the state of her father allow Annette Rivier to live a free, prosperous life. She studies at the Sorbonne, is intelligent, independent, self-confident.
From the papers of the recently deceased father Annette learns that she has a half-sister
Annette makes an offer to young lawyer Roger Brissot. His family is ready to annex to his lands the possession of a wealthy heiress. Roger is sure that “the true purpose of women is at the hearth, her calling is motherhood.” But Annette, “who herself has her own world, which itself is the whole world,” does not want to become a shadow of her husband and live only in his interests. She asks Roger for freedom for herself and her soul, but runs into a wall of misunderstanding. Annette can not reconcile himself with the arbitrariness of his chosen one. Truthful in everything, she finds the strength to terminate the engagement. But she is sorry for the rejected lover. Unable to cope with
The soul of Annette was healed by passion, but under her heart a new life is ripening – she is pregnant. Sister invites her to tell all the ex-groom and oblige him to marry her, to avoid shame and give the child a father. But Annette is not afraid of people’s explanations and is ready to become for the baby and father and mother. All pregnancy she is immersed in dreams and dreams of a sweet life together with the child.
Annette has a son. Reality looks much tougher than her dreams. Secular society, friends, friends, so admiring her before, turned away from her. Unexpectedly for Annette herself, this painfully hurts her. She is not going to put up with “the position of the outcast.” Then a little Mark gets sick. No sooner had the child recovered than Annette was struck by a new misfortune: she was ruined, the house in Paris and the estate in Burgundy were launched under the hammer. Mother and son are forced to move to a small apartment in the house where Sylvia lives. For a scanty payment, Annette gives private lessons, running from morning till night around the city from end to end, while the baby is under the supervision of her sister and her stubble. However, such a life is like Annette. She seemed to be awakened from a dream, “began to find pleasure in overcoming difficulties, was ready for anything,
Annette meets former university friend Julien Davie. The incoherent, timid Julien reaches out to the strong, strong-willed Annette. She, in turn, responds to the undivided devotion of this dear man. A young woman does not hide anything from her past life and talks about her illegitimate child. Julien recognizes the directness and nobility of Annette, but in his soul Catholic and bourgeois prejudices are strong. Annette does not blame him for this, but resolutely breaks with him.
Annette meets a young doctor Philip Villar. At first sight Villar recognizes the soul in Annette. Her extraordinary mind and stormy temper delight him. Passion flares up between them, they become lovers. Annette wants to be loved, to become his wife and girlfriend, equal to him in everything. But in his immense egoism Philip sees in Annette only his own thing, his slave. He does not mind tie their lives, but at the moment he is fascinated by the controversy unfolding around his article about birth control, and is in no hurry to make a decision. Trying to free herself from the “humiliating slavery to which her love is doomed,” Annette fled from Paris and took refuge with her sister. When she returns, she refuses to meet Philip. In three months Annet’s exhausted is healed from a love affair. “
The First World War begins. Annette, the “obsessed player”, welcomes her: “War, peace – all this is life, it’s all her game.” She started, she breathes easily. But the inspiration of the first months of the war is passing, and Annette’s eyes open. She “no one’s side”, her mother’s pity deserve all suffering, and their own and others.
In search of work, Annette is forced to send her son to the Lyceum, and she herself to go to the province, where she finds the place of a teacher in college. Here she meets Herman Schavann, a young bourgeois who has returned from a war of poisoned gases. Germain has a friend, the German artist Franz, who is now in the prisoner of war camp. Before his death, Germain dreams of receiving from a friend, at least news. Touched by the tender friendship of young people, Annette organizes correspondence between them, then arranges for Franz to escape from the camp and sends him to Switzerland, where the dying Germain awaits him. Unbeknownst to herself, Annette is tied to the weak-willed, self-centered Franz. Franz, shocked by the death of a friend, becomes attached to Annette and literally can not step without her. Having made a painful choice for herself, Annette refuses personal happiness in favor of her son and leaves for Paris.
In Paris she learns that the man who helped her to arrange Franz’s escape was arrested and threatened with the death penalty. Annette is ready to confess to everything and take the blame on herself to save him. Friends miraculously manage to take away from her misfortune, presenting her act as a love of folly.
For all, this Annette’s adventure looks exactly like this, only not for her son. Mark, experiencing a period of youthful development, feels like a lonely, abandoned mother, but secretly proud of her, her boldness. For a long time he avoided the Questionnaire, was ashamed of her violent manifestations of feelings, her frankness and frankness. Now, when he realized what noble and pure heart of his mother, he wants to talk with her heart to heart. Annette gives Mark the freedom of choice, revealing to the boy that his father is a famous lawyer, a brilliant speaker and politician Roger Brissot. But Mark, having visited the rally where his father speaks, is disappointed: the speaker’s words about “immortal principles, crusades, sacrificial altar” are imbued with falsity. Mark is ashamed of her father and the crowd applauding him. Returning home, he says to the questionnaire: “You are my father and mother.”
Annette in horror expects that the turn of her dear boy is about to be sent to the front. Mark, like his mother, sees all the abomination of the war and despises the deceitful patriots and their sanctimonious heroism. He is ready to say no to the war and refuse to go to the front. “Unfortunate, we were promised liberation, but imposed a vile war that threw us into the abyss of suffering and death, disgusting and useless!” – Shouts Mark. Annette is not capable of deceiving his trust, she supports him.
The first world war was finished. Mark never got to the front. He studies at the Sorbonne. He is already ashamed to take money and food from his mother, he wants to earn. Together with friends, the young man tries to understand what is happening in post-war Europe, and choose his position in relation to what is happening.
Annette is already over forty, she has reached the age when they enjoy every day they have lived: “The world is as it is, and I, too, am what it is. Let it tolerate me! I endure it.” Looking with a smile at how her boy rushes, she is sure that, despite the bumps and blows pouring down on him from all sides, he “will never lay down arms”, will not roll down, will not change the principles of good and justice that have been laid in it she, his mother.
Annette tries to find at least some work, not disdaining the most difficult. The case leads her to the editorial office of the newspaper, owned by Timon. This aggressive, rude, grasping man, in front of whom the whole editorial office trembles, notices Annette and makes her personal secretary. He likes this clever, calm, brisk-tongued woman of “good Gallic sourdough”. He trusts her, shares her secrets, consults with her. Annette does not approve of it, but accepts “how they take a spectacle.” She believes that “as long as a person remains internally truthful and free, not everything is lost for him,” even if he is mired in fraud and crimes. Thanks to Timon Annette gets behind the scenes of politics and makes sure that “sovereigns, parliaments, ministers… – no more than puppets with gramophone records: from where the wind blows, they try to remove Annette first, and then Timon himself. The latter they succeed – Timon dies. from where the wind blows, they try to remove Annette first, and then Timon himself. The latter they succeed – Timon dies.
Mark becomes seriously ill. His health is undermined by excessive work, lack of sleep and malnutrition. Throwing everything, Annette saves her son. Her. helps a neighbor Mark, a Russian girl Asya. With the efforts of both women, Mark is on the mend. Between Mark and Asya, love breaks out. Annette accepts Asya as her own daughter. Asya opens her soul to her: at home, she happened to experience the death of a child, the horrors of civil war, hunger, deprivation. Under the wise motherly look of Annette, the girl seems to thaw, blossom.
Asya and Mark have a son. However, their feelings give a break: active, freedom-loving Asya can not sit in four walls and is eager for freedom. She is more and more interested in the changes taking place. in her native land, in Russia. Marcus rushes in search of work, in search of his goal in life. Between the spouses there is a break, and Asya leaves the house. Annette does not accuse the daughter-in-law, does not interrupt her relationship. She feels sorry for both children. She takes her grandson to herself and hopes that someday his prodigal parents accidentally or intentionally clash at her house and make peace. She sees that in young, hot hearts under the layer of ashes love grows.
Annette was right: Asya and Mark are together again. After so many trials that have fallen to their lot, they feel themselves not only spouses, but also like-minded people. Mark makes a firm decision “to devote himself to the great cause and prepare for the great social battles.” They organize people in support of the Soviet Union, against the nascent fascism, they open a small printing-house, where the translations of Marx, Lenin, appeals and pamphlets written by Mark are printed. Annette does not try to pacify the energetic jumps of her two foals. “With her help, Mark’s book publishing company turns into one of the foci of emigrant anti-fascists.
Mark’s activity becomes too noticeable, and he is in danger. Annette decides to go to rest the whole family in Switzerland. There, the mother and son, as never before, feel the kinship of souls, complete unity, they are infinitely happy and enjoy each other’s company. Leaving little Vanya in the care of friends, Annette, Mark and Asya go to Italy. However, even there Mark is already known as a fighter for social justice and an anti-fascist, and they are followed by the police. The Italian adherents of the Duce also do not leave Mark without attention. In Florence, the day of departure to his homeland, Mark perishes, saving from the enraged fascists of a teenage boy. The pain of Annette is immense, but she has the strength and courage to take out her son’s body and the distraught daughter-in-law to France.
After the death of her son Annette, it seems that “she has nothing left.” The beloved son was her “second self”, she put in it all the best. Repeating to myself: “My beloved son is dead, but he is not dead, he is always with me…”, Annette is gradually awakening to life. She decides to continue her son’s business and thus keep a living memory of Mark. “It’s not me, it’s he who goes… In my body, he, dead, will go further than would reach the living.” Annette speaks at anti-fascist meetings, works in various public organizations of international assistance. And soon in the eyes of people, the mother and son Riviere merge together.
However, the strength of Annette is not the same, he begins to take “tired heart”. Doctors forbid her to engage in active work. Asya marries and leaves for America, leaving Vanya in the care of her grandmother. Annette devotes herself to her home and her “chicks”: a seriously ill sister, a grandson, a young George, the daughter of her old friend Julien Davie, a young man named Silvio, whose life Mark saved. Annette knows what dangers and suffering await those she loves, but she is calm: “If we know that the case is fair, that it should be so, we, therefore, know that it will be so.”
Having flown over Rome and scattered anti-fascist leaflets, Silvio is dying. Annette understands that all her children are “destined to take delight in death in flames,” The flame that lit her, not burning, destroyed the walls and spread fire to the souls of others. “The enchanted soul and brood of her chicks, like the phoenix, were born for a fire. So the glory of the fire, if from their ashes, as from the ashes of the phoenix, a new, more worthy humanity will be reborn! ” Rejoicing that she is attached to the voluntary sacrifice of her children, Annette greets death. “The cycle of the Enchanted Soul is coming to an end, it was the link of a ladder, thrown through emptiness, in one of the turns, and when the foot ruthlessly rests on it, the step does not roll, the body curved like a semicircle of onions crosses the Teacher’s abyss. was the angle of deviation along the way,