Questions of Precedence Author:Francois Mauriac This novel - published in France as Preseances - was written after the author had left his native city of Bordeaux for good. It is a devastating attack on the snobberies and cruelties of Bordeaux society in the early years of the century, but its matter is still applicable to every closed society dominated by a ruling caste, and the story is rai... more »sed beyond satire by Mauriac's profound sense of the spiritual irrevocability of our smallest acts.
The ruling caste of Bordeaux are the scions of the great wine houses. Their anglicized names and manners are the glass of fashion; to be accepted by them is the freedom of the city; to be ignored is the death of a thousand cuts. The narrator of the story (he is never named) belongs to a wealthy family in the timber trade, as such inferior to the great ones with whose sons he goes to school. A public humiliation throws him into the orbit of the one indubitable outsider in the college, a grubby, wildly handsome and intelligent youth named Augustin.
The three young people, the storyteller, his sister Florence, and Augustin, spend an enchanted summer holiday by the sea. Augustin falls in love with Florence; Florence, perhaps with Augustin. but this dashing and determined young woman is only making use of Augustin's romantic aura to secure her own aim, which is marriage with one of the most exalted of the "Sons."
Florence is successful; Augustin, abandoned, vanishes. It is left to Florence's brother to recount the bitter Nemesis. He leaves no doubt in the reader's mind that only Augustin, however mortally wounded, escapes the corrupting influence of a vain society.« less