…la pendule qui sonne les heures et la demie.
lah pah-dewl kee sun lay zuh ray lahd-mee. Click below to hear this.*
…the clock that strikes the hour and the half-hour.
Madeleine Chapsal’s novel L’Indivision is about things, as much as it is about people: the things that take on meaning for people, why and how these objects make themselves desirable.
Aubin has died. His will is specific: his entire estate–money, house, furnishings, everything–is left to his three adult children par indivision, a legal term that means that the estate has been bequeathed as a whole to all the heirs, not divided among them. Whatever disposition is to be made of the property and the goods must be agreed upon by the three siblings, who have been raised not to disagree with each other and to live in harmony.
The provisions of Aubin’s will have the completely opposite effect: each of the three immediately begins to suspect the others of connivence, greed, secrecy, and outright theft. We may take the clock as a symbol of the “things” that elicit such strong feelings, since it is among the first objects mentioned in the novel.
Note that the appropriate verb relating to the clock is sonner: to ring. If you look up to strike in the dictionary, you will find translations such as frapper, battre, taper, and so on, all variations on the hit theme. And indeed, in an old-fashioned striking clock, the sound is produced by hammers that strike the metal bars that form the chimes. But in the context of clocks, in French, the clock sonne, or rings. It sounds bell-like, and indeed operates on the same principle as a bell.
*Some mobile phones, such as Blackberries, won’t display the audio player. If no player appears, here’s an alternative link to the audio file: