FR: larmes lui montassent aux yeux

Discussion in 'French and English Grammar / Grammaire française et anglaise' started by Johnny Foreigner, Jun 25, 2009.

  1. Johnny Foreigner Junior Member

    English
    In chapter 15 of *A Rebour*, Huysmans writes:

    "Jamais, sans que de nerveuses larmes lui montassent aux yeux, il n'avait pu se répéter "les Plaintes de la jeune fille", car il y avait dans ce lamento, quelque chose de plus que de navré, quelque chose d'arraché qui lui fouillait les entrailles, quelque chose comme une fin d'amour dans un paysage triste."

    What is "lui" doing in (1) 'sans que de nerveuses larmes lui montassent aux yeux' ('montassent' is the past perfect, so shouldn't that be 'qu'ils montassent'?), and in (2) 'quelque chose d'arraché qui lui fouillait les entrailles'? Merci d'avance.
     
  2. Keith Bradford

    Keith Bradford Senior Member

    Brittany, NW France
    English (Midlands UK)
    It's literally rose in the eyes to him i.e. his eyes. Ditto his innards.
     
  3. xmarabout

    xmarabout Senior Member

    French - Belgium
    "lui" refers to the narrator. A bad way to write it (but more understandable) could be:
    "sans que des larmes ne montasse à lui (to him)"
    and the same for the second sentence.
     
  4. pointvirgule

    pointvirgule Senior Member

    Mtl, QC
    Français
    In other words:
    - Sans que des larmes montassent aux yeux de qui ? De lui (antécédent : il).
    - Quelque chose qui fouillait les entrailles de qui ? De lui (antécédent : il).
     
    Last edited: Jun 25, 2009
  5. LILOIA Senior Member

    Maybe we should explain that when it comes to parts of the body in French (here : yeux, entrailles) we don't use the possessive adjective but this "syntaxe" :

    English : I broke his leg.
    French : Je lui ai cassé la jambe (not : "J'ai cassé sa jambe")
    English : I washed their hands.
    French : Je leur ai lavé les mains.

    So it couldn't be : 'sans que de nerveuses larmes montassent à ses yeux' (whatever the tense or mood) or "qui fouillait ses entrailles", although these two sentences don't sound too bad.

    l'adjectif possessif "ses" est remplacé par un article défini (le / la / les) et on utilise le pronom COI (me / te / lui / nous / vous / leur) :
    sans que de nerveuses larmes me montassent aux (= à les) yeux, etc ... leur montassent aux yeux.
    ... quelque chose d'arraché qui me fouillait les entrailles, etc ... qui leur fouillait les entrailles.
     
  6. janpol

    janpol Senior Member

    France
    France - français
    "lui", "il" = un personnage que "les plaintes de la jeune fille" attristent; le contexte ne nous apprend rien de plus.
    montassent = imparfait du subjonctif
     
  7. Johnny Foreigner Junior Member

    English
    Thank you, that's very helpful. My final query about this passage is why Huysmans writes "sans que de": isn't this a pleonasm, since he could've written "sans que" or even "sans"?


     
  8. LILOIA Senior Member

    "de" goes with "nerveuses larmes". Huysmans could have written "des larmes nerveuses", but as he chose to put the adjective before the noun, it's "de" instead of "des" (I don't know why, but you can't write : "sans que des nerveuses larmes ...")

    "sans que de nerveuses larmes montassent" = "without nervous tears coming up to his eyes"
    que introduces a proposition with a verb in the subjunctive mood. If you don't put "que" you have to find a substantive to replace the conjugated verb.
    ex. "Sans la montée des marches, que serait le Festival de Cannes ?"
    But here : "sans la montée de nerveuses larmes à ses yeux" would not do.

    Huysmans is a 19th century writer. We've dropped the imparfait du subjonctif ("montassent"). It really sounds odd and pompous nowadays.
     
    Last edited: Jun 28, 2009

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