Consider the following pasage, taken from the novel Aurélien by Louis Aragon (published in 1944). It is told from the point of view of Adrien Arnaud, who's trying to establish a place for himself in some corporation owned by an old friend of his, who has now become his boss.

C’était dans cet énorme enchevêtrement financier qui avait un prolongement dans les autobus en Languedoc et en Provence, un autre dans les pétroles de Roumanie, des terrains près des Invalides et à la porte de Clignancourt, au Trocadéro et à Vincennes, qui touchait aux caoutchoucs de Malacca et aux pneus hollandais, qu’Adrien Arnaud cherchait à se nicher, à se faire la place d’avenir que le patron, son ancien camarade d’enfance, lui permettait de se tailler, tout à fait comme jadis, à Sérianne-le-Vieux, quand il lui offrait sa revanche aux boules, le cochonnet lancé...

It is the ending of the sentence I care about. From what I understand, the passage more or less says that Adrien is hoping to find a place for himself in this company and that his old friend led him to understand that he will find it (or something along these lines), just like how when they were young one of them would let the other win when they had a rematch at boules.

I suppose I am not being accurate, but more than that, what bother me is that I don't understand who let whom win. Is it that even back then Adrien's old friend let him win, establishing a pattern that he'd always taken care of him, or that it was Adrien who had let him win, suggesting the tables have now turned?

Naturally, I would also be happy to hear corrections regarding my understanding of the other bits of (the end of) the sentence. But, assuming my understanding is more or less correct and it indeed says one of them let the other win, what I mostly care about is who it was.


I don't think anyone let anyone win.

"Offrir sa revanche" only means allowing to other one to have a rematch. It's merely an opportunity to beat him. It's still kind of a gift, because if you win the first round you should have won, so it's somewhat kind to offer your opponent another shot at winning.

No to your other point. The problem still holds, because grammatically il could refer to both. However with context, it's pretty clear that it's his old friend who let him have a rematch. Right now he's offering his friend a job in his company, just like he offered him a rematch in their youth. It's an opportunity.

  • I see. Thank you. But isn't it a bit strange to write "quand il lui offrait sa revanche aux boules, le cochonnet lancé..."? If I understand correctly, this means "when he offered him a rematch, then something (the ball flew/he threw the ball?)", so that the emphasis is on this latter part (which I think means that he threw the ball, possibly to start the game) rather than on the fact he offered him a rematch... – Salamano Aug 26 at 15:51

The meaning is not straightforward but I don't think that Adrien's childhood friend let him win when they played boules.

The way I understand things is that they would play a game of boules, Adrien would lose and instead of having to ask for a second game, a revanche, to be followed by a third one, a decider or a belle as it's called in French, if Adrien won the second game, his friend would throw the cochonnet which means a new game is starting. In other words, Adrien's friend took it upon himself to start a new game, thereby giving Adrien a chance to be the overall winner in the best of three games of boules that they could end up playing.

The linkage I see with what comes before in the text is that Adrien's boss is willing to give him a chance to be involved in the company and part of the game.

  • Thank you. So, you feel this establishes a pattern rather than suggest the tables have turned? – Salamano Aug 26 at 15:48
  • Moreover: do you get the impression from the passage that either one was better than the other at boules? – Salamano Aug 26 at 15:48
  • @Salamano. The impression I get is that one is and was more successful than the other so maybe there is some kind of pattern in Adrien's mind. – user21018 Aug 27 at 8:55
  • I see. Thank you! – Salamano Sep 2 at 15:14

Being said that I could well be over-reading :

Les points de suspension avec lesquels se termine le paragraphe me laissent penser à une charge implicite.

De fait... celui qui, aux boules, lance le cochonnet, choisit le terrain. Et, s'il cherche, à tout prix, à gagner il va choisir son terrain. C'est encore à dire, qu'il lance le jeu sur une configuration de terrain qui lui est avantageuse.

Donc, et même si je m'accorderai avec les autres contributeurs pour dire que l'ami d'Adrien ne le laisse pas gagner... on réalise tout de même que tout va dépendre du terrain choisi au lancé du cochonnet... car... si (et c'est je crois pouvoir dire le cas) il choisit le terrain le plus favorable à Adrien... sans chercher à perdre, il lui donne tout de même... une chance de plus.

En appui de ma lecture, je signale un mémoire de Céline Cachat sur Aurélien (l'oeuvre d'Aragon dont il est ici question) intitulé le kaléidoscope et le mentir-vrai.

Mentir-vrai ? Allez! Je... vous laisse votre chance... !

The ellipsis ending the sentence you quoted makes me think of some implicit charge.

As a matter of fact, the one who throws the cochonnet chooses the field and if he wants to win, he will choose the field being the more advantageous to himself.

So, and even if I will agree with the other contributors to say that the friend of Adrien does not let him win ... we understand that everything will depend on the chosen field, because ... if (and I think I can say it's the case) he chooses the most favorable field for Adrien ... without trying to lose, he nevertheless spontaneously offers some significant advantage to him.

The title of Cachat's memoir is important to catch in that sense. Word for word it renders something like to lie truely... would this be what USians call... alternative facts ?

  • Hi, your reply seems very interesting to me from what I managed to understand and may well explain what the author was getting at. Is there any chance you (or someone else?) can translate it for me? Because I don't think I understood it very well... – Salamano Aug 26 at 15:53
  • Thank you for the translation! Your answer helped a lot. So you do think it was Adrien who got the benefit, and not vice verse, then? To me it seemed a little vague. – Salamano Sep 2 at 15:13
  • What is Cachat's memoir? – Salamano Sep 2 at 15:13

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