The station wagons arrived at noon, a long shining line that coursed through the west campus. In

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The station wagons arrived at noon, a long shining line that coursed through the west campus. In

single file they eased around the orange I-beam sculpture and moved toward the dormitories. The

roofs of the station wagons were loaded down with carefully secured suitcases full of light and

heavy clothing; with boxes of blankets, boots and shoes, stationery and books, sheets, pillows,

quilts; with rolled-up rugs and sleeping bags, with bicycles, skis, rucksacks, English and Western

saddles, inflated rafts. As cars slowed to a crawl and stopped, students sprang out and raced to the

rear doors to begin removing the objects inside; the stereo sets, radios, personal computers; small

refrigerators and table ranges; the cartons of phonograph records and cassettes; the hairdryers and

styling irons; the tennis rackets, soccer balls, hockey and lacrosse sticks, bows and arrows; the

controlled substances, the birth control pills and devices; the junk food still in shopping bags-

onion-and-garlic chips, nacho thins, peanut creme patties, Waffelos and Kabooms, fruit chews

and toffee popcorn; the Dum-Dum pops, the Mystic mints.

I've witnessed this spectacle every September for twenty-one years. It is a brilliant event,

invariably. The students greet each other with comic cries and gestures of sodden collapse. Their

summer has been bloated with criminal pleasures, as always. The parents stand sun-dazed near

their automobiles, seeing images of themselves in every direction. The conscientious suntans.

The well-made faces and wry looks. They feel a sense of renewal, of communal recognition. The

women crisp and alert, in diet trim, knowing people's names. Their husbands content to measure

out the time, distant but ungrudging, accomplished in parenthood, something about them

suggesting massive insurance coverage. This assembly of station wagons, as much as anything

they might do in the course of the year, more than formal liturgies or laws, tells the parents they

are a collection of the like-minded and the spiritually akin, a people, a nation.

I left my office and walked down the hill and into town. There are houses in town with turrets

and two-story porches where people sit in the shade of ancient maples. There are Greek revival

and Gothic churches. There is an insane asylum with an elongated portico, ornamented dormers

and a steeply pitched roof topped by a pineapple finial. Babette and I and our children by

previous marriages live at the end of a quiet street in what was once a wooded area with deep

ravines. There is an expressway beyond the backyard now, well below us, and at night as we

settle into our brass bed the sparse traffic washes past, a remote and steady murmur around our

sleep, as of dead souls babbling at the edge of a dream.

I am chairman of the department of Hitler studies at the College-on-the-Hill. I invented Hitler

studies in North America in March of 1968. It was a cold bright day with intermittent winds out

of the east. When I suggested to the chancellor that we might build a whole department around

Hitler's life and work, he was quick to see the possibilities. It was an immediate and electrifying

success. The chancellor went on to serve as adviser to Nixon, Ford and Carter before his death on

a ski lift in Austria.

At Fourth and Elm, cars turn left for the supermarket. A policewoman crouched inside a boxlike

vehicle patrols the area looking for cars parked illegally, for meter violations, lapsed inspection

stickers. On telephone poles all over town there are homemade signs concerning lost dogs and

cats, sometimes in the handwriting of a child.

Don DeLillo, White Noise, Picador 1989, pp. 3-4


Traduire de "Babette and I and our children..” (1. 26) jusqu'à "... the handwriting of a child"

(fin du texte).


1. How would you define the quality of the narrator's presence in this passage?

2. Which world, or worlds, has the author conjured up through the use of description,

characterisation and linguistic devices?

3. Conformity and subversion in these opening pages of the novel.
4. "We have a rich literature. But sometimes it's a literature too ready to be neutralized to be

incorporated into the ambient noise. This is why we need the writer in opposition, the novelist

who writes against power, who writes against the corporation or the state or the whole

apparatus of assimilation. We're all one beat away from becoming elevator music.”


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