Love and Terror

Atlantic Monthly, Author, Alan Jolis, Author
Atlantic Monthly, Author, Alan Jolis, Author Atlantic Monthly Press $24 (256p) ISBN 978-0-87113-715-9
Reviewed on: 06/29/1998
Release date: 07/01/1998
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The Place de la Concorde, where the guillotine stood during The Terror of 1793, is the central image in this black comedy from Jolis (Speak Sunlight). Known then as Place de la Revolution, the execution site is a barbaric vortex, capturing not only its victims but also the imaginations of the mesmerized victimizers, especially Robespierre's enforcer, Joseph Fouch . Charged with guarding Queen Marie Antoinette before her trial, the priest-turned-revolutionary springs into action when she is whisked away by her lover, the Swedish Count Fersen. Quickly replacing her with a double, her handmaid Nenette (with whom he has unwillingly fallen in love), Fouch plunges into the chaos of revolutionary Paris (at one point, seen through the eyes of the American pamphlet writer Tom Paine) to hunt down the queen and steal her back from Fersen. As the hunt unfolds, the souls of the two opponents--the powerful zealot tortured by feelings of jealous inadequacy and the otherworldly aristocrat blind with love for the queen--are revealed. Written in white-hot heat of remarkable clarity, without quotation marks or other guideposts to distinguish inner and outer worlds, the novel leaves a curious, unfinished effect, rather like a fragment of a larger whole or an inspired first draft. Inspired it is, however: a sophisticated, original account of the erotic dimensions of one of modern history's recurring nightmares. (July)
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