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Gabriel Chevallier, Author, Imrie Malcolm, Translator, John Berger, Introduction by
Gabriel Chevallier, trans. from the French by Malcolm Imrie. New York Review Books, $16.95 ISBN 978-1-59017-716-7
Paperback - 320 pages - 978-1-84668-726-6
Open Ebook - 401 pages - 978-1-84765-643-8
Compact Disc - 978-1-4815-0930-5
MP3 CD - 978-1-4815-0931-2
Compact Disc - 978-1-4815-0932-9
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Chevallier’s (best known for Clochemerle) book, published for the first time in the U.S. with an award-winning translation by Malcolm Imrie on the centennial of World War I, represents that rarest of war narratives—one that is indispensable, nearly unprecedented, and painfully relevant. Based on Chevalier’s experiences on WWI’s front lines, the novel was met with controversy upon its original publication in France in 1930. The plot unfurls in linear war-story fashion: our “malcontent hero,” Dartemont, is unceremoniously dispatched to the trenches, “where rotting corpses serve as bait.” He’s subsequently wounded, and convalesces in a hospital among insane youths and acquiescent matrons, only to return home a changed man. There he is treated with baffled embarrassment by his family, and shipped back to the sustained nightmare of the front lines. What makes Chevallier’s book a masterpiece is the lucidity of the author’s eyewitness account; its prose moves from practical concerns like picking lice to poetic reverie in the space of a paragraph, capturing the chaos of war and the stillness of the battlefield, revealing a terrible beauty. (May)
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