The Bastards

Bertene Juminer, Author, Bertne Juminer, Author, A. James Arnold, Editor University of Virginia Press $21.5 (239p) ISBN 978-0-8139-1204-2
Even the translator of this French-language work concedes that ``it would be futile to try to pretend that this is a major novel. . . . The breadth . . . is just not there; nor are there the finely drawn characters we end up referring to as if they actually existed.'' In this semi-autobiographical fiction, several young black men, natives of French Guiana, study in Montpellier just after WW II; they have affairs with white women; they entertain passions for Sartre's writings. In Montpellier and in Guiana, to which they return, they ponder the dilemmas posed by being beyond the cultural tradition of one's ``mother'' country (Guiana) while being denied equal footing with the citizens of an unaccepting ``father'' country (France). Juminer ably conveys the black man's alienation in white society: ``God had created man in his image. What a joke! . . . Not even a slight family resemblance! One had only to look at Balthazar in the nativity scene!'' But the prose is wildly uneven: ``What was this charm that excited him once he was far from a woman, yet paralyzed him when she came close? Was Charlotte's authoritarian love a match for the other love that had forced him from the family house?'' (Feb.)
Reviewed on: 02/01/1989
Release date: 02/01/1989
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