Short Happy Life

Alain Gerber, Author, Jeremy Leggatt, Translator Mercury House $14.95 (0p) ISBN 978-0-916515-35-5
In this intelligent, odd French novel, accounting clerk Ghichka Piktopek, a latter-day Job, befriends Karl, a monkey, and together they make a fateful, picaresque journey through Europe in the shadow of Nazism. Along the way, they encounter two allies, Ghichka's old flame and scores of soulless peopleall of whom Karl literally apes with his uncanny talent for mimicry. In the hands of a wise writer like Gerber (Rumor of an Elephant), this unlikely premise is the starting-point for a sharp satire of society's hypocrisy and of our innate violence. Watching Karl mime the players in the upcoming war, Ghichka muses in horror, ""If this is . . . the mirror of the world, is there any room anywhere for my own reflection?'' Like many narrators who strive to remain apolitical, Ghichka links personal history to world events; like Dostoyevsky's Underground Man, he offers glum observations on the individual in a ferocious world. The dark parable is well-served by Leggatt's smooth translation. (May)
Reviewed on: 04/25/1988
Release date: 05/01/1988
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