Blood Dark

Louis Guilloux, trans. from the French by Laura Marris. New York Review Books, $18.95 trade paper (544p) ISBN 978-1-68137-145-0
The vivid, intricate world of a small French town is roiled by the events of one day in 1917 in Guilloux’s wonderful tragicomic novel, told in a series of interlocking narratives. A failed academic philosopher turned schoolteacher, Monsieur Merlin—called Cripure by his students—is fielding an awkward visit from his illegitimate son, Amédée, who is about to return to the front, one of the many young men called up to fight in World War I. Surrounded by a cast of local personalities, the drunken, well-intentioned Cripure must also contend with shocking news about an old lover, and with mortal danger in the form of a duel with his nemesis, the lecherous and obsequious Nabucet. Meanwhile, amid the wartime atmosphere of mindless patriotism, townspeople’s loyalties are called into question: young Lucien Bourcier, Cripure’s former student, turns toward revolution, while the school principal and his wife try frantically to intervene before their son is executed for treason. Guilloux’s great skill is in rendering, without judgment, the complicated humanity of his characters in all their foibles and small triumphs: he is equally incisive when depicting an old maid in love with her cruel young boarder and an upstanding military officer who employs his own illegitimate son as a chauffeur. No easy solutions are offered to the dilemma of living. (Oct.)
Reviewed on: 10/23/2017
Release date: 10/01/2017
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