cover image Holy Innocents

Holy Innocents

Gilbert Adair. Dutton Books, $17.95 (154pp) ISBN 978-0-525-24788-3

The title characters of this rich, furiously concentrated first novel, set in Paris during the student uprisings of 1968, are 17-year-old twins Guillaume and Danielle and their friend Matthew, a 19-year-old American film student studying at the Cinematheque Francaise. Living in a huge apartment and virtually unnoticed by their father and his new wife, bored sophisticates Guillaume and Danielle pursue an obsessive incestuous relationship that becomes even more complicated when sexually confused Matthew moves in; in the author's deft phrasing, he is in love ``with the single person Guillaume and Danielle would have been had they not been born twins.'' On their own, the three explore avenues of homosexuality, rape, incest and sadism that pull them away from the outside world and into starved, frightened squalor. When they finally reemerge, the Paris they see is almost unrecognizable. Adair depicts this scorching sexual triangle and the games that lead into it with knife-point psychological precision and gorgeously spun prose, but he also portrays the teenagers with a compassion that keeps the title (a reference to Cocteau's The Holy Terrors , which parallels and clearly inspires this work) from being wholly ironic. (Apr.)