cover image Distant Friend

Distant Friend

Claude Roy. Holmes & Meier Publishers, $19.95 (154pp) ISBN 978-0-8419-1196-3

Narrated in an amused, ironical tone that belies its tragic content, Roy's short, powerful, extraordinary novel is both a rich exploration of friendship and a hymn to our genocidal century. Etienne, the provincial French narrator, represents passivity and stolid conservatism; pushed into the Resistance in WW II, he later deems the Nazi Occupation ``a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury.'' His best friend, Stefan, a German Jew who fled Hitler with his parents, could not be more dissimilar to Etienne; he is cosmopolitan, adaptable, an idealistic lawyer and jurist who marries an American socialite. Each man is the other's alter-ego, and both seem personas of French novelist-poet-essayist Roy, who himself went from ultra-rightist to Communist to disillusioned moderate. Stefan's bloody fate as an emigre in post-Peronista Argentina, where his activist teenage daughter warns him of the junta's fascism, gives the story a contemporary political edge. (Aug.)