cover image The Cave of Heaven

The Cave of Heaven

Patrick Grainville. Dalkey Archive Press, $19.95 (240pp) ISBN 978-0-916583-56-9

The setting of this Prix Goncourt-winning author's English-language debut is the French village of Aguilar, where a cave has been discovered containing the remains of a 500,000-year-old man. Suddenly the town is overrun with visitors, some connected to the dig--excavators; the journalist Simon; tourists--and some not--an escaped Basque terrorist; a bike gang; a lynx. Most come with sexual peccadilloes which they play out within the drama of the excavation. The result is a melange of musing and metaphor on sex (the title, for one), ancestry, death. ``Bones and kisses. That's their hobby. Orgies, sepulchers. Archaeology and caresses.'' Characters here are subordinate. Myriam, the Cameroon artist attached to the excavation, is a parody of the noble savage, ``flesh with no transcendence, purely animal.'' Simon, her lover and the book's protagonist, smacks of an oversexed Des Esseintes with his sterile, repetitious (and frequently dull) observations. The reductio ad pudendum and Grainville's self-conscious, staccato prose are occasionally effective, never affective. (Aug.)