cover image Fields of Glory

Fields of Glory

Jean Rouaud. Arcade Publishing, $18.95 (154pp) ISBN 978-1-55970-165-5

The ``Fields of Glory,'' reads a five-centime patriotic souvenir, ``Where the blood of France flowed in rivers from 1914 to 1916.'' The setting may be the rainy lower Loire Valley of the 1950s, but it is the WW I battlefields of Artois, Meuse, Lorraine and Yser that form the emotional backdrop to this poignant testament to the vitality of life that death cannot dim. A first effort by a then unknown newspaper vendor that went on to win the 1990 Prix Goncourt, Fields of Glory begins as a collection of utterly charming reminiscences of the eccentricities of family elders told by an unnamed and indeterminately aged narrator. In pure and graceful prose, beautifully translated by Manheim, Rouaud describes crotchety grandfather Burgaud with his equally difficult car, a cramped and leaky CV2, and maiden great-aunt Marie with her card file of saints--``A prefatory catalogue of terrifying symptoms refers the reader to the saint specializing in the corresponding disorder. The work of a lifetime.'' It is in the midst of this comedy of daily life that the melancholy subtext of three generations slowly emerges: the stories of the two young men who were casualties of the Fields of Glory and the family that remains to remember them. (Apr.)