A King Alone

Jean Giono, trans. from the French by Alyson Waters. New York Review Books, $14.95 trade paper (182p) ISBN 978-1-68137-309-6
This strange and disquieting novel from Giono (Melville) is set in an unnamed Alpine village and begins in 1843, when its residents begin disappearing. First, a young woman disappears, then a pig is slashed, then a hunter disappears. Captain Langlois is called in to investigate, and the killer is found. The serpentine novel then jumps years forward with Langlois now in charge of protecting the village from wolves, and then leaps forward again to relate Langlois’s ill-fated search for a wife to marry, leading to a startling finale. Rather than episodic, the twisting narrative reads like a game of telephone passed through generations, with Langlois at the center as a sort of legendary totem to the villagers. Intriguingly, his inner thoughts are never revealed, and the villagers can only guess at what he is thinking. Highlights include stellar landscape descriptions (“All around us the larks were making noise like knives squeaking in green apples”) and some spectacular scenes, including a wolf hunt and a chilling sequence that begins with a grisly discovery in a beech tree. Giono’s novel is a startling and exhilaratingly enigmatic experience. (May)
Reviewed on : 02/12/2019
Release date: 05/28/2019
Genre: Fiction
Ebook - 978-1-68137-310-2
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