The brothers Grimm meet Kosinski's The Painted Bird in the Hungarian-born Kristof's latest installment of the lives of identical twins Lucas and Claus (The Notebook, 1988). Separated by the postwar Communist invasion of their unnamed Eastern European homeland, Lucas and Claus lead very different lives. Lucas, who chooses to stay behind and bear witness to the horrors of life under the regime, keeps journals that later become the only proof of his existence in a place dedicated to eradicating the individual. At first, an archetypical innocent trying to survive by doing good, he remains in a cottage on the border (a landscape as menacing as that of a Grimm tale) where his mother and baby sister died (their skeletons are literally in the attic). Here, he witnesses shootings, feeds a local priest, and takes in Yasmine and her deformed baby Mathias, the product of Yasmine's incestuous love affair with her father. Incest is a recurring theme, as is necrophilia: a brother rapes his dead sister, and Lucas himself has a long affair with a woman who resembles his dead mother. When Yasmine leaves to find her father, Lucas and Mathias move to town, but Mathias, increasingly unhappy at school and jealous of Lucas's friendship with another child, hangs himself. Haunted by Mathias's fear of abandonment, Lucas exhumes Mathias's body and keeps it in the house, but then mysteriously leaves, thereby missing twin-brother Claus, who turns up again years later and adds another chapter to Lucas's story. The authorities suggest that the entire text is fiction: ``since neither the events described nor the characters portrayed ever existed in the town of K.'' Powerful writing, disturbing images, but this survival theme has too many familiar antecedents, and sexual aberration as a metaphor of times out-of-joint is equally worn.
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