The Cattle Car ($49.95; paper $15.95; June 1997; 154 pp.; 0-8101-6030-7; paper 0-8101-6031-5): Another view of WW II and its aftermath, in the first English translation of a novel (originally published in 1953 in France) by a critic and teacher who therein turned his own experiences and his reflections on them into a seductive metafiction. We observe the would-be writer of a novel about the war observing his own friends and neighbors, noting their strategies for survival and quotidian priorities (such as the relief, so to speak, of access to public urinals) and musing over the difficulty of capturing in coherent fictional form the lives of people concerned with ``fatigue and varicose veins, gas bills to pay and waits in line to speak to someone at city hall.'' But the book isn't at all hermetic: It is further enlivened by vividly drawn characters and a commonsensical appreciation of the mundane satisfactions of simply making do and getting by.
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