The last two novels of French writer Bove (The Stepson, 1994, etc.), contemporary and friend of Gide and Beckett, evoke in...

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NIGHT DEPARTURE and NO PLACE

The last two novels of French writer Bove (The Stepson, 1994, etc.), contemporary and friend of Gide and Beckett, evoke in stunning, characteristically minimalist prose the plight of an intellectual antihero forced to act by war. Published separately after Bove's death in 1945, these final works of his career have an interconnected plot as well as the same narrator/protagonist: Ren‚ de Talhouet, a French soldier on the run. Together, they describe the acts and attitudes that will culminate in Talhouet's eventual choice of the only liberty possible for a man of his sensibilities. In Night Departure, Ren‚, a German prisoner of war, persuades a group of his French fellows to escape. But Ren‚ kills two German guards, and though the prisoners escape, their long walk through Germany is shadowed by knowledge of the retribution that awaits them if captured. Cowardly, prickly, and sensitive to the point of paranoia, Ren‚ is obsessively and increasingly fearful and suspicious. He can't sleep because he fears the comrade on watch will be negligent, and he often goes hungry because he mistrusts the local peasants' help. After an arduous journey, he reaches Paris, but No Place suggests that freedom in occupied France is as elusive as in a German camp. Ren‚ stays with friends and relations but never feels safe. His fears, as he himself observes, are not only real but existential: ""...the problem with thinking too much is that in the end you never do anything and you always look suspicious."" Finally, he's caught, imprisoned, then released, but it's too late: Freedom is not possible in France, and so Ren‚ flees to Spain, where certain imprisonment and death await. A masterful, always understated, portrait of a man as much imprisoned by his own inner demons as by circumstances. And a reminder of how tragic Bove's early death was.

Pub Date: June 1, 1995

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: 467

Publisher: Four Walls Eight Windows

Review Posted Online: N/A

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 1995