by Robert Irwin ‧ RELEASE DATE: Oct. 1, 1988
Blood-soaked, lightning-fast, first-person philosophical thriller that reveals the cynical, self-justifying mind of a political fanatic in the apocalyptic landscape of Algiers 1959-60, by the author of The Limits of Vision and The Arabian Nightmare. Philippe Roussel, an intelligence officer in the French Foreign Legion, spends his days torturing FLN terrorist Al-Hadi at the Legionnaire redoubt of Fort Tiberias. At night, he makes love to Chantal de Serkissian, whose ""fascist good looks"" reflect her bourgeois ideology (she adores PÃ‰tain). No lowbrow lout, Roussel sees his grisly job, described in excruciating detail, as a necessary form of ""person to person anthropology""--necessary, as it turns out, for the FLN itself: Roussel is in fact a double-agent, turned fanatical Marxist as a remit of brainwashing by the North Vietnamese after the fall of Dien Bien Phu. Nothing stands in the way of his revolutionary quest, and so what if he was brainwashed: ""Life brainwashes everyone."" When Chantal exposes him at a Legionnaire staff meeting, he slaughters his commanding officers and escapes into the Sahara. After delirious wanderings, he is rescued by nomads and brought to Al-Hadi's widow, who first addicts him to morphine and then turns him over to French patriots. Roussel escapes again, this time by stabbing his captor in the ear with a hypodermic--after conducting a surreal debate on the merits of Marxism--and flees to Algiers, where the nightmare accelerates: he befriends an ex-drug pusher who worships Queen Elizabeth, invades a hospital to drain a man of blood, finds Chantal with her tongue ripped out, and escapes with his right-wing enemies into the Algerian chaos. Miles removed from the cheeky action of Fleming or the weary machinations of le CarrÃ‰, this is espionage down the rabbit hole, into the pit of hell. Every major character is convinced of his or her rectitude, and every one is contemptible. A courageous look at a world of horrors, saved from unbearable blackness by a spare, energetic style and a fleet-footed plot.
Pub Date: Oct. 1, 1988
Page Count: -
Review Posted Online: N/A
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 1988
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