THE SHORT HAPPY LIFE OF MISTER GHICHKA by Alain Gerber

THE SHORT HAPPY LIFE OF MISTER GHICHKA

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KIRKUS REVIEW

Alain is the funny, quirky French writer whose captivating novel Rumor Of An Elephant was published here last year: his second American outing is a witty tale of a man whose life is taken over--by a chimp. The hapless Ghichka is a downtrodden accounting clerk in an unnamed comic-opera Eastern European country. One day he meets a total stranger named Benazar Folykhulo, who takes him to the zoo, where Ghichka is introduced to an amazing monkey known only as Karl. Karl is a brilliant mimic who does an eerie impression of Ghichka himself, at his accounting desk--so accurate that the poor clerk cannot escape the idea that he is ""no more or less than the human facsimile of the animal."" Ghichka faints and is taken to live with Benazar. who dies in an absurd accident six months later. And who should then show up on Ghichka's doorstep but Karl. The two begin a hilarious relationship, which brings nothing but trouble to Ghicka: he loses his job (he arrives at work wearing a different hat, and he's such a nonentity his employers fail to recognize him); he marries, but his wife can't stand Karl's monstrous mimicry of her, and throws them both out. They wander the streets until Karl imitates a doctor and gets a job as a surgeon at a prestigious hospital, where he ends up murdering his mentor. The two then escape to the country: Karl makes his living by astonishing peasants--by this time he's able to imitate whole tableaux, such as ""tuna fishing off Iceland""--and Ghichka withers sadly away, realizing just before his death that he is less important than a monkey. A funny, enchanting fable, with an underlying mordant theme.

Pub Date: May 2nd, 1988
Publisher: Mercury--dist. by Kampmann (9 East 40 St. New York, NY 10016)