A CONCERT OF HELLS by Beth Archer Brombert


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A thoughtful novel with nowhere to go, hence very slow and tentative reading. Michael, a poet and diplomat, gets caught short when the government of his unnamed European country shifts to a more authoritarian mode. He's exiled to a distant island, a place of plainness, where he writes in his diary and eventually even converts the island's military commander, a colonel, to consciousness of moral responsibility. Meanwhile, Michael's ex-ballet-dancer wife, Marina, spends some of her suddenly husbandless wifedom experiencing a converse freedom (a guilty, short-lived affair, a pregnancy, a miscarriage) before finally refocusing on Michael's plight. Brombert, a translator from the French and author of the tangled non-fiction Cristina (1977), clearly means to bring up matters weighty and profound here--liberty, privacy, action, the artist's situation. But only Marina's brief and explosive giving-in to lust takes on real life, so there's no active, human framework for the thematic brooding. Result: a small chamber-production of abstractions, serious and intelligent. . . but inanimate.

Pub Date: Oct. 1st, 1980
Publisher: Hamish Hamilton (North Pomfret, Vermont 05053)