A first appearance in English by the late French writer and early minimalist Bove (Armand, 1987; My Friends, 1986) of a novel published in France in 1945, a few months after his death, that stunningly delineates the eventual heroism of an Everyman. In terse but subtle prose, which only heightens the tension as Bove's luckless hero Joseph Bridet, a journalist, sinks deeper into the quicksand, Bove describes an ordinary man trying to survive in extraordinary times. When the Germans invade France in 1940, Bridet flees with his wife, Yolande, to Vichy France. There, he hopes to pass himself off as a devoted citizen of the collaborationist regime so that he might get a passport to go to Africa, where he can join the Gaullists and fight for France's liberation. But he is unable to sound convincing enough, and his contacts soon suspect his motives. Meanwhile, his own unease grows, and in a series of chilling bureaucratic encounters he decides that he is under suspicion and should return to Occupied France. But Bridet is not safe there either: no one can be trusted; the Germans become suspicious; and he is interned. When German soldiers are killed by the local resistance, Bridet is made one of the hostages. Nervous- -and cowardly all his life--Bridet then has one of ``those simple ideas that, depending on how much of ourselves we put into them, seem either inspired or insignificant. It suddenly restored strength to him. The idea was that, whatever he might do, he could no longer escape death, and that, since he must, he might as well die bravely. And this is what he did.'' The Kafkaesque dealings with the bureaucracy, all laconically detailed, and the hero's inevitable death with its stunning but almost offhand epitaph make this a book of quiet but tremendous presence. A small masterpiece.