THE DESCENT by Gina Berriault


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A short story writer's first novel is more properly a fable for our time set in the year 1964 when Arnold Elkins, an associate professor with a grassroots background, is chosen as the Secretary for Humanity. Uninterested in himself and interested in every-one else, he seems to project the right image as a missile age envoy and is to spread the gospel of deterrence- i.e. with more missiles the possibility of war is less. Arnold, a rather hapless figure, goes on tours, makes speeches, attends conferences- but the public is much more willing to listen to the evangelist Roundup who preaches The Descent into the shelters and offers them a ""groundhog existence"". Finally his daughter's letter to the Times (destroy the bombs) ends his career in dismissal by the President and disavowal by the public....A pointed and pertinent lesson, this makes only a glancing contact with the characters involved but it is a smarting satire put to ideological and moral use and illustrated with some of the chilling cliches of the times (i.e. ""the nuclear bomb is the great equalizer""). As such, it can be considered as both a clever riposte and a serious rebuke.

Pub Date: Sept. 23rd, 1960
Publisher: Atheneum