SET FREE BARABBAS by Ivan Roe

SET FREE BARABBAS

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KIRKUS REVIEW

There's nothing really imitative here, and yet inevitably there will be comparisons drawn with For Whom the Bells Toll and Aldridge's Sea Eagle -- comparisons more of mood and tempo, than of actual content and symbolism. The time- the present; the setting- an unidentifiable island in the Mediterranean, just off the mainland, dominated by alien authority, and important only as a symbol of the gap between the haves and the have-nots. To the have-nots, the dispossessed natives, Daniele Maroo's stealthy return from bondage is a call to revolution, to the coming of the time when they shall rise against their overlords, and take over that lotus land end of their island where expatriate Europeans disport themselves. The story is told in sharply etched episodes, the focus shifting from the mounting tensions of the revolutionaries to the indolence and apathy of the secure in authority, the playground inhabitants. There is unrest, insecurity, an indeterminate quality in the very approach to concrete plans for an uprising, and then incidents precipitate rebellion, and it comes to a head -- and dissipates into failure. But against this sharp rise and more abrupt fall -- minor incidents are highlighted:- a pianist at the frustrated and of a career seeks to recover his emotional security in a love affair; a pair of gigolos ply their trade; a disillusioned and bored English beauty finds momentary excitement in first shielding Daniele from the authorities- then snatching at brief passion; an American journalist drowns his inadequacies in drink- and misses his one chance; an obese police official momentarily uses the brains he was given to out-think and out-plot the plotters. And at the end, when the doctor who was really the spearhead, and Daniele who was the catalytic agent, both meet their end, it is the false patriot, Alberto, who becomes a hero- and the priest, Father Aldo, who finds a certain kind of identity with the man whose motives he probes even at the point of death. There's some brilliant writing here, but an odd obliqueness of approach creates an illusion of arrested motion that robs the story of the pace, the development it suggests.

Pub Date: Feb. 1st, 1949
Publisher: Harper