THE MERCY OF GOD by Jean  au


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The only mise-en-scene in this novel, the 1961 Goncourt prize, is a prison in which four men, exiled from life, are also exiled from reality. (This inevitably will bring to mind Sartre's No Exit, particularly since Jean Cau was Sartre's secretary and protege.) Murderers all, they do not know who they killed or why, and now they spend much of their time just killing time, telling their individual stories but each time concealing the truth from themselves and each other. Alex, a fighter, keeps in training in the cell, preparing for some future about: Match, a journalist, keeps them informed with imaginary news broadcasts; Eugene, an amatory construction worker, reviews his conquests, etc. keeps them informed with imaginary news broadcasts; , an amatory construction worker, reviews his conquests and capabilities diminished by his wife, Jeanne; and the Doctor, who at the close will be chosen to play the role of God, nerves himself against his next epileptic fit. A fifth criminal joins them and they quickly drive him to suicide and return to the condition of peaceful solidarity they have achieved together.... Whatever meanings are to be inferred from this allegorical grand guignol (only death makes love possible and enduring; earthly happiness is fragile; existentialist self-determination can be postponed from the present to the future), there are some powerful scenes in which delusion and reality seem inseparable, along with some cadaverous humor and invention. It is a book likelier to attract a press than a readership.

Pub Date: April 17th, 1963
Publisher: Atheneum