THE JOKER by Jean Malaquais


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The only way in which this novel can be understood is to accept at the start one of two things:- either it is an elaborate nightmare -- or it is symbolism carried to the nth degree. There's a kind of logic in its illogic. Pierre Javelin, cosmetic salesman, goes progressively through the steps of losing his identity -- and with the complete turn of the wheel, accepts the loss with all its concomitants (his apartment is occupied by strangers, his wife has disappeared and when discovered does not see him, his signature is denied, his name is not accepted, his job is gone) -- but retains, or perhaps regains, the right to be himself. The only real person he encounters in his progress though his nightmarish non-existence is Theresa who recognizes his right to be. The title- as it was in the original French -- One Against the City, suggests that the City is the darkness of the world, and Pierre is man striving to emerge into some conviction of his right to be. What is the market? An illusory one, for few will be persuaded to take this modern parable as it stands, with acceptance of it as such -- without conclusion. For at the end, Pierre has faced and been denied, by all the strange characters he has encountered; he has no accepted identity, no money, no place. Only the cat, Solomon, grants him recognition as a living being. And with the cat- and his belief in himself- he departs.

Publisher: Doubleday