LAZARUS by Jerome Hartenfels


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You can always count on blurb writers for the wrong pedigree. Orwell, Koestler, Beckett, and Kafka are impressive names, but they certainly did not father this awkward, agitated excursion into absurdist melodrama. Lazarus, an oddly hipsterized West Indian, arrives in London on an identity kick, struggles with an assortment of cinematic melees, including a race riot and a whiny white chick (perfect casting for our kitchen-sink heroine, Rita Tushingham), only to be systematically mystified by the nefarious, pseudo-symbolic, mind-washing activities of the ""Institute."" The novel's first half bears a family resemblance to the drab social fictions of Waterhouse of MacInnes, the allegorical second part surely suggests Nigel Dennis' Cards of Identity. In neither of these disparate realms does Hartenfels really succeed, though there are stretches of persuasively racy dialogue, some glimpses of accurate contemporary portraiture, and a few sardonic ideas, mostly having to do with the nutty monastic order which runs the Institute and the underground totalitarian interests they harbor. Obviously Lazarus is meant to be archetypal modern man bumbling about in the twilit urban world of fantasy and reality, wracked with violence, economic oppression, pornographic dreams, and the inevitable loss of self. But that sort of comic horror is becoming hoary, and its intellectual meaning in these pages merely bobs up like telegraph poles in a flood. We leave the imprisoned hero as an ""answering service for would-be-suicides""--an all too apt job.

Publisher: Hill & Wang