WHERE THE SOIL WAS SHALLOW by Jose Maria Gironella


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...plants grew quickly but, having no roots, withered away. In Paris a boy was born of a loveless marriage. After the father died he was sent to a Capuchin school in Spain where he, prophetically, exhibited inordinate talents. But he had nobody and nothing, neither a country, a home, a father and virtually no mother. From this rarefied psychological milieu emerged an inexorable but futile quest for solid ground and identification. He became a Jesuit novitiate and soon gave it up, thereby initiating the pattern of transitory and provisional behavior always condoned and supported by his triple inheritance of wealth, intelligence, and good looks. After his mother's death he wandered here and there -- in Dublin a student, in Paris a bookseller, en route a circus owner. He acquired and discarded women as they no longer augmented his popularity...Yvonne, Jeannette. He was improvident, capricious, and hypocritical. No compassion prompted his charitable acts just as no conscience censored his sins. All he wanted was a history, and, having none, provided it for himself. Appraised by a Christian ethic, voiced by his friend the Painter, Miguel sinned the sin of Vanity which he recognized but quickly forgot- it being so impalpable and impossible to cleanse. He searches for relatives in his father's Catalonian village and leaves us finally in Barcelona immersed in the black market -- seeking an anchorage he never had and never will. There is enough understanding and fine writing here to forgive the obvious and contrived allusions to an Oedipus complex, but the book is overlong and thematically repetitious -- cancelling possibilities of a popular market. Contrary to his first book The Cypresses Believe in God there is no nationalism or politics. Strictly psychological and mostly for highbrows.

Pub Date: Oct. 14th, 1957
Publisher: Regnery