Joseph Kessel writes the way Jean Gabin acts with deep, worried, jut-jawed authority, like a father of novelists, and yet with some attention to the more tremulous undertones of storytelling. This is the first volume in a tetralogy which promises an enormously busy design. The main story is a ritual-- the education of a young man, Richard Dalleau, and his growing knowledge of man, war, family, love, friendship, Paris and sensual pleasure. The time: 1914 until the Armistice. Surrounding Richard are his younger brother, his bourgeois parents, his best friend- Etienne, the brooding, esthetic, radical son of a Minister, and several girls, married and unmarried. Richard and Etienne go off to the war together; Richard becomes an officer; Etienne sneeringly remains a private; Richard defends Etienne during a court-martial and saves him. But this is only a partial indication of the story which depends on incidents, rather than climaxes, and where one character leads to the introduction of another. There are also scenes in which both addiction and perversion are calmly observed and chronicled. Mr. Kessel creates situation upon situation with the expert brilliance of a good screen writer, which he also happens to be.