UNDER THE GYPSY MOON by Lawrence Thornton


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Civil War Spain and Nazi-occupied Paris are the settings for Thornton's second novel, which (like his well-received Imagining Argentina, 1987) is a meditation on the ability of the artist and his legacy to overcome the guns and tanks of the dictator. More precisely, the novel is an elegy to Garcia Lorca (murdered by the Fascists in 1936) and an attempt to link his fate with that of an imaginary German/Spanish writer, Joaquin Wolf. The opening section sketches Wolf's divided heritage (reactionary Berlin banker father, Spanish mother) and shows the ""torero"" in him triumphing after a meeting with Lorca at a 1936 Madrid writers' conference. Days later, the poet is dead; a visit to the site of his execution seals Wolf's commitment (""Lorca's death stained his soul like a birthmark""), and he fights with the rebels until wounded in Guemica. The novel's longer (Paris) section introduces the narrator, Ursula Krieger, another German expatriate; the one notable thing about Ursula is that she worked in a brothel in post-WWI Berlin (to feed her daughter Monika) and ever since has been haunted by the Men in the Clock (her former clients). Ursula meets Wolf, who is now, having returned from Spain, busy memorializing Lorca through a series of essays in an underground newspaper; the two become lovers; Ursula exorcises her demons; and as the Gestapo closes in, they leave Paris (along with Monika and son-in-law Claude) for Lisbon and passage to America; but then Wolf is gunned down by the Guardia Civil at the Spanish border (there's that Lorca connection). This has no pretensions to be a suspense novel (we're tipped off to Wolf's death at the outset) or a love story; Thornton is trying to pull off something much trickier, a narrative enactment of certain ill-fated, aesthetically patterned correspondences, not just between Lorca and Wolf, but between Ursula/Wolf and two characters hi a Lorca poem. However, despite Ursula's assertion that ""this is no torturing of facts into a false symmetry,"" the novel comes across as precisely that: a cart-before-the-horse exercise in which the high-flown imagery cannot disguise all the contrivance.

Pub Date: Oct. 12th, 1990
ISBN: 0553550012
Publisher: Doubleday