COUP DE GRACE by Marguerite Yourcenar
Kirkus Star


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Erik Von Lhomond grew up in an atmosphere of warmth and comfort among his aristocratic Balkan relatives. When he was called to Germany for military training, he was yet too young to be a full-fledged member of the German army and, as an alternative, aligned himself with some German officers to weaken the advance of Bolshevism in the homeland of his youth- Kratovitsky. Here Erik renews his friendship with Conrad and finds that Sophie, Conrad's sister, has become a beautiful young girl in the interim. She falls deeply in love with him but her declarations are manifestly implicit and subdued. Erik is attracted in a strange sort of way and an interplay fraught with confusions and ambivalence develops. Hurt by his almost sadistic indifference, she yields to the promiscuity created by the disturbing irregularity of war. Erik's blatant deference to Conard, cast with an air of omniscience, is so disturbing to the forthright and ardent Sophie that she abnegates her political heritage and joins the Bolshevik camp. This act, political in its exterior, is a personal revenge upon Erik whose cruel unresponsiveness sprang from an unnatural attachment to Conrad. When Sophie is brought before him for pre-execution questioning she ignores their tumultuous relationship. In front of the firing squad she requests that Erik be the one to use the revolver and bares her breast to him in a final retributive gesture. We are reminded of the prose, content and even format of Gide's Immoraliste. Readers of Miss Yourcenar's book Hadrian's Memoirs will not be disappointed, though in mood and tempo this is startlingly different.

Pub Date: July 22nd, 1957
ISBN: 0374516316
Publisher: Farrar, Straus