ARENA by Maurice Ghnassia


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A well structured version of the story of the Roman slave Spartacus and the slave revolt (88-73 B.C.)--blessedly many leagues from the sweaty pectoral school of Howard Fast. However the colloquial translation does not help matters. Phrases like, ""a simple police action,"" or ""the thought never entered my head,"" color Ghnassia's somber reconstruction with blotchy journalese. Even the more passionate speeches, when delivered in operatic gasps (""He gave me everything I have, yes everything I have belongs to him, yes. . . "") lull rather than arouse. However, the author, in paralleling the careers of Crassus (who defeated Spartacus), and the slave gladiator, does achieve artful unity in tone and action and creates some memorable scenes, such as the final orgy of crucifixions. M. Ghnassia's historical sense and lack of sentimentality is commendable, but one wishes that the fury of the bloodletting--and there is plenty of it--were matched by intense and believable human realities. Grim, stark--and remote.

Pub Date: July 23rd, 1969
Publisher: Viking