A would-be Rabelaisian novel from French writer Bruckner (Evil Angels, 1987), who has an interesting idea—defy death by refusing to be born—but smothers it with gratuitously explicit sex, grotesque physical details, and old-hat intellectualism. Young Madeleine, aware since the age of eight that ``life is a trap,'' only marries Oscar Kremer to escape her miserly parents. But, once pregnant, she has a ``brainstorm.'' She realizes she can prepare her child for the uncertain world ahead by giving him in utero all the advantages of education that are usually reserved for later. And this she proceeds to do with fanatical zeal. Enlisting the help of her aging obstetrician, Madeleine not only reads aloud the great books but also drinks various potent chemical cocktails as well. Speakers are then attached to her womb so that the baby can listen to music and learn foreign languages while Madeleine rests. The results are instantaneous: Barely three months pregnant, she hears voices begging for ``more, more.'' A sonogram reveals that she is carrying twins, immediately named Louis and Celine, and their education intensifies as the twins devour information with stunning speed. Louis is attracted to Hegel, Celine prefers the sciences, but as their birth approaches, Louis refuses to be born. Even God, enlisted by Madeleine, fails to dissuade him. Rejecting existence, Louis settles down to study in his familiar den, which has become a well-equipped laboratory and library. Now an international sensation, Louis, convinced he is ``the end of history,'' promises to find the word to end the world. But sex and hubris short-circuit Louis's task. The life of the mind is insufficient, and though Louis still has the last word, as it were, it is not in the way he'd expected. One of those too-clever novels where the writer is more intent on strutting his stuff than telling a convincing tale.

Pub Date: Nov. 7, 1994

ISBN: 0-316-11404-9

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 1994

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A first novel, this is also a first person account of Scout's (Jean Louise) recall of the years that led to the ending of a mystery, the breaking of her brother Jem's elbow, the death of her father's enemy — and the close of childhood years. A widower, Atticus raises his children with legal dispassion and paternal intelligence, and is ably abetted by Calpurnia, the colored cook, while the Alabama town of Maycomb, in the 1930's, remains aloof to their divergence from its tribal patterns. Scout and Jem, with their summer-time companion, Dill, find their paths free from interference — but not from dangers; their curiosity about the imprisoned Boo, whose miserable past is incorporated in their play, results in a tentative friendliness; their fears of Atticus' lack of distinction is dissipated when he shoots a mad dog; his defense of a Negro accused of raping a white girl, Mayella Ewell, is followed with avid interest and turns the rabble whites against him. Scout is the means of averting an attack on Atticus but when he loses the case it is Boo who saves Jem and Scout by killing Mayella's father when he attempts to murder them. The shadows of a beginning for black-white understanding, the persistent fight that Scout carries on against school, Jem's emergence into adulthood, Calpurnia's quiet power, and all the incidents touching on the children's "growing outward" have an attractive starchiness that keeps this southern picture pert and provocative. There is much advance interest in this book; it has been selected by the Literary Guild and Reader's Digest; it should win many friends.

Pub Date: July 11, 1960

ISBN: 0060935464

Page Count: 323

Publisher: Lippincott

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 1960

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While a few weeks ago it seemed as if Praeger would have a two month lead over Dutton in their presentation of this Soviet best seller, both the "authorized" edition (Dutton's) and the "unauthorized" (Praeger's) will appear almost simultaneously. There has been considerable advance attention on what appears to be as much of a publishing cause celebre here as the original appearance of the book in Russia. Without entering into the scrimmage, or dismissing it as a plague on both your houses, we will limit ourselves to a few facts. Royalties from the "unauthorized" edition will go to the International Rescue Committee; Dutton with their contracted edition is adhering to copyright conventions. The Praeger edition has two translators and one of them is the translator of Doctor Zhivago Dutton's translator, Ralph Parker, has been stigmatized by Praeger as "an apologist for the Soviet regime". To the untutored eye, the Dutton translation seems a little more literary, the Praeger perhaps closer to the rather primitive style of the original. The book itself is an account of one day in the three thousand six hundred and fifty three days of the sentence to be served by a carpenter, Ivan Denisovich Shukhov. (Solzhenitsyn was a political prisoner.) From the unrelenting cold without, to the conditions within, from the bathhouse to the latrine to the cells where survival for more than two weeks is impossible, this records the hopeless facts of existence as faced by thousands who went on "living like this, with your eyes on the ground". The Dutton edition has an excellent introduction providing an orientation on the political background to its appearance in Russia by Marvin Kalb. All involved in its publication (translators, introducers, etc.) claim for it great "artistic" values which we cannot share, although there is no question of its importance as a political and human document and as significant and tangible evidence of the de-Stalinization program.

Pub Date: June 15, 1963

ISBN: 0451228146

Page Count: 181

Publisher: Praeger

Review Posted Online: Oct. 5, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 1963

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