THE FIRE WITHIN by Pierre Drieu La Rochelle


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This piquant, perverse, and rather sterile short novel, in translation from the French, spends a little more than a day and a night with a drug addict, Alain. He seems to have a certain ""fluid and furtive glamor"" even though he is not equal to its implications. He has been kept by women-- kept in drugs. He also has spent some time in the sanitarium of a Doctor de la Barbinais (the opening scene, one of refined repellence) but he is a perambulatory patient and takes off for Paris with his syringe and his revolver. Here he sees old friends, other addicts, makes intermittent contacts, and there are the thoughts of his impotence, his diminishing vitality, his mediocrity, his loneliness, as well as the ambivalence of the addict: the ""paradoxical taste for life which, having denied it in one realm, reproduces it in another."" This then pursues the life/addiction hook to the life/death alternative; the revolver will replace the syringe when suicide becomes the ""only act of those who are unable to perform any other."" La Rochelle handles this with a certain boutique decadence and a tired resignation (the novel is subtitled ""autobiographical"") which is true to the experience its if but perhaps self-defeating to the book.

Publisher: Knopf