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It is fiction and the main character is a Swiss named Frank--but what this still boils down to is the Confessions of Regis Debray, the sharp young Frenchman whose Bolivian connections with Che Guevara in the late Sixties overshadowed even his much-discussed Castroist tract, Revolution in the Revolution. Here, however, Debray--and his journalist protagonist--have come to disillusionment with the orthodoxies of revolution. Working as a liaison cadre in an oil-soggy South American state, Frank finds himself hemmed in between different factions advocating disastrous urban terrorism, jungle guerrilla action, and electoral reform. ""Europe,"" he muses during the liberal muse-time here, ""is an illness. . . . I came to be immunized against."" But the vaccine isn't near strong enough. He never understands the fecklessness of the other cadres, the emotionlessness of his girlfriend, the whole pace of the life. When a gun deal he engineers goes fatally sour, casualties pyramid, including Frank's own demise during a mane-a-mane revenge sequence, Debray proves himself a fairly decent novelist when faced with action scenes--a miserable jungle slog, an insane street s skirmish--but his dialogue is flat and his interest in any character but Frank merely polite. Frank's taste-of-ashes is the book's flavor, the roundness of a European peg in the square hole of Latin politics. Throughout, though, Debray and Frank never question the Marxism that brought them to despair in the first place--and this insight that goes so far and no further makes the romanticism, adventurism, and self-pity all the more pathetic.

Pub Date: April 1st, 1978
Publisher: Viking