THE FOX IN THE ATTIC by Richard Hughes
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The first novel in a panel which will be known as The Human Predicament is an event of great distinction, over and above the fact that it marks the reappearance after many years of a writer who has already achieved more immortality than most with one book-High Wind in Jamaica. While its immediate purpose is to retrace the history of Europe between wars, and to parallel that with personal stories at several social levels both in the changing England and the New Germany of the '20's, it has a broader design. Hughes' ""Human Predicament"" is the alienation of civilized man from the primitive concept that man exists only as a part of his environment. Modern man's ""self"" consciousness is his ""tight little stockade"". Many of the characters are viewed in terms of this imprisonment, from Augustine, his central figure, a young man who has always prized his independence and solitude, to Hitler, who dominates the central section of the book. Hitler's first bid for power, the Beer Hall putsch, his escape to Uffing and his arrest, are based on recorded history and will of course ironically prove the assertion of the collective over the individual. Before and after, the story is chiefly Augustine's, from the time when he leaves his chosen isolation in a Welsh village to go to visit some distant cousins in Germany, the aristocratic Kessens. While the older members of the family are once removed from the current violence, Franz, one of their children, is involved in the Hitler movement and one of his friends, the fox in the attic, is a victim of its savage mystique. However Augustine, always the non-participant, also avoids complete commitment when he falls in love with the daughter of the house, Mitzi, who becomes totally blind during his stay there. His hesitation spares him the decision he is really unready to make, while an act of grace, her repudiation of self and her acceptance of the divine identity, reconciles her to her tragedy.... It is a work of genuine magnitude, filled with remarkably distinct and different characters and many striking scenes. And it is integrated by this writer's vision of life at various levels of man's experience.

Pub Date: Jan. 31st, 1961
Publisher: Harper