THE FROG WHO DARED TO CROAK by Richard Sennett

THE FROG WHO DARED TO CROAK

By
Email this review

KIRKUS REVIEW

Sociologist Sennett (The Fall of Public Man, Authority) ventures, uncertainly, into fiction--with a book that purports to be the collected personal papers of a Hungarian intellectual named Tibor Grau (seemingly based, at least in part, on Georg Lukacs). These papers detail, mostly through indirection, Grau's constantly uneasy but always surviving position vis à vis state power: to Grau, ""a face without a mask gets frostbitten from the cold""; after all, as the homosexual son of a prominent Jewish banker of Budapest, he has become accustomed to degrees of masquerade. And the book's most effective section presents Grau as a functionary in Bela Kun's short-lived Hungarian Soviet of 1919: he doctors a poem (rendering it ridiculous) to fit propaganda purposes; he watches the same basic revisionism allow a murder to be pinned unjustly on a friend; he wholeheartedly attempts to alter fairy tales. (The title's thematic allusion: a frog who is himself cannot help but croak.) Does Tibor eventually ""croak,"" then--by speaking out as a free and a different man? Well, yes and no--which is presumably Sennett's modulated point. Yet the book's intellectual texture and pattern is a hindrance here: the effect is consciously self-contained and patchy--with more emphasis on carpentered paradigms than On the painful inconsistency of a full, individual life. (Tibor's sexuality, for instance, is all but totally tangential.) Thoughtful intentions, then--and socio-historical interest--but very limited appeal as fiction.

Pub Date: June 1st, 1982
Publisher: Farrar, Straus & Giroux