Email this review


..""a European education. That's something you receive when they shoot your father, or when you kill somebody, or when you die of hunger. It's a good school; you really become educated.""--This is half of the lesson learned by young Janek, fourteen, at the hands of the Germans during the last war. The other half, which ultimately surmounts the reality of death, is that ""nothing important ever dies""- his father's words, and that man's faith in freedom and fight to preserve it is unconquerable. This new novel of Romain Gary's, which was originally written in 1943 and reworked last year, belongs with his earlier books- The Colors of the Day, The Company of Men, rather than the more recent and more successful Roots of Heaven and Lady L. It records, in fragmentary scenes, the winter spent by Janek with the partisans in the Polish forests; his love for Zosia, a young girl, who has been sleeping with the Germans to get food; his tutelage at the hands of Dobranski, the student, with his songs and stories of courage; of Czerw who is shot down- accidentally- by neighboring partisans; of Tadek, the tubercular, who refuses the help of his father, a Nazi collaborator; and particularly of Partisan Nightingale, a legendary presence, ""forever free and undefeated"", the ""spirit of man himself"". It is something more and something less than a novel- an allegory for our time which has been invested with an air of nobility and a sense of invincibility and it speaks with the simple, singleminded dedication of all those who shared in this struggle. Romain Gary's name may assure a wider response than it might have had otherwise.

Pub Date: March 14th, 1960
Publisher: Simon & Schuster