THE OUTCASTS by Stephen Becker
Kirkus Star


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One of the prime tests of the talented novelist is how well he can revive worked-over materials which Becker did in Covenant with Death, and does again here. Becker can get in and out of people, recreate the sound of conversation in dialogue, and sketch a situation with an economy of detail. He's done as well again from another potentially trite takeoff point--a middleaged personal failure off to build a bridge against odds. ""Morrison emanated solitude, divorce, tasteless liquor and fruitless love, floppy ladies in shrill hats. He was assailable."" He arrives in a never designated, newly independent country, probably somewhere in Africa. Morrison's agitated irritation with everything, especially himself, gradually subsides under the discipline and outdoor schedule for building the bridge be designed. The building crew is an assortment of native labor and includes Phillips, a sophisticated Negro engineer, Ramesh, the tradition-bound Indian boss and Tallboy, the country's foremost (and only) big crane operator. Morrison's plunge back to nature brings him close to sentimentality when he discovers and tries to protect a primitive tribe on the other side of the new bridge. He re-discovers his lost virility there and reads innocence into the tribe's ignorance. This is something the new country's politicians and citizens refuse to indulge. The first customers for Morrison's beautiful bridge are army tanks set on clearing out what they call ""bush niggers."" Morrison's noble savages are to be assimilated--and cured of endemic syphilis. Sic transit Morrison, victim of 20th century idealism and irony. Short, sometimes very funny and a reflecting man's book.

Pub Date: March 20th, 1967
Publisher: Atheneum