SYLVA by Vercors


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A content, character and satiric temperament, is most closely descended from Vercors' You Shall Know Them which appeared in 1953 and presumably reached the widest audience of all his books as a BOM selection. This too, with its evolutionary concerns, gently raps man's hopes with the recessive laws of heredity, and in the particular story hers reverses the pattern of Lady into Albert Richwick, an English country gentleman, witnesses the transformation of a fox, hunted down by a pack of hounds, into a lovely creature, Sylva, whom he takes into his home as his niece. Untamed, certainly not housebroken, she is a desirable but redolent place. He confides her origins only to the nurse he hires, and to his old friends, Dr. Sullivan and his daughter, Dorothy, whom he had once loved. His attempts to domesticate her are only slowly rewarded and the Pygmalion temptation is also a trap- he falls in love with her. Sylva shows increased progress, from curiosity to awareness to self consciousness, and with the realization of her identity, there is the painful corollary- human existence is mortal. On the other hand Dorothy, perhaps because of his indifference to her, relapses into the drug world she had once frequented. He visits her, experiences with her a regression into bestiality which is of course an ironic parallel. Finally he returns to Sylva, to marry her, and the genetic betrayal at the close puts a stop to all this speculation with a certain finality... A fantasy or fable which diverts rather more than it instructs, prods and chastises, is here handled with the expected intelligence and verve.

Publisher: Putnam