THE FOUR SERGEANTS by Zeno

THE FOUR SERGEANTS

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KIRKUS REVIEW

Through three chapters of stodgy set-up (""Was there anything additional to be added?""), you'd swear that Zeno's planning to perpetrate a British blow-up-a-bridge WW II logbook, all knapsacks, fuses, and heroics. But press on, for this is one fictional secret mission--Sicily, 1943, anticipating Patton--where everything goes grim, beginning with the commanding officer's fatal parachute drop and the assumption of power by Sergeant Hill, a half-mad martinet. Hill drives the troops relentlessly, even though the enemy is onto them, even though their Mafia mercenaries turn mutinous, even though Sgt. Cole is on a stretcher, Sgt. Dickins is discovering he's a coward, and Sgt. Black (""I was born Moisha Schwartz!"") is disobeying orders left and right. It's downhill all the way to empty mission-accomplished, as the entire brigade--including Jewish refugee volunteers who fear capture by Germans more than grenades--forms a massive tableau of angry, numb, and confused death. Zeno's journeyman prose can't parlay the body count into anti-war tragedy, but, even at dirt level, so much authentically chronicled pain and unheroic courage works a dispiriting spell. (A bestseller in Britain, where the War hasn't been overshadowed by subsequent skirmishes.)

Pub Date: Feb. 26th, 1976
Publisher: Atheneum