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The Acacia

by Harriet Wilkins

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From Publishers Weekly
In this gripping, rigorous novel by French Nobel laureate Simon ( The Battle of Pharsalus ; The Wind )--long a practitioner of the nouveau roman --traditional time dissolves. Textured collage-like scenes, saturated in history, shuttle nonchronologically through the years between 1880 and 1982. If linearly assembled the story would develop thus: Two sisters labor on their estate, sacrificing to educate their brother for the military. Assigned to far-flung tropical colonies, he consorts with native women, returning to France to marry an idle, voluptuous aristocrat. They have a son, and all three depart for a colonial island off Africa. After four years of marriage the father dies in France during WW I, his corpse lost. The son grows up to serve in WW II and, repairing finally to his ancestral home, contemplates an acacia tree that blooms in stillness, as if time were at last captured here. Interwoven are arduous journeys, by automobile, by train, by horseback, by boat; of armies on the march, of wagons of the maimed or dead, of the widow in search of her husband's body, of the French manning their empire. Postcard and photographic images abound of battle carnage, of provincial and equatorial life, of connubial intimacies. Simon's style discloses the immanence of the past in present time: the copious present participles, the unreeling of sentences at prodigious length. The novel, his 15th, rewards a strictly attentive reading.
Copyright 1991 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Library Journal
Simon, Nobel Prize winner (1985) and proponent of the French New Novelist Movement, adds two more novels to his works translated into English. Both contain autobiographical elements and are written in his distinctly convoluted, stream-of-consciousness style. The Aca cia deals with the brutalities of war, which disrupts the natural order. The time frame alternates between 1914 and 1942, the two wars that the protagonist experiences as history is doomed to repeat itself. The narrative begins with the search for the grave of his father, killed in World War I, and parallels his own involvement in World War II. The Invitation is a slim volume dealing with a postwar theme, Russian glasnost, and is a biting satire of a group trip made by the author and 15 luminaries to the Soviet Union in 1986. They submit to an itinerary of ballet, speeches, and hospitality, but Simon shrewdly peels away the shiny skin of perestroika to reveal its rotten core. He cautions the reader against overlooking the totalitarian themes in a society that seeks to conceal its true motivations. The work of Simon is complex: his sentences often run to over 1000 words, he switches tenses, and the narrative voice is often unclear, compelling the reader to become intensely involved in deciphering the novel. Both works are experimental paradigms that offer unique ponderings of the absurdity of the human condition. Recommended for academic libraries and large public libraries with scholarly fiction collections.
- Mary Ellen Beck, Troy P.L., N.Y.
Copyright 1991 Reed Business Information, Inc.

Language Notes
Text: English (translation)
Original Language: French



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