Gabriel Chevallier’s ‘Fear’

0720-bks-Keneally-master495Thomas Keneally at the New York Times:

In the era before cheap air travel, those in the English-speaking world who wanted to taste authentic French village life read Gabriel Chevallier’s gently satirical novels, published between the mid-1930s and the early 1960s. “Clochemerle” and “Clochemerle-Babylon” were deft, wise and celebratory in what people thought of as the French style. On the town of Cloche­merle, in the Beaujolais region, the issues of French politics, class difference and coming or past collaboration with fascism lay more lightly than did eccentricity, pride in local wine, cooking and love.

So “Fear,” never previously published in the United States, is at first acquaintance a shock. Here national rhetoric is not directed for or against the building of a municipal restroom, as in ­“Clochemerle.” Instead it shreds the bodies of young men. This unadorned yet memorable novel is one of a number of savagely frank novel-memoirs of the war that appeared throughout Western Europe within a year of one another. Frederic Manning’s “The Middle Parts of Fortune” shook English readers in 1929. In the same year, Erich Maria Remarque’s “All Quiet on the Western Front” seemed treasonous to the fascists of Germany.

more here.