Friday, April 3, 2009

A Very Long Engagement

Un long dimanche de fiancailles by Sebastien Japrisot was first published in France in 1991 by Editions Denoel (sorry that I cannot put in the French accents with this keyboard). It was translated into English by Linda Coverdale.

This novel is set in World War I France, and introduces us to the lives of several soldiers, the horror of war and the mystery of their deaths. And we meet Mathilde, the young girl left at home to await the return of her boyfriend, Manech, from the war. She does not believe it when she is told that he has been killed. She tries to find out what really happened to him. A lot of intrigue is revealed as the story unfolds.

When we first meet Manech on page 15, we learn that:

he'd already spent more time at the front than the pitiful buffoon staggering along ahead of him, and, given his fevered imagination, he was even more tortured by fear than his companion.

And then there is a list of all his fears. It is such a compelling list that we know we would feel the fear too:

He was afraid of the war and of death, like almost everyone, but he was also afraid of the wind, that harbinger of gas attacks, afraid of a flare tearing through the night, afraid of himself, for he never knew what he might do when he was afraid, afraid of his own side's artillery, afraid of his own gun, afraid of the whine of aeriel torpedoes, afraid of mines that explode and engulf a whole section of infantry, afraid of the flooding that drowns you in the dugout,....

No comments:

Post a Comment