IT'S HELL AGAIN WITH MAURIAC.
By CLARE SIMON
LINES OF LIFE. by Francois Mauriac, translated by Gerard Hopkins (Eyre & Spottiswoode, 12s. 6d.).
IT would be almost impossible for anyone but a Catholic to endure Mauriac.
As one after another of his earlier novels comes to light,
he becomes more and more recognisably a "regional" novelist; not regional in the sense that most of his books take place either on infertile plains or in valleys, over-populated with vines and under-populated with humans, under an incessant enervating sun, but regional in the sense of being entirely concerned with Heaven and Hell, damnation and dogma, piety and prayer.
"Destins", translated into English " i.irres of Life." is a sermon in itself and only the frivolous reader can discern the outlines of a very good story beneath all the moralising.
BOB LAGAVE was one of those tiresome young men who grow up to despise their parents. He has reason for it as, we are told, his father resembles nothing so much as a cockroach with spectacles. But this does not excuse his taking up with a dissipated set in Paris. making a lot of money through house-decorating (instead of virtuously growing vines), and generally falling into every sort of vice. He also falls genuinely in love, rather late in the day, with a strong-minded, attractive girl and makes use of his convalescence in the country with his grandmother to court the girl, Paula de la Scsqe, with the connivance of his aunt Elizabeth Gormac, a pious but understanding woman.
All is going well with the couple when Elizabeth's son. Pierre. a misfit for the priesthood. comes home and righteously enlightens Paula as to Bob's true character. Paula goes away to think things over. Pierre tells Bob that what he has done is for his own good, and invites him to repent of his sins. Not surprisingly, Bob knocks him down. Rushing furiously back to Paris to take up his old life of dissipation, Bob crashes into a level-crossing and is killed. Pierre and Elizabeth are left with the dry taste of moral triumph turning sour in their mouths. Paula marries a rich land owner, and the sun shines on, pale and merciless. with the too-profuse vines crawling beneath.
* * * IT'S a depressing story. one feels, but not all that depressing. Mauriac devotes the last few pages but two to accounts, through various eyes, of the wretched Bob's funeral (he was buried, at enormous expense, among the vines) and the last two pages to what Elizabeth Gormac thought when she went to look at his grave some years afterwards.
In short, it's a parody of Mauriac who was afterwards to write the exquisite and restrained "Galigai."
One or two touches stand out: the description of the odious Pierre leaving the room " carrying his scruple with him to the bottom of the garden, as a dog carries a hone," a picture which conjures up thoughts of nicer Catholics, and the delightful phrase : " To those who live in God, everything has its uses."
MADAME SOLARIO (Heinemann. 16s.).
FROM the sacred to the light heartedly profane-and to the much discussed and carefully anonymous "Madame Solario."
This is a story set in the years before World War 1, a frothy pageant of picnics and boating about and on Lake Como. Everyone is rich, gay and young-the women arc beautiful, the men gallant. There is tragedy which disrupts the calm and creamy surface. But the florid style is not equal to this demand that is made on it, and the earlier chapters are much the most amusing. Pre-eminently a woman's book and a Book Society choice.
THE FLUITERINGS OF THE HEART, by Felfden Marceau (Barker, 12s. 6d.).
RACK to France and a jacket BACK
a caged heart and the Eiffel Tower and a style of which the following passage is a fair example. A father has just attacked a man for seducing his daughter and has suggested that he might fairly, having ruined, marry her.
"I was flabbergasted. Marry her? Nevertheless, when I hail recovered from my surprise, the idea gave me pleasure. A sharp furtive pleasure. To live with Denise? Every day, 'But, M. de Gaugrand, I am married.'
'You could obtain a divorce.' 'God! He'd thought it all out'.' Naive, but logical. And fun, too, if one is prepared to suspend
serious literary criticism until the moment when the delicious wit and "grotesquery" of the book takes over and makes any criticism superflous. One must keep a clear mind, too, to keep up with the intrigues. Sad to say. I vastly preferred this book to Mauriac.
MY DEAR DOROTHEA, by
Bernard Shaw (Phoenix, 9s. 6d.). SUBTITLED "A practical system of moral education for females," this is one of Shaw's first literary efforts. produced when he was 21. 11 is a letter to an imaginary little girl of 5 and abounds in such maxims as: "If you are told that any book is not fit for you to read, get it and read it." The real merit of the book is that jt is written in a style which a child would in fact enjoy reading and could identify herself with, no asset in view of the advice given, but a signpost towards a real writer. It is delightfully illustrated by Clare Winsten.
On The Faith
LORD THAT I MAY SEE, by Dr. N. G. M. van Mona (Herder, 9s. 6d.).
SUB-TITLED " The Faith of the Catholic," this book sets out to explain from the beginning the faith of the Christian in simple terms and in fashion acceptable to the post-Christian.
It begins in part one, with the foundation of the Kingdom, the acceptance of first of all the Supreme Power. then the Loving Father; tells in modern terms of the Creation, the Fall, the Promise of a Messiah.
It proceeds logically to the coming of Christ and His work of Redemption: the coming of the Holy Ghost and the foundation of the Church.
The second and third parts of the book are concerned with the Kingdom on Earth, the sacraments, the virtues, and the Kingdom in Heaven.
This is one of the most interesting and the most thorough of the explanations of the Faith for our times.