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"In the city of my birth, I had a dream..."
In Our Strange Gardens by Michel Quint 
30th-Jun-2006 11:59 pm
At $2.99, this little paperback tome with it's acid-free paper fell into the "Why not buy?" category...but, unfortunately, it also falls into the "Why bother reading?" category as well.

Quint, Michel. In Our Strange Gardens. Trans. Barbara Bray. New York: Riverhead Books, 2001.
Summary: Originally entitled Effroyables jardins. During the Nazi occupation, Michel's father André and his brother Gaston sabotage the generator at Douai station. They are unknowingly captured and held hostage until the real perpetrators come forward...and if they don't, they will be killed. This grim situation is lightened first by a Nazi guard who used to be a clown and by a man injured during the generator explosion who is dying anyway gives himself up for the brothers' sake. Gaston then goes on to marry the man's widow, and André moonlights as a clown.
Comments: Err? Err? ERR!??? Okay, maybe I'm missing some important lesson or theme that French people (and possibly Europeans in general as well) extract from this little novel (short story? novella?) because they understand WWII differently than I do, but, as far as I'm concerned, this was not profound or beautiful. It was jut BIZARRE. Yes, yes, I understand that acting the clown, in light of the events that once transpired, becomes an act of resistance against soul-smothering tyranny and an unusual symbol of human compassion and love...but. But, really, I think what is happening here is that the author is trying to ascribe some absolute, noble meaning to certain events of his childhood and of his family's past, and not quite succeeding. The search for meaning in life has been a human pursuit for at least as long as we've had words to record it, and Quint is not going to find it in a sparse eighty pages. And you're not going to find it in this English/French bilingual edition, either.
Notes: trade paperback, PBO, 1st American edition, 3rd printing
Rating: 5/10 - Okay, if you like war stories--MAYBE. Otherwise, I see no point in joining the crowd that has already read this "International Bestseller."
1st-Jul-2006 01:38 pm (UTC)
Review archived.
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