Pagina-afbeeldingen
PDF
ePub
[graphic]

BOOKS ABROAD

Sous le soleil de Satan, by Georges Bernanos. Paris: Plon, 1926. 10 francs.

(E. Jaloux in Les Nouvelles Littéraires) This volume is, I believe, the first novel that has been written about sainthood - the first real novel, I mean, not just a literary biography couched in more or less novelistic terms, such as Huysmans's Sainte Lydvinne de Schiedam. And anyone who considers for a moment the difficulty of the undertaking will be surprised to find that M. Bernanos has almost succeeded. Sous le soleil de Satan is significant in this sense, that it is consistently admirable in those passages one would suppose to have been almost impossible to write, and mediocre in passages that one would have supposed to be very easy. The main thing to keep in mind is that sainthood does exist, and that to smile at it or to deny it would be the same as to have no belief in genius simply because one has not happened to know Dante or Goethe. But to understand what constitutes it is no easy matter; it is absolutely necessary to get at the central phenomenon that recurs in the personalities of all saints. Now I believe no competent person will contradict me when I say that M. Bernanos has made this central phenomenon as clear and as comprehensible as anyone could make it without being himself a saint - —or at least without being one yet, since of course no one can foretell the future, and for the moment I assume that M. Bernanos is no saint on the ground that he writes novels.

cacy of line that put them in an intermediate class that is almost unknown in our language.

The fictitious narrator, Adrien Zograffi, after having told us of Kyra Kyralina and of his family in a narrative full of warm Oriental coloring, then of Uncle Anghel, now introduces us to the Haïdoucs, who are chivalrous and justice loving brigands living in the mountains of Rumania – outlawed protectors of the oppressed. Each of the Haïdoucs rises and tells his story. Unfortunately there is a good deal of similarity in these tales, and the result is a little monotonous. There is also a respectable number of outraged women and a certain abuse of untranslatable Rumanian expressions that give his pages the typographical appearance of some translations from the Russian. We should point out, on the other hand, a very marked improvement in the French

[ocr errors]

Laudin und die Seinen, by Jakob Wassermann. Berlin: S. Fischer.

[Times Literary Supplement] HERR WASSERMANN, who is known to English and American readers by a number of novels of German social life, — above all by his Goose-man,

might well have called his latest novel, Laudin und die Seinen, simply Marriage. For the problems of married life, the validity and value of the institution of marriage itself, are the book's sole theme. Herr Friedrich Laudin was a typical member of the German professional class, a successful barrister in the prime of life, who had managed after the war to maintain his reputa. tion, gained round about 1910, as an able advocate who specialized in divorce questions. His constant touch with these marriage problems gradually brings him ‘up against his own position. He is a respectable married man, and has two daughters in their teens and a younger son; while his wife, Pia, is a devoted creature, but with not much outlook beyond her home and her children. Laudin little by little drifts away from Seinen, from his own circle, and gets enmeshed with a well-known actress, Lulu Dercum, on whose account the youthful son of his friend Fraundofer had shot himself. This part of the story and the comments of Laudin's daughters on the fatal episode incidentally shed an interesting light on German youth and the child-suicides' with which the German press used to preocccupy itself so much. How Laudin gradually falls under

La Présentation des Haïdoucs, by Panast Istrati. Paris: Rieder et Compagnie, 1926.

(Semaine Littéraire) Mr. Panait ISTRATI, the Rumanian romancer, is now a 'made' author; his works have been translated into ten languages, and an increasing number of readers wait impatiently for his new books. The truth is that Mr. Istrati has not only, as a foreigner writing our language, reproduced in France the 'miracle of Conrad' in England, but has rejuvenated a genre that was beginning to disappear from our literature — the genre of the pure narrative, where the story is of first importance and where 'setting' and 'psychology' play second fiddle. And in spite of everything Mr. Istrati has brought us back to the novel of adventure; his stories, in addition to their brevity, have an indefinable legendary savor and a deli

Lulu Dercum's influence, how she extracts money from him by her sexual wiles and leads him into most undesirable society — this far from original plot is skillfully unfolded against a background of other wrecked marriages. The dénouement is rather weak. Pia gives her husband his freedom, and, liberated from the formal compulsion of marriage, Laudin finds the way back to his own.' As an interpretation of the problem of marriage the novel is disappointing; as a representation of events in a typical marriage it suc. ceeds by reason of Herr Wassermann's excellent command of realistic but not excessively natural

istic prose.

Fathers of the Revolution, by Philip Guedalla.

London: John Murray; New York: G. P. Putnam's Sons. $5.00.

(Sunday Times) MR. PHILIP GUEDALLA, who has been hailed by Sir Edmund Gosse as 'the paladin to whom we look to deliver us from the dragon of historical dreariness,' is in the Macaulay tradition. He handles history imaginatively — recreates incident and character, instead of merely preserving them in his pages as fossils are preserved in a museum, and adds to a picturesque narrative style piquant satirical and epigrammatic gifts and a skill in the use of antithesis that remind one of the caustic wit and irony of Junius. Now and then his satire and epigram as when he writes, ‘Few persons, if one excepts the writers of historical plays, have failed to notice the dramatic qualities of history'. are forced and mechanical and have no bite to their bark; but as a rule, to mix the metaphor, they have a lightning brilliance, and there is potence in the flash of them. His Fathers of the Revolution is no formal history of the War of Independence, but goes behind the event to reveal its inner significance in a series of character studies of the more or less famous personages who were responsible, intentionally or unintentionally, for the foundation of the United States of America.

Man is the only animal that makes gods, says Mr. Guedalla, and ‘of all the gods which man has ever made the most singular are those which he makes out of other men. There are no gods in Mr. Guedalla's gallery except George Washington and, perhaps, Lafayette, for neither Burke nor Chatham has ever quite been deified, and it is in no spirit of iconoclasm that he robs Washington of something of his godhood in order to make something more of a man of him. “The father of his country has,' in Mr. Guedalla's

opinion, 'been deprived of his identity by his grateful children.

He was encrusted with moral tales which equally repel belief and admiration; his noble figure was draped in the heavy folds of those Teutonic virtues which the Anglo-Saxon imagination erroneously attributes to the Romans. .. He saved, in a military sense he made, the Revolution; and its happy heirs have repaid him with a withered nosegay of schoolgirl virtues. Misconceived panegyric has made him almost ridiculous; and chivalry dictates his rescue from the dull swarms of commonplace with which he has been belittled.

Having reëstablished Washington as a human being, Mr. Guedalla notes that ‘at his burial there were three volleys and a salvo of guns. But, with an informality that must seem curious in such a case, he never lay in state. The omission has been abundantly repaired; and it is his tragedy that his reputation has been lying in state ever since.'

Lafayette does not come through his biographer's hands so successfully. He emerges shorn of his beams and figuring as the sort of knighterrant who belongs to musical comedy. But one is a little reluctant to let him go at that. He may have been actuated more by hatred of England and a desire to benefit his own country than by love for America, but there is a certain idealism and gallantry about the youthful adventurer that atones for his vanities. He had his foolish side (who has not ?), and after the Declaration of Independence wanted to swagger before George III in an American uniform; but even the fact that Shakespeare angled for a coat of arms takes nothing from the real value of his achievement.

The ablest, most sympathetic, of these portraits are of George III and Benjamin Franklin. Admirable, too, are the deft sketches of Burgoyne and Cornwallis, whom Mr. Guedalla commends to America as worthy of statues in her public places, for ‘did they not lose the war and found the United States ?' As you gather from the devastating 'Footnote on Greatness' which supplements the essays, Mr. Guedalla is no extremist in the matter of hero-worship, but leaves himself wondering about Great Men, 'there used to be so many of them,' — and thinks the greatness of the Great Man ‘seems to become still more dubious if one watches him in action.' Here you watch him in action, and find that Mr. Guedalla takes nothing away from history except its dullness, and, at worst, simply humanizes our heroes by giving them their proper hats in exchange for their halos.

[graphic]

OUR OWN BOOKSHELF

Rosa, by Knut Hamsun. New York: Alfred A.

Knopf, 1926. $2.50. This latest novel by Mr. Hamsun deals once more with fields and characters that his readers already know well. Here again are the Norwegian village of Lofoten; Benoni Hartvigsen, vain and morose; the great trader Mack, a tsar and a despot; and the fish nets drying in the clear cold Northern sunlight. The dominant character of Rosa alone strikes a note of warmth and cheer. The novel, if such it may be considered, has little or no plot, and might better be called a journal. The dreariness of character and landscape, the fatalism and weariness of life, may well depress the reader. Withal the book has a fascination exactly as the Growth of the Soil had. Perhaps it rests on its exotic appeal, perhaps on the consistency of its grimness - more probably on the feeling of a strength and vigor, physical and mental, that rise insurmountable and shows the very core of a hardy and stalwart race.

Luca, an Italian born in London, whose paternity remains unknown and who consequently goes through life without a name, living in a group of Italian émigrés in Compton Street, sets forth on successive quests for love, for beauty, for success, for a country, and at last for God. The somewhat novel theme is food. The little Italian clan makes its livelihood dispensing food. In Gian-Luca's earliest recollections are the enticing odors of his grandfather's delicatessen shop. The faithful and boastful Mario, waiter in a thirdrate restaurant, initiates him into the profession. An important and impressive character is Millo, the proud proprietor of the fashionable ‘Doric' where Gian-Luca achieves notable success as head waiter. But most impressive of all is the hard, capable old grandmother, Theresa, forever embittered against Gian-Luca because his advent meant disgrace and death for her beloved Olga, but brought at last to make a fetish of her macaroni machine. A study in the disillusionment of a sensitive and compassionate soul, the sadness of which is tempered by art, for Radclyffe Hall, an English woman-novelist, new to America, is undeniably an artist.

A Brazilian Tenement, by Aluisio Azevedoo

Translated from the Portuguese by Harry W. Brown. New York: Robert M. McBride and

Company, 1926. $3.00. This story, by one of Latin America's greatest realists, is a chapter from life in a sunny cottageclose of Rio de Janeiro, where white and black, laborer, laundress, demimondaine, and decayed gentlewoman mingle on terms of social equality, and where sordid vice and primitive passion flourish in tropical luxuriance without stifling a spirit of cheery mutual helpfulness and human brotherhood. Interwoven with the dispersed plot is a portrayal of the relationship between native and immigrant, race and race, and climate and character, in a West of Suez quite as untrammeled by our conventions as any place east of that famous moral boundary. Altogether a worth-while book, with a sort of photographic veracity that adds to the fascination of its exotic and vivid coloring.

The Verdict of Bridlegoose, by Llewelyn

Powys. New York: Harcourt, Brace and Com

pany, 1926. $2.50. Why Mr. Powys should put on the mantle' — as the jacket says — of Rabelais's Bridlegoose in order to deliver his verdict on our long-suffering civilization is not entirely clear from his book; that excellent jurist was represented as (a) advanced in years, (b) simple, and (c) devoted to a rigorous administration of justice — no one of which epithets describes Mr. Powys with any special felicity. He is indeed quite unmistakably middle-aged; he is simple only within the limits permitted a writer for the Dial; and his justice is tempered, if not by mercy, at least by a feeling for the picturesque, the sententious, and the savory. His record of years spent in New York, on the Pacific Coast, and in the Rockies is a little too hospitable to the trivial — which only memorialists of genius know how to use tellingly

to impose itself as a first-rate pronouncement on America. Nevertheless, Mr. Powys has the sort of 'second-rate sensitive mind' that apprehends a good many things unapparent to a hasty eye, and a certain coherent picture does, as a result, emerge from his fluent pages.

[merged small][ocr errors]
[merged small][merged small][merged small][ocr errors][merged small][merged small][merged small]
[ocr errors]

have at least a gambler's chance of THE BRITISH LIBERAL SPLIT

winning credit from the mischances of BRUSHING personalities aside, although their opponents and of posing at some they have much to do with present dis- future time as the true prophets of sensions in the British Liberal Party, Liberalism. The Nation and the Athethe enduring and historically impor- næum and the Manchester Guardian tant aspect of the breach between Lord have sided with the Welsh ex-Premier: Oxford and Lloyd George is their the Westminster Gazette has stood by respective attitudes toward the present Lord Oxford. The Conservatives are industrial conflict in Great Britain. watching the fray with cynical delight. The Liberals are suffering the pains and As the Saturday Review observes, it penalties of every Centrist Party. One affords 'analluring distraction' in Britwing sympathizes with the Conserva- ain's present gloom, and Liberal distives, the other with Labor. Neither sensions are the one 'stable element in wing, however, would go as far toward contemporary political life.' The New Conservatism or Radicalism as the Statesman says: “Mr. Lloyd George has Party toward which it leans. When a enormously strengthened his position great issue like the general strike comes in the country with the policy he has up, these diverging inclinations are pursued during the strike'; and the sure to assert themselves. We suspect Nation and Athenæum exclaims: 'Who that Lloyd George has not lost out in would have believed that in a controthe present controversy, precisely be- versy between these two statesmen cause the Conservative Government, Mr. Lloyd George would be triumwith which Lord Oxford and Lord phantly and unmistakably in the right?' Grey have virtually aligned them- More striking still, the weekly leader selves, has found no solution for the writer of the Sunday Times, which one existing crisis. The Conservative Lib- would hardly rank as a Liberal organ, erals have run the risk, therefore, of comes to Lloyd George's defense with associating themselves with failure, the following keen analysis of the two while Lloyd George and his followers leaders: —

Copyright 1926, by the Living Age Co.

[graphic]

а

[ocr errors]

'Mr. Lloyd George has great faults. unionist movement that thought less of He has many Liberal instincts, but no taking as much as possible out of the anchorage in Liberal principles; he is common stock and more of increasing constitutionally and by nature an the common stock. Both the virtues intriguer, he is slapdash in his mental and the faults of Mr. Lloyd George processes, a very bad judge of men, a might fit him for this service - a despiser of learning and scholarship, greater national service than he renand, true Celt that he is, a lover of dered even during the war. He will those short cuts to the Millennium choose his time, but he will sooner or which no true Anglo-Saxon ever be- later, one is convinced, make the lieves in. He is not, contrary to the attempt, and, if he does, his chances of general belief, a good tactician, for he is success are good. Not land again, but alternately cautious to timidity and a trade-unionism in its relations to the reckless plunger.

problems of industry, is his chance.' 'But when you have enumerated all his faults, the genius is still there, shining the brighter against a dark

TORIES BOOST RUSSIA background. He is the only Liberal for many years that has shown any fertility Four Conservative members of Parliain ideas or real driving power. Lord ment who have recently returned from Oxford's Liberalism is an attitude of an unofficial visit to Russia have pubmind; Mr. Lloyd George's a desire to lished a report which the equally Conget certain things done. All sorts of servative London Daily Telegraph people have tried to use him. No one characterizes as including ‘favorable has succeeded, and Mr. Lloyd. George judgments in most curious and strikremains himself, the unsolved and ing contrast with the official reports insoluble equation in politics. These published from time to time by the things have to be paid for, and a little organs of the Soviet Government.' insubordination to titular leaders is not For example, they say, 'Russia's prestoo high a price. On the practical side ent financial policy is sound and of Liberal politics, he has accomplished almost austere,' and declare that far more than ever Gladstone did. ‘not a single foreign trade commitment Lord Oxford would have been well since the introduction of the present advised to give him his head and to look régime has failed to be punctually the other way from inevitable indiscre- honored'; and they conclude that tions, while prepared to annex any ‘Russia is capable of presenting a great political capital that he might accumu- field for judicious investment of British late for the Party. The sensible old capital. ' Whigs in the Party always did that It is quite natural that the Daily with the Radicals.

Telegraph should differ from these findIt is sad to the sentimentalist to ings of its deluded Party comrades think of a great historical English by 180 degrees — and it would go Party becoming a sort of frozen moon still further if geometry permitted. The in the firmament, but that is how events report, which is about ten thousand seem to be shaping themselves. But words long, characterizes the present there might be consolations if you got a régime as stable and likely to stay, and Labor Party revivified with a few con- recommends a fourfold British objecstructive ideas grown at home, not tive with regard to Russia: (a) to imported from Germany, and a trade- check and ultimately to stop anti

.

[ocr errors]
« VorigeDoorgaan »