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A small Alpine community appears to have recovered from a great war in which young men from the village died. Most did not return. But one did in Philippe Claude's novel Brodeck.

Brodeck survived a prison camp by degrading himself, crawling on all fours with a dog collar on to amuse the guards. He writes reports now, chronicling the changing of the seasons and noting the passage of time.

Time passes very slowly for the village, as well as for Brodeck, his wife, daughter and
the woman who raised him as her own child. It's not quite a time of healing, but it is a
time when the townsfolk give the impression they are not ready to live again.

They don't have much of a choice when a stranger arrives, a larger-than-life figure with
a donkey and a horse, who follows people around. Then comes "the thing that happened", when the stranger is killed. The leaders of the village charge Brodeck with writing a report to explain what happened, to justify any actions taken.

Brodeck also resolves to write his own version, keeping it secret.

Weaving back and forth in time to capture miniature portraits of townsfolk and the horrors Brodeck and his family survived, Claudel's novel builds in intensity as the cruelties of both individuals and mob rule are revealed. The end is an enormous revelation that brings into sharp focus what a human being is capable of doing.

Claudel's earlier works, including the novel By a Slow River and the film I've Loved You For So Long, also explore the fallout of deliberately caused tragedy, but in perhaps more conventional manners.

Brodeck is a remarkable dark fable of survival, reasoning and the search for how to understand the human heart when people do things the mind cannot comprehend. The tone is of an omnious fairy tale, when Hansel and Gretel really could be put in an oven by a witch.

This is a story that deserves to be told to as many as will listen, so they promise themselves to never do what others have done, and to recognize what Hannah Arendt called the "banality of evil" in the every day.

Claudel has written another novel that was published in the United States in July, The Investigation. According to information from the publisher, Nan A. Talese, it is supposed to be a "Kafka-esque romp through a dystopian landscape, probing the darkly comic nature of the human condition".

The Investigator is a nondescript fellow assigned to look into suicides at the Enterprise. Like the village, the Enterprise is located in an unnamed town. Nothing about his journey or anything in the town is as anyone would expect in what appears to be another dark fable. It's one I look forward to discovering.

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Originally posted to Readers and Book Lovers on Tue Aug 07, 2012 at 07:00 PM PDT.

Also republished by DKOMA and Community Spotlight.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Hi (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Portlaw, GussieFN, MT Spaces, bookgirl

    Thank you!!  

    How much longer will you be at the university?

    I hope all is going well.  

    Join us at Bookflurries-Bookchat on Wednesday nights 8:00 PM EST

    by cfk on Tue Aug 07, 2012 at 09:15:51 PM PDT

  •  Nice diary. thanks! nt (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    cfk, GussieFN, MT Spaces, bookgirl
  •  Interesting story, thanks (7+ / 0-)

    It's good to know about the fiction that's out there.  A dark fable doesn't sound like something I would choose to read, but I appreciate the discussion about it.

    I've read enough "dark" literature (mostly about the Holocaust) that I can't bear to read any more.  Realize that this lets me out of a lot of conversations!  For instance, I've never read Darkness at Noon or The Fly.

    Perhaps one of these days I'll feel very brave and do it.

    "Religion is what keeps the poor from murdering the rich."--Napoleon

    by Diana in NoVa on Wed Aug 08, 2012 at 04:55:03 AM PDT

  •  A Stranger Comes to Town. . . (5+ / 0-)

    One of the archetypical plot lines.

    I mentioned in a recent diary a book that is in a similar vein as Brodeck.  It's The Vagrants by Yiyun Li.

    From my Book Journal:

    Told through the eyes of the townspeople of Muddy River on the day of Shan’s execution for being a political dissident, Li provides a vivid and condemning picture of China’s post-Maoist era.

    All the characters are sharply drawn, their personalities are strong and varied.  Alive on the page are: the good --Teacher Gu, Shan’s father; the not so good -- a sexual pervert who lures a hapless girl crippled by birth defects; the want to be good --Kai, the broadcast personality blessed with a devoted but dull husband and her lover.  And the almost holy -- an old couple, once homeless, who rescue and foster abandoned Chinese baby girls.  Kai and her tubercular lover both tremble on the verge of dissident activism on the heels of the Democracy Wall Movement in Beijing.  They, along with Shan's mother create a heroic martyr out of Shan, much to the distress of Teacher Gu.  Soon, Muddy River feels the stirrings of rebellion and yearnings for reform. What will be their fate?

    It’s impossible for me to know, but I feel an authenticity in this depiction of that period of recent Chinese history.  As fiction it also rings true.  The reader feels like she is “living under the volcano” as sociopolitical tension seems to be mounting toward another revolution.  But it’s a tension countered by a lassitude that also makes the reader feel that nothing will ever bring change because the grip of tyranny is too strong.

    Yiyun Li embeds his realistic tale in this allegorical novel that ranges from intimate portraiture to considerations of humanity and morality, as well as the political dynamics of a China teetering under the weight of oppression.

    Novels like these evoke a powerful response.  Is it because they're so frightening, illustrating man's inhumanity to man?

    Readers & Book Lovers Pull up a chair! You're never too old to be a Meta Groupie

    by Limelite on Wed Aug 08, 2012 at 06:26:05 AM PDT

  •  Interesting . . . on a WWI phase right now (4+ / 0-)

    It is a period of history that I've only had glancing knowledge of and wanted to learn more.  On my second non-fiction book and was thinking of some fiction to supplement.  Maybe this would be a good one to read? Though, if at all possible, I might be looking for something lighter.  Someone suggested Jacqueline Windspear?

    Anyway, appreciate the time you took on this.

    •  This would be more WWII than WWI. If (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      Winspear is right for you, then the Bess Crawford books by Charles Todd also will fit. His series (although I shouldn't say "his" because he and his mother write them together) with Inspector Rutledge is a bit darker and suits me better. Rennie Airth also has written one or two mysteries in that period, and Elizabeth Speller has published one, with another coming this summer, set in the post-WWI period.

      For non-mysteries, my top pick remains Pat Barker's Regeneration trilogy. She won the Booker for the last one, The Ghost Road, but they are all superb. They chronicle several characters' wars but focus on Dr. William Rivers. His duty is to heal soldiers who are sane enough to not want to return to war, to send them back.

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