Beasts and Men by Pierre Gascar ; Translated by Jean Stewart
Boston : Little, Brown and Company, 1956. First edition. Hardcover. 249 pages ; 22 cm. $3.50 dust jacket. Jacket is a bit tattered. Small bookshop label on flyleaf. Otherwise, a gently used copy with firm binding, clean and unmarked pages.
BEASTS AND MEN
"The volume is both horrible and impressive" (The London Times); "A direct attack, mounted with superb imaginative skill, on the nerves and the pit of the stomach" (Manchester Guardian). These were the reactions of critics in England when BEASTS AND MEN appeared there.
Six extraordinary short stories, and one short novel, have as their subject men, animals, and death. In the words of the author: "The characters yield to the insidious fascination wrought on them by animals, the world of the great nocturnal truth." The Horses tells of an enormous military stable, its lonely and savage keepers, and a fantastic stampede. In the weird and comic tale Gaston, a ludicrous municipal campaign for the extermination of rats within the labyrinth of a city's sewers evolves into a dread and macabre prophecy. The Dogs describes the feelings of a man who, dressed like a dummy in a padded suit, has to endure the attacks of hounds being trained as military killers. In all the Stories, men and animals are pitted against each other, not in real enmity, but caught in the grip of blind, implacable circumstance. Gascar succeeds in revealing a world of dark emotions sensed by many, but never before portrayed so sensually, so kinetically.
In the short novel, The Season of the Dead, Gascar unfolds a purely human and more readily recognizable story. Much of it is drawn from his own experience as a prisoner of war in the Ukraine. The scene of imprisonment, a landscape of death filled with the ominous rumbling sounds of doomed convoy trains of Jews, looms vividly before the reader. Yet in the midst of this bleak setting there wells up a profound understanding and a compassion for man, unique in modern fiction.
Pierre Gascar has the unusual honor of winning both the Prix Goncourt and the Prix des Critiques, two of France's highest literary awards, for BEASTS AND MEN. The stories had a brilliant critical reception in England and have been translated into German, Swedish, Italian, Japanese, as well as English. M. Gascar served with the French Army on the Maginot Line and in Norway, and from 1940 to 1945 was a prisoner of war. He lives in Paris with his wife and two children.
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