Fear (English and French Edition)

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9781846687266: Fear (English and French Edition)

[Translated by Malcolm Imrie]

[Read by Clive Chafer]

John Berger has called Fear ''a book of the utmost urgency and relevance.'' A literary masterpiece, it is also an essential and unforgettable reckoning with the terrible war that gave birth to a century of war.

In 1915, Jean Dartemont heads off to the Great War, an eager conscript. The only thing he fears is missing the action. Soon, however, the vaunted ''war to end all wars'' seems like a war that will never end: whether mired in the trenches or going over the top, Jean finds himself caught in the midst of an unimaginable, unceasing slaughter. After he is wounded, he returns from the front to discover a world where no one knows or wants to know any of this. Both the public and the authorities go on talking about heroes - and sending more men to their graves. But Jean refuses to keep silent. He will speak the forbidden word. He will tell them about fear.

 

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About the Author:

Gabriel Chevallier (1895-1969) was the son of a notary clerk and lived in Lyon, France, for most of his life. He was called up at the start of World War I and wounded a year later. Returning to the front, he spent the remainder of the war as an infantryman and was ultimately awarded the Croix de Guerre and named Chevalier de la Légion d'Honneur. He began writing the novel Fear in 1925 but did not publish it until 1930, a year after his first novel, Durand: voyageur de commerce, was released. Fear was suppressed during World War II and not made available again until 1951, by which time Chevallier had earned international fame for his Clochemerle, a comedy of provincial French manners of the Beaujolais region that sold several million copies. In all Chevallier would write twenty-one novels, including several more set in the fictional village of Clochemerle.

 

Review:

''The most beautiful book ever written on the tragic events that blood-stained Europe for nearly five years ... a classic'' --Le Libertaire

''All the horrors of war are there, but atrocity alone would not be enough to explain the grandeur of this text. It is the healthy defiance and controlled anger which earned the book its stripes'' --Le Figaro

''All the phases of this particularly horrid war, phases that we have become accustomed to from later writing, are recounted here in a remarkable voice . . . And, in this prizewinning translation by Malcolm Imrie, his writing still has a ferocious power . . . Chevallier's narrative remains radioactive with pure terror, frightening in a way later accounts don't quite manage. It's hard to believe, given the powerful, almost American casualness of his voice, that this is its first American appearance. His tone is so inveigling and so amiable as he inducts us like witnesses into that great European madness with which the past century began, decades before most who will read this translation were born. It's also hard to believe, once we're deeply engaged with the book, that Chevallier is dealing with events that are nearly a hundred years in the past, deploying prose that's almost as old. We are lucky his voice came through.'' --New York Times Book Review

''Chevallier's book . . . represents that rarest of war narratives - one that is indispensable, nearly unprecedented, and painfully relevant . . . What makes Chevallier's book a masterpiece is the lucidity of the author's eyewitness account; its prose moves from practical concerns like picking lice to poetic reverie in the space of a paragraph, capturing the chaos of war and the stillness of the battlefield, revealing a terrible beauty.'' --Publishers Weekly (starred review)

''Reads like a cross between the darkest humor and the bleakest reportage . . . the themes of what [Chevallier] calls 'this antiwar book' are timeless: the folly of nationalism, the foolish pomposity of military leaders, the arbitrariness of death, the madness of war.'' --Kirkus Reviews

''Reading Fear feels like being led through the damnation panel of Bosch's The Garden of Earthly Delights, the front line 'blazing like some infernal factory where monstrous crucibles melted human flesh into a bloody lava.' Fear remains a bravura work, fearless from start to finish, pitiless in its targets, passionate in its empathy.'' --Times Literary Supplement

''Gabriel Chevallier's autobiographical novel about serving in the bombed-out trenches of World War I still chills the blood. In indelible passages it describes the sensory degradation of war on the human body. Translated into English by Malcolm Imrie without a hint of stiltedness, Chevallier's long-neglected novel is one of the most effective indictments of war ever written.'' --Wall Street Journal

''Published in 1930, Fear was a sensation in France. The novel is told retrospectively through the voice of Dartemont, a cynical intellectual who enlists simply out of curiosity. From the shifting roles of grenadier, messenger, reconnoiterer, and hospital patient (the result of a light injury that brings him and readers barreling into the visceral horrors of war-torn soldiers), Chevallier's protagonist is a lightly disguised version of the author himself, tracing his own experiences as a soldier . . . Dartemont deconstructs the notions of duty and heroism and draws their origins in fear and ignorance while letting us rifle through his blood-stained sketchbook with images from a war that grows ever more distant in our memories.'' --Booklist(starred review)

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