Wednesday, 13 July 2011
Julian Green The Dark Journey
Julien Green's book was of Malc's favourites.
THE DARK JOURNEY—Julian Green— Harper ($2.50).
Awarded. By Harper & Bros, to Julian Green, for writing The Dark Journey: $10,000.
The Story: Guèret was a huge stoop-shouldered young man, his full and sallow face had a fleshy nose, thick lips, grey eyes, a blighted look. He worked as tutor to small André Grosgeorge. Once Madame Grosgeorge surprised the two in the garish lesson-room when André was stumbling over his history. Guèret heard the softness in her voice as she called her son: "Come closer. . . . Raise your head and look at me." Then, clenching her teeth, she struck the boy suddenly across the face and with sadistic greed in her black eyes, watched the red mark fade. Horrified, Guèret could not help admiring her vitality.
Work over, Guèret decided to eat not with his wife but alone. He entered the restaurant presided over by Madame Londe.
Past 50, Madame Londe's good looks were on the wane. In public a studied smile corrected the arrogant sag of her mouth and she gave change like charity. Madame Londe supplied needs other than gastronomic ones. For her customers she was breaking in Fernande, 13, who sniggered when tickled. Angèle, older, reliable, was more popular. Only Angèle could answer inquisitive Madame Londe's "whys" about the customers. Somehow Madame Londe did not set Angèle to probe this reticent stranger Guèret. Yet it was Angèle who attracted Guèret nightly to the restaurant's neighborhood.
Guèret loved Angèle but at first he excited only her contempt with his tactlessness, her pity with his distress, her amused indifference with his bitter glumness at her lack of response, her fear with his broad but bent shoulders. "Naturally she had no illusions about what the man wanted, but by a monstrous caprice of her nature she resolved to refuse him everything because he did not despise her." She retreated in rage when he guessed her occupation. He let her go.
First rejoicing at the sudden aloneness, then mortified, he wept while the futility of the whole affair made him laugh.
Then a sexagenarian came and described how Angèle had come to him for money. And one night the customers at the restaurant exchanged obscene impressions. Now he knew he must be very distasteful to her since, definitely a prostitute, she had turned down only himself. He climbed into her bedroom after midnight, but she was sleeping elsewhere. In the morning he found her, took her to the river bank, twisted her arm to make her admit he disgusted her. She began screaming shrilly in terror and in equal terror he began beating her over the face with a convenient club. In his flight he joyfully murdered an oldster who seemed to be watching him.
News of these activities interested Madame Grosgeorge. As her son's tutor, Guèret had seemed such a shy nonentity. Now the sadist within her felt a fellowship. Secretly she harbored him in her house. When he confessed that he had killed for love she, jealously wishing to prove to him Angèle's hatred, let Angèle know that the fugitive who had scarred her was now at the Grosgeorge's. But it was another who sent the police. Angèle was now finally aware that her happiness was at Guèret's side. Seeking happiness, she died, Madame Grosgeorge shot herself, the police got Guèret.
The Significance is embodied in the reflection: "Happiness existed for him somewhere in the world, and he was distracted because he could not find it. When he ran after women it was this that he was pursuing." Only in the black sky could he find peace after the babble of human speech.
Detailed and accurate in his handling of externals. Author Green handles the human mind similarly. One François Le Grix, critic, has already said with more grace than fact: "Racine. Edgar Allan Poe, Dickens, Dostoievsky: one hesitates a little before putting beside these great names that of this young man, Julian Green, but it must be done."
The Author. In 1900 two Virginians were traveling through France when Julian Green was born to them. At 17 he drove an army ambulance, at 18 he was a French artilleryman, at 19 he was a University of Virginia freshman. Since 21 he has "devoted himself to literature" in France, has matured the French way, writes in French. His earlier novel, The Closed Garden (1928) was crowned by the French Academy. Time Magazine 2 September 1929
The book has the following inscription: "Xmas 1946 To Margerie, Bonner, ---this weird (sic) touchstone - I believed (in my youth) I hope rightly--good" (Indecipherable inscription on front free endpaper.