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From Barnes & NobleBarnes & Noble Discover Great New Writers
"We kill a lot in the course of a day, in thoughts and in words, without fully realizing it. In light of all these abstract crimes, actual murders are pretty rare when you consider it. In fact, it's only in wars that our actions keep up with our impulses."
In this masterfully seamless translation, Claudel's dark and mysterious novel, narrated by a retired French gendarme, builds to a devastating conclusion. The setting is World War I, in eastern France, where the frozen body of a young girl is hauled from an icy river one December morning. She has been strangled, and a military deserter is apprehended. But is he the murderer?
Twenty years later, our narrator, grief-stricken in the wake of his wife's death in childbirth, is still obsessed with this crime, and with the suicide of a young schoolteacher who seemingly had everything to live for. Returning to the scene of the crime, he releases memories and untold regret, as ghosts surface from the murky past, causing him to consider man's inhumanity to man, and his own tendency to rush to judgment without considering his own guilt.
Claudel's novel is disturbing, and its melancholy hangs suspended over the story like a shroud. "It's surprising how you can know things without having ever learned them," he writes. This page-turning mystery will keep readers guessing until the very last page. (Fall 2006 Selection)