Juliusby Daphne du Maurier
A chilling story of ambition, Daphne du Maurier's third novel has lost none of its ability to unsettle and disturb. Julius Lévy has grown up in a peasant family in a village on the banks of the Seine. A quick-witted urchin caught up in the Franco-Prussian War, he is soon forced by tragedy to escape to Algeria. Once there, he learns the ease of swindling, the… See more details below
A chilling story of ambition, Daphne du Maurier's third novel has lost none of its ability to unsettle and disturb. Julius Lévy has grown up in a peasant family in a village on the banks of the Seine. A quick-witted urchin caught up in the Franco-Prussian War, he is soon forced by tragedy to escape to Algeria. Once there, he learns the ease of swindling, the rewards of love affairs, and the value of secrecy. Before he’s 20, he’s in London, where his empire-building begins in earnest. Driven by a lifelong hunger for power, he becomes a rich and ruthless man. His one weakness is his daughter Gabriel.
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"So this faith was meaningless after all; it gave him nothing." Thus concluded Julius Levy, depraved "hero" of Daphne du Maurier's third novel first called THE PROGRESS OF JULIUS and later simply JULIUS (1933). Julius concluded as he did in Paris, in a suburb of which he had been born seven decades earlier in 1860. Now the richest man in England, he lived a rich recluse in the land of his birth. He was driven to the last of the many visits to synagogues and temples he had made since childhood. It was "the great oratory in the Rue de la Victoire where the wealthy Israelites of Paris worshipped, wrapped in their furs. ... there were violins in the choir, and there were harps, and great sonority of sound, but there was no melody of beauty that rose like a bird in the air. Julius came away disappointed, bored. So this faith was meaningless afer all, it gave him nothing. Once more he must rely on himself for supreme understanding" (Part Five 1920 - 1932). *** Readers have been known to glide over this novel's profoundly religious dimension. All his life Julius Levy was drawn to both sides of his family: to his earthy merchant French Catholic grandfather and his mother Louise Blanchard Levy on the one hand and to his Algerian Jewish, mousy, intellectual, dreaming, flute-playing, God-fearing father Paul Levy on the other hand. In the end the worst elements of grandfather Blanchard win out: the sophistical market dictum of "something for nothing," the love of food, drink and women, willingness to do violence to his foes, the Prussian cavalrymen who blow Grandfather's head off and such. *** But the issue remained long in doubt. Boy Julius's very first visit to a Jewish temple in the besieged Paris of 1871 made him resolve to be a rabbi. Later when a rabbi in Algiers (French "Alger") took in Julius and his dying father, Julius once again resolved to study for the rabbinate. And he did so for years, increasingly for the wrong reasons (free food and lodging). By day and night he would slip out to trade stolen mules in the great bazaar, to overnight with a black prostitute and worse. But in the temple he became another person, the real Julius Levy? The rabbi marveled at "... his silence, his attitude of worship, his utter denial of the world when in the presence of God." Was Julius's undeniable dark side mere adolescence, to be grown out of "into a sound wisdom?" (Part Two 1875 - 1890). *** Daphne du Maurier probes the soul of a thoroughly bad man who might have been a saint. Whatever he loved he must possess. And what Julius possessed no one else might. Hence he drowned both a beloved cat and a much worshipped daughter (she wanted to leave him to love a husband to be). Was it ego, self-love, self-overestimation that made Julius a monster to stand with Oscar Wilde's Dorian Gray? Du Maurier does not make it clear why he chose the path to enormous wealth at the expense of losing his soul. At the end of Rudyard Kipling's KIM, we readers are not sure: will young Irish Kimball O'Hara opt for the Buddhist Way of his beloved Red Lama or join Mahbub Ali in a career of spying for the British Raj in "the Great Game?" Kim would choose between two good careers. By contrast Dorian Gray and Julius Levy chose paths to hell. *** JULIUS is a religious novel. Had Julius Levy wholeheartedly embraced his father Paul's profound Judaism, he would have done well. He did not. And the result was a horrible life. -OOO-