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This review is taken from PN Review 59, Volume 14 Number 3, January - February 1988.

SILENCE AND CUNNING Louis-René des Forêts, The Children's Room, translated by Jean Stewart (John Calder) £5.95 pb.

Since his first novel, Les Mendiants, written during the War, Louis-René des Forêts has published just three works: Le Bavard (1946), the five stories included in La Chambre des enfants which won the Prix des Critiques in 1960 and, in 1967, Les Mégères de la mer. His fastidiousness was displayed still further when he withdrew one of the five stories when Gallimard published a new edition of La Chambre des enfants in 1983.

His work is preoccupied with the problem of communication - or rather with the paradox that, in order to express how hard it is to communicate, an author has to use words. Jean Stewart has chosen to include in this volume the long short-story Le Bavard and three of the five stories from his 1960 collection. 'Le Bavard', the chatterer, the loquacious bore, is, like Camus' juge-pénitent in La Chute, out to button-hole the reader, catch his attention and keep him listening until the former has finished what he craves to confess. The difference between the two long monologues is that des Forêts is interested in the act of communication for its own sake and his first-person narrator uses confession as merely one of the means of holding his victim's attention. Indeed having reached the most abject point of his chronicle of self-humiliation, he starts casting doubt on the truth of what he has been admitting - teasing the reader, pulling the rug from under his feet so that an atmosphere of mistrust is ...


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