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The Statement (1984)

by Brian Moore

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447643,020 (3.62)11
Pierre Brossard, sentenced to death in absentia for heinous war crimes, keeps moving like a fox through the underground. Thriller based on the true story of Paul Touvier.
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Pretty interesting story, and it was enjoyable to listen to, but it never really hooked me.
  mirikayla | Feb 8, 2016 |
Very well written. My eyes rushed over line after line of apparently effortless prose, though I found his use of italicised French phases like 'le parking' when English terms exist poncey and smug.

There are two moments that stand out for me.

First, amongst the Catholic-bashing there's a nice bit where a monk is told by his superior that hiding Brossard’s whereabouts is not a matter for his conscience. He quietly disagrees and the next thing we the readers are told, Brossard’s movements have been reported.

Secondly, on page 62, as he begs for God’s help, Brossard says “If God forgives me then I don’t give a damn about this world.” And in that one phrase all the hypocrisy of his evil little soul is betrayed.

However I feel that this novel is betrayed by its own almost wordlessly terse style. Compare Joseph’s soliloquy on page 169 to Father Callahan’s soliloquy in ‘Salem’s Lot (no, seriously, I’m comparing a Booker-nominated writer with Stephen King) and you’ll see a bony statement of fact against a prose poem of humane understanding. Who does Moore think he is... Thomas Keneally?

Frankly, I just didn’t give a damn. Brossard is unambiguously uninteresting psychologically, and the only sympathetic characters, Livi and Roux, are shunted off into formal plot pushing roles.

I see this is one of Moore’s few books that wasn’t up for a major award, but considering the quality of the prose I think I would be interested in reading more of his work. ( )
  Lukerik | Nov 17, 2015 |
What seems to be long time ago already, World War II changed not only the lives of those who were invaded, it changed the way countries looked at factions within themselves. France being just one example where internal groups either fought against or collaborated with the Nazis. Although the internal structure of invaded countries changed, what it did not change were the personalities of those who committed the holocaust crimes. Hannah Arendt calls this appropriately: The Banality of Evil, a theme quite fitting to this novel. Those collaborators were, you could say 'activated', not altered or changed. Their tendencies were already there, but were suppressed because of regular pressure and laws not present during Nazi occupation.

The Statement is a novel that carefully explores what happens when a man did not choose his destiny abut instead went along with his brutal instincts, when given the opportunities to explore those instincts encouraged by the Germans. We find him, Pierre Brossard, much later on the run at the age of 70 in the south of France. There he moves from safe house to safe house and spends most of his time hiding in monasteries. His paranoia becomes justified when he barely walks out of an assassin's trap. Most of the book revolves around finding out who sent the assassin and who is still trying to bring Brossard to trial. All the while we learn more and more about the Nazi collaborator's inner empty world and his motivations, or lack thereof.

The books starts with a man on the run from ultimate justice, but this is not what the novel is about. Using rapidly changing perspectives (the author constantly and casually changes who the 'I' speaker is) Brian Moore attempts to show that decisions have, and more importantly: indecision has, wider spread effects than just one person's choice of a course of action a long time ago. It is not Brossard's decision to commit impulsive crimes for the brief sensation of ultimate power, that sets things in motion. It is they, who have from the beginning placed themselves in carefully protected fortresses of control, who this book is about. Ultimately this novel is about decisions and knowing and thinking about the consequences of decisions.

To reveal the inner workings of complex personality issues, Moore wrote the novel in a solipsistic fashion, as in the reader moves from head to head and sees the world through those eyes. This gives the book a very claustrophobic and confusing feel and might not work for everyone. Part of this is due to Moore's own outlook and his own personal life, but I'm sure the style was carefully chosen as well to fit the theme of the book. I can't say I know if I really liked the novel. The issues and handling of important questions was handled carefully and appropriately, but I felt there was a bit of humanity missing that, when added, could have made a much richer book with even a lot more contrast between good and evil. ( )
  TheCriticalTimes | Jun 27, 2010 |
A gripping read. ( )
  CarolKub | Jun 22, 2010 |
There are three basic rule that apply to all books and for sure all novels. It should make you want to turn the page, It should not be predictable. And it should treat readers like thinking adults. This book passes on all these questions. But never really takes it to the next level where the writing is exquisite, or expounds a new truth of reality. Worth reading none the less. Warning contains spoiler where the plot falls down is that one of the characters wonders how these assasins manage to find him, and I assume he's fairly smart, that he can't figure it out himself. If you tell one person where you are and you keep getting followed then that one person is the mole. ( )
  charlie68 | Mar 8, 2010 |
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Voor Jean
encore et toujours
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Pierre Brossard, sentenced to death in absentia for heinous war crimes, keeps moving like a fox through the underground. Thriller based on the true story of Paul Touvier.

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