Balcony in the forest by Julien Gracq, Richard Howard

By Julien Gracq, Richard Howard

Reprint. initially released: big apple ; Braziller, 1959

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Seemed curiously exotic—another world—with their simultaneously baroque, theatrical and sinister quality of German war machines which, despite all the requirements of technology, still managed to remind him of Fafnir. "Unheim-lich", he thought: there was no French word; he studied them with a mixture of repugnance and fascination. Outside, the heavy rain of the Ardennes was beginning to fall with the darkness, its drumming muffled by the snow. Unconsciously, he strained to hear the occasional noises from the crew room, afraid of being surprised, as if he were poring over obscene photographs.

After these sudden outbursts, the captain dismissed him rather dryly and plunged back into his papers: there was no use trying to strike fire again for another week. Grange emerged from these consultations half diverted, half disturbed. It was like a bloodletting: it relieved you, he told himself; however strange he found it—for he himself followed the war's progress with great indifference—Grange understood that the captain was suffering. When he was outside in the street again, it seemed as if the light had faded; a great dark crescent cast by the cliff was already gnawing at the other bank of the Aleuse.

It was something of a peasant life they led, slowly vegetating at one of the least sensitive nerve endings within the war's great body: the season, the wind, the rain, the moment's inclination, and the round of household tasks created much more of a stir than the general-staff bulletins, whose echoes died away on these somnolent frontiers as sluggishly as ripples on a beach. From this perspective it was easy to understand that the war depended on violent movements, like a man pulling himself out of a quicksand limb by limb: paralyzed as they were, the earth reclaimed them for its own, they sent down roots, the garrison returned to peasantry.

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