Julien Gracq: Un beau ténébreux (A Dark Stranger)

The latest addition to my website is Julien Gracq‘s Un beau ténébreux (A Dark Stranger). This is is Gracq’s second novel, published soon after the war, and after Gracq had spent some time in a German prisoner-of-war camp. The novel is set in a fictitious Breton town, where there is a hotel for well-to-do intellectuals on holiday. It is mainly narrated by Gérard, a literary dilettante, about the small group of people he associates with. The men are initially enamoured of Christel but when Allan Murchison (English father, but naturalised French) arrives with the beautiful Dolorès, things change. Allan is athletic, intellectual, clever, rich and elegant. The women fall for him as the men do for Dolorès. However, there is clearly something else going on as there is a morbid sense of doom. Allan talks of suicide, recklessly spends all his money and even frightens away his childhood friend, Gregory, who does not want to be a witness to whatever is going to happen. Gérard’s narration ends and the third party narrator fills us in. While not Gracq’s best novel, it is certainly well-told, though somewhat morbid.

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