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Old 10-07-2013   #11
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Re: Recent Reading

I mentioned I had just finished The Face of Twilight and The Winter war in Tibet. Getting bit by the Durrenmatt bug, I ‘ve been rereading The Execution of Justice. It’s told by a lawyer who has succeeded in getting a human monster free of the consequences of his crime. He has killed a man casually in a swanky restaurant with dozens of potential witnesses dining, including a high police official. (Written before O. J., and Robert Blake, some readers found it a little fantastic that such a crime could escape punishment.) The lawyer is devastated by guilt and finally realizes that the first murder had no motive other than to start a chain of events that lead to other murders…his actual intended victims. There’s a scene at the very end in a fantastic country villa studded with antique and terrible statues; a scene where a young girl is hunted and abused by a predatory and wealthy beast of a woman (a woman of childlike appearance but with horribly malformed features) and her bald thuggish bodyguards (the girl at first mistakes the female creature for a statue). The scene has a Machen-like atmosphere of Decadence and Evil. Durrenmatt described the novel as a wicked fairy tale, hinting at an evil that lurks behind life; and even the sunset seems fantastical and evil as the child seeks to elude her pursuers…

The lawyer decides his only course of action is to kill the man he enabled to beat justice and then kill himself. He sinks into alcoholism, throws away a promising practice, becomes a lawyer for pimps and their whores, all the while hopelessly in love with the murderer’s daughter who may well be the willing accomplice of her monstrous father.
What’s fascinating is how Durrenmatt conveys the lawyer’s alcoholic state. The lawyer is writing, over the course of months, a confession that will explain all after his suicide. As you read the story a careful reader begins to notice a slightly suspect chronology. The amazing thing is this technique never interferes with flow of the novel, never confuses. You may begin to suspect that one incident didn’t happen in the order you thought it did; that it happened after a certain other incident though you felt certain it had happened before that incident. Some readers won’t even notice but I thought it was a great way of portraying the subtle distortions of time experienced by a man who needs alcohol just to function normally. The structure of the book is dictated by the narrator's alcoholism. After reading several bits of fiction with drunken protagonists—Samuels’ book, several Barron stories among others—I found this approach as realistic as it was clever; and it must have been a devil to pull off without creating a disjointed book in the process.

BTW, if you run across an old pb copy of this book, the cover will be a reproduction of a Durrenmatt painting: "The Astronomers".

Last edited by Druidic; 10-07-2013 at 03:01 AM..
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ChildofOldLeech (10-07-2013), Doctor Dugald Eldritch (07-02-2015), Murony_Pyre (10-07-2013)
 

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