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Exile and the Kingdom Paperback – November 5, 1991
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“The Adulterous Woman” is not actually adulterous, but, travelling in the bitterly cold Atlas mountains with her salesman husband, she is not only out of her element but becomes more acutely aware of the nature of their marriage.
The story called “The Renegade”, told breathlessly in the first person, is about a missionary who, against all advice, chose to work in a savage Fetish-worshipping community living in Taghasa, a scorching salt-mining city in Algeria. His suffering at the hands of the natives is unspeakable, and it makes him give up everything he had believed in.
“The Silent Men” are the workers in a small concern making coops. Their employer had been a good employer, but he could not afford to give them a wage rise. They had gone on strike, but returned beaten; and they refuse to speak to their employer.
“The Guest” is an Arab prisoner, accused of a murder. A gendarme had ploughed throw the snow to bring him to a lonely schoolhouse en route from the village where he was stationed to prison in the nearby town. The police are short-staffed, and the gendarme had given the French schoolmaster a pistol and had ordered him to escort the Arab to the police headquarters on the following day. The story describes the relationship between the unwilling schoolmaster and the prisoner.
“The Artist at Work”: The rise and decline of a painter in an apartment over-crowded with canvasses, his devoted wife and their three children, his admiring and later his critical friends. Eventually the lack of solitude contributes to his decline; but when at last he achieves it, it is too late. Comic at first, sadder and darker towards the end.
The last story, “The Growing Stone”, sees a French engineer arriving in a humid and muddy estuary town in Brazil, where he was to build a jetty to prevent the river from periodically flooding the town. There he witnesses and becomes caught up in a frenzied religious ceremony. Top-heavy with descriptions, the overall picture nevertheless seems strangely blurred and I found it hard to get a grip on the scenes. I thought it much the least satisfying of the stories.
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Traveling aboard a sweltering bus in the middle of the desert doesn't impart a fair view of the desert's majesty.Read more