Thursday, November 18, 2004

by Jim Crace
This novel's characters endure self-imposed quantines in hopeless attempts to cure not only their sick bodies but sick minds. Five travellers set out into desolate wastes for forty days of fasting and deprivation, to lead simple lives and purify their souls. But they run up against their own weaknesses and the conflicts with each other and two others they run into on a barren plain. The stupid mind games the characters play with themselves are exactly like what I found myself doing when I was on meditation retreats. Either Crace has been on retreat—or he's just in touch with his demons. In this stripped-down environment, the characters' personalities are laid bare, and it's both comic and disquieting to see people so unmasked.


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