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Albert (Joseph) Guerard Biography - Albert Guerard Comments:

novel political journey

My work has been notably affected by wartime experience (political intelligence work in France) and by the pressures and ambiguities of the subsequent cold war. I have tried without success to put the political subject aside; thousands of unpublished pages, many of them angry, testify to inescapable contemporary pressures.

Maquisard, written immediately after the 1944 events it describes, is an affectionate record of wartime comradeships among men who had been in the underground. Apologetically subtitled A Christmas Tale, it is the slightest of my novels and was the most warmly received. Night Journey, my most complex and most substantial novel, is more truthful in its picture of the political and moral devastation caused by American-Soviet rivalries in a world as deceptive, and as self-deceptive, as that of 1984. It was, on publication, repeatedly compared to Orwell's book. The confession of Paul Haldan (wandering and evasive, with his final crime left undescribed, and indeed undetected by most readers) is that of a liberal "innocent" who can accept neither his mother's sexual betrayals nor his country's systematic abuse of power and liberal ideology, nor its threatened use of germ warfare. Haldan's night journey into temporary regression takes him into the middle European city of his childhood, disrupted by the two great powers and betrayed by both. The ambiguities of an undeclared war are internalized by Paul Haldan, and his psycho-sexual anxieties projected onto the screen of public conflict. The Exiles (based on a journey to Cuba, Haiti, and Santo Domingo during the turmoil of 1959) explores deception and self-deception in the tragi-comic context of Caribbean propaganda and political intrigue. It dramatizes the conflict of a quixotic Trujillo assassin incorrigibly drawn to the exiled statesmen he is supposed to destroy. Manuel Andrada appears to be the most winning of my fictional creations.

In The Hunted, an earlier novel and conventionally realistic in technique, psycho-sexual anxieties and monumental vanities reflect public disorders in a small New England college just before World War II. Oedipal conflicts and fantasies, dramatized fairly unconsciously in The Past Must Alter, are central to Night Journey and to The Bystander, another story of romantic love vitiated by immaturity and regression. The technique of The Bystander is that of the French récit, with the motives either concealed or distorted by the narrator-protagonist. But the story is also of a collision between American "innocence" and European compromise. One of my central aims has been to avoid, while writing fairly complex psychological novels, the deadening burden of explicit and accurate analysis. The Bystander—very easy to read, perhaps too easy to read—requires, to be truly understood, the closest attention to hint, to image, to nuance of voice and style.

In Christine/Annette I wanted to bring a number of perspectives and narrative methods to bear on the ambiguous case of an actress who changes her name and even her personality several times. We see her through fragments of her own journal, her son's reconstructive memoir, a former lover's screen play, brief oral histories by old friends, a few letters. No two versions entirely agree. A good young writer urged me to simplify my novel in accord with contemporary taste by making it more "linear," with a clear story line and third-person narration. But I kept to my ambiguities and contradictory witnesses, knowing they were true to a past that was irrecoverable and had become mythical. I was much pleased by a reviewer who found in this novel a combination of Proust's impressionism and the post-modern qualities of Italo Calvino.

I was bemused by the turbulent self-destructive life of Louise Brooks, but even more by that of Lya de Putti, a Hungarian star of silent films whom I met when I was ten years old. She left husband and infant daughters to become an actress, and the children were led to believe she was dead. More than fifty years later I met the daughters, and was struck by their loyalty to the lost mother and to the father who had kept them in ignorance. I knew none of this family history when I brought a remembered "Lia" briefly into my first novel of 1937. But the loyalty of the daughters, as well as Lya de Putti's turbulent life, is reflected in Christine/Annette.

Gabrielle was subtitled "An Entertainment" after the model of Graham Greene, who thus labeled his less complex novels. The subtitle may have been a mistake. Although structured as a psychological thriller, Gabrielle is a serious political satire. More than ever before I was conscious, as I wrote, of an earlier work as an ideal model: Voltaire's Candide. The immediate provocation for the novel was the misguided and complacent attitude of the State Department toward Latin America.

The Hotel in the Jungle is laid in 1870, 1922, and 1982, with two characters appearing in both 1870 and 1922 and two appearing in both 1922 and 1982. The setting is a resort hotel located in Santa Rosalia, an isolated Indian village in southern Mexico. The novel is based on the premise that the filibuster William Walker might not have been executed after his loss of Nicaragua and on the hypothesis that the poet Mina Loy, looking for her disappeared husband the poet-boxer Arthur Cravan, might have come to Santa Rosalia at the same time as the former heavyweight champion Jack Johnson. Cravan had fought Johnson in Barcelona and hoped to enlist Johnson in a boxing academy in Mexico. In 1982 a woman scholar, bemused by the disappearance of one major character in 1922 and another in 1982, comes to Santa Rosalia to investigate the ambiguous past. The final owner of the hotel was Cyrus Cranfield, an entrepreneur who resembles in some ways Howard Hughes.

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