Thursday, December 28, 2006

The Statement

Please indulge me in my continued praise of the work of novelist Brian Moore.
Today I am thinking of The Statement, originally published in 1996, and subsequently adapted into an award-winning movie starring Michael Caine.

The setting is southern France, 1989.
Pierre Brossard is a man on the run for his life.
For over 40 years he has been in hiding, counting on the complicity of the Catholic Church to perpetuate his anonymity. During WWII, Brossard was a member of the "milice" and as part of his duties at the time he personally shot 14 Jews in a clandestine pogrom and subsequently co-operated in the sending of many Jews from France to extermination camps.
Through his many connections, Brossard managed at one point to obtain an official political pardon for his war-crimes, but now (in 1989) the charge of "crimes against humanity" has been added... with the result that even some of his strongest supporters have turned against him. There is a renewed interest in his case; he's running out of places to hide... and he has more pursuers than ever before.

Moore has written a great meditation on the historical processes and conditions that make war crimes or crimes against humanity so difficult to pursue. Brossard is demonstrative of the expertise with which such "criminals" are able to exploit various forces of compromise, immunity, asylum and refuge.
Many questions are subtly raised by this book. The Church here affords a sort of refuge to the retributive justice that the outside world demands (concerning Brossard's obvious past crimes/sins)... but what of Brossard's inner torment? Even if the Church offers (grants) Divine pardon... does the pardon of man/society necessarily follow? Should it? (I hope not). What do we make of priestly absolution when it proves ineffective as conscience-cleanser? Is this question being answered when, with his final breath, Brossard tries to be penitent and sense God's pardon, and all he is afforded is a final look (in his mind's eye) at the people that he has killed?

It is a story told by a genius writer, Moore didn't even know how to disappoint a reader. The short quick chapters make you quickly forget whatever else you had to do today... you won't stop flipping the pages till your done. He changes the "I" of his narrator constantly, and never loses the reader for a moment. I've read almost all of his many books and consider this among his very best. This is a book that had significant meaning for the author (a sort of purging of his own shame at his father's conservative Catholic belief and initial support of totalitarianism during WWII). Moore commented, concerning The Statement, saying --> "I never thought that novels changed the world. I still don't believe that. But I just thought that this was a story which really should come out."
It should.

1 comment:

Stefanie said...

Wow, sounds like a great book!