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reviews 149 tion of a country very much like South Africa, it briefly tells of an "unwhite" on his course to crime, arrest, and sentencing to capita) punishment. What follows is a devastating description of how the state administers death by hanging. The comic lurks in such cold lines as, "His life was to be reeled in with a cord." The clinical account ofthe hangman's apparatus and techniques haunted me far longer than I wished: Precautionary measures are howevertaken with female exécutées. They get watertight rubber bloomers and the dress is taken in around the knees and sewn up. Nor will she afterwards be undressed like the men to be hosed down, but she'll be buried just the way she is in her clothes. The reason being that the female parts—uterus, ovaries—are spilled with the shock of falling down the shaft. More thanany otherwork offiction I can recall, Mouroircommunicates the desolate amorality of the tryannical state, the kinds of human creatures created by its pressures, and the ways they help perpetuate the situation: Hell doesn't exist. It comes into being, each moment it is created relentlessly, and then it is strictly personal and individual, that is, proper to each individual .... The fragmentation is both of the inner and outer worlds. No one escapes its effects, and what saves the novel from the simplificationsofsocial polemic is its ambition throughout to evoke the feel ofthe individual, spiritual suffocation; at issue is not merely the logistics oflosing freedom, but the sensation of the inner desert which comes with that loss. Mouroir is a book of the dead, but its energy, and its embracing ofthe deadly, make the reader see the patterns within what Breytenbach calls "heterosis", hybrid vision, and what he presents as the ultimate goal, that "life must be tempted back to earth." There is a dynamic incompleteness about the narrative, as distinct from static ambiguity; Breytenbach acknowledges this in the final chapter, "Index," addressed to Valjean, that doubly-punished hero ofLes Miserables, by mocking those whoseek endings, orblueprints for action: "I have been requested to finish off these accompanying documents; not to complete them—that, you'll agree, would be unethical—but to book them." Thus, the literary response by itself is incomplete, and must have its mirror-image elsewhere. KERRY AHEARN Meyer Liben. New ibrk Street GamesandOtherStoriesandSketches. New York: Schocken Books, 1984.275 pp. $17.95 (cloth). For years I've had a fantasy ofa General Strike—not a strike of workers militantly protesting in the streets, but one even more fundamental than that. Everyone, whether out of lethargy, depression , deep-rooted understanding or simple exhaustion, would either refuse or simply be unable to get out ofbed. Everything would come to a halt. The slogans, ifany, would be merely "No, I won't function," or "No, I can't be productive." In "Ball of Fire," a wonderful story in Meyer Liben's collection ofshort stories New ibrk Street Games, the narrator, abookdistributor, speaks ofhis youth: "I was as lazy as they came. I returned from school (on days that I wasn't able to beg off, feign illness, etc.) and liked nothing better than to lie down, with a book or magazine—something to incite my dreams—and spend the afternoon that way." On those rare occasions when his mother would be able to get him out ofthe house to play "I usually wound up sitting on the stoop steps or on the curb . . . watching the mad whirl." Eventually, his fathercould stand it no longer. "No kid ofmine is going to mm into a bum." And for six months or a year his father hovered over him, constantly checking up on how he spent his days. Finally hewas pulledout ofhis laziness, out ofhis dangerousdreamy states. So now asanadult he isaball offire, constantly on the move. Hetakescold showers in the morning to shock him out ofhis 150 the minnesota review drowsiness. He eats a good breakfast to fuel his body. This has worked to his advantage by often making him more alert than other people when conducting business deals in the morning. Near the end of the story he has fallen asleep and is...

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Additional Information

ISSN
2157-4189
Print ISSN
0026-5667
Pages
pp. 149-152
Launched on MUSE
2011-07-06
Open Access
No
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