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Lacey 99 Paul A. Lacey Love and Terror: The Political Fiction of William Herrick William Herrick has published eight novels and one collection of short fiction since 1967. Though he has been widely reviewed and eight of his works remain in print, Herrick's corpus is not yet widely known. That is a condition which calls for rectifying, for, working in a tradition reaching back to Dostoievsky's The Devils, Conrad's Under Western Eyes, Koestier's Darkness at Noon and Camus' The Plague, Herrick describes for our time the human cost of revolutionary obedience and the tangled meanings of loyalty and betrayal. Four of his novels are closely connected. Each takes its themes from and remains faithful to the facts of historical events; together the four novels examine fifty years of revolutionary activity , starting from the outbreak of the Spanish Civil War in 1936, and spanning two complete generations of revolutionaries and terrorists. Hermanos! (1969) takes as its subject the Spanish Civil War and especially the involvement of the American Battalions of the International Brigades. It also seeds the three subsequent novels with characters and pivotal events. From Hermanos! we trace the lives of a handful of young revolutionaries from idealism to disillusionment, cynicism and—under the steady press of events—to expedient betrayal and murder. Some pay the price for their choices by dying in Spain; others we follow to old age, seeing them work out the moral consequences of their revolutionary commitments . Shadows and Wolves (1980) deals with Spain's transformation from Franco to a constitutional monarchy, when extremists on both sides stood poised to renew the civil war of forty years earlier. In Love and Terror (1981) Herrick creates the inner lives of young German terrorists of the late 1960s and the early 1970s, describing goals and impulses that finally bring the young into deadly conflict with their spiritual ancestors, three disillusioned survivors of the Spanish Civil War and Stalinism. Both Shadows and Wolves and Love and Terror show us inner conflict enacted in the conflict between generations. In ...Kill Memory... (1983) the canvas is smaller. We enter the inner life of one old woman, another survivor of Spain, but there the conflict rages between the young woman she was and the old woman she is, a war to kill memory because guilt will not die.1 Herrick's method is to take large slices of recent history and, while maintaining the greatest fidelity to historical facts, to create from them dense, complex political-psychological fables. The truth of these fables comes less from their historical accuracy than their psychological pene- 100 the minnesota review tration into characters torn by irreconcilable loyalties and inevitable betrayals. At the center of each novel stands an apocalypse, a revolutionary cause its adherents believe will, in the fullness of time, transform human society and human nature. As in every apocalypse, ultimate things are at stake, so the expedient is not merely allowed but demanded. In these novels, to be a revolutionary means to have given up all personal will, personal judgment, ethical commitment, to see every loyalty to family, friend or lover as contingent. Civil war, deadly conflict between parent and child—things which are as unnatural as they are familiar in this century—define this revolutionary moment. Love and Terror could serve as title for all four novels, for this is the most compelling of the many antitheses around which Herrick constructs these texts. Love is personal, tender, concrete, attached. It brings both self-transcendence and responsibility for the loved one. Terror is impersonal , detached, historically determined. It brings both self-abnegation and escape from personal responsibility. Love is choice. "Freedom and love are equal," says Sarah in Hermanos! Terror is revolutionary obedience . The old Stalinist Vlanoc calls this the unity of opposites. "Hunger and justice are opposites. They fornicate and spawn revolutions." One of Herrick's great gifts is to make credible the inward process by which the idealist becomes the terrorist: first embracing the unity of opposites, then trying to live the antitheses with integrity, and finally yielding to the historical necessity that justifies deception, betrayal and murder. II Hermanos! is a story of betrayal at every...

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Additional Information

ISSN
2157-4189
Print ISSN
0026-5667
Pages
pp. 99-117
Launched on MUSE
2011-07-06
Open Access
No
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