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Reviews 83 are at least as significant and often better written than some paperbacks in print by such of her contemporaries as Albion Tourgee.John Hay, E. N. Westcott, and Paul Leicester Ford. Even if the Eastern publishers continue to ignore her work, A Victorian Gentlewoman in the Far West should give us a more complete sense of our heritage. JAMES H. MAGUIRE, Boise State College In a Hundred Graves: A Basque Portrait. By Robert Laxalt. (Reno: University of Nevada Press, 1972. 146 pages, $6.00.) Robert Laxalt’s fifth book, In a Hundred Graves: A Basque Portrait, is an attempt to indite the peculiar life style and character of his own Basque people in this collection of sketches and short stories varying in length and quality. Laxalt’s prose reflects the fragmentary dialogue of the Basque peasant with some inclination toward softness and restraint in diction. The deceptively simple language and clipped sentence rhythms are combined with unostentatious methodology and need some getting used to on the reader’s part. Stylistically, therefore, the author appears to lean toward Ezra Pound’s advocacy of simplicity, precision, concreteness and freshness in language. The book’s loosely episodic structure is reminiscent of Sherwood Anderson and William Carlos Williams’ prose while the scaled-to-life dialogue is reminiscent of Hemingway. Those sketches in Laxalt’s collection which do not succeed are due to appar­ ent incongruities in the narrator’s use o f subject matter and tone. For example, Chapter Four deals with an old stone house which the narrator professes a love for; Laxalt appears to be unsatisfied with his initial description of the struc­ ture and consequently piles on countless additional details which further weaken the sketch. Such a chapter is far inferior for example to Melville’s description of his dream house in “I and My Chimney.” But when Laxalt abandons description for plot and character portraiture the book comes alive with a perspicacious selection of detail. Chapter Thirty-Four is a self-contained short story o f exceptional merit which examines the priestdirected , provincial mind of the Basque villagers and provides material for the book’s unifying themes of love and death. The chapter opens with a portrait of a guilt-laden vicar who denies his inward attraction toward fleshy pleasures and contrasts with the doyen who serves as the village’s head priest, a man of piety tempered with compassion. The vicar often glances at the “rising breasts and flaring hips” o f the village girl Panchika though he tries “to avert his eyes” from these temptations. In the Confessional the Vicar is unyielding and consider­ ably less than Christ-like in forgiveness, and is thus usually visited by “old women 84 Western American Literature and litde children who had little risk.” But Panchika is forced to go to the Vicar for Confession one Saturday when the doyen is out of town, and she gives the old man a confession which causes the obdurate prefect to charge out of the stall “like a man demented.” He violates the sanctity of the confessional by going immediately to the poor girl’s parents and revealing all he had been told in confidence. Panchika, her attempts at repristination thwarted, arrives home to find her mother “collapsed on the bed,” her father “waiting with a heavy razor strop in his hand,” and thus is forced to run “screaming into the night.” The girl takes up with a local playboy, Agustin, son of the town smuggler. Tragedy strikes when the two are discovered at the local inn after a faulty heater releases fumes which kill the boy and render the girl unconscious. The remainder of the story deals with the attempts of the smuggler’s family to thwart the vicar who, having caused all the trouble, self-righteously refuses to allow Agustin a Catholic mass and burial because he had died in sin. The book’s title summarizes Laxalt’s attempt to capture the stories o f his people scattered in a hundred villages and buried in a hundred graveyards. Though a few stories lack merit, the Nevada writer’s book is an engrossing portrayal of the Basque people, a group seldom captured...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1948-7142
Print ISSN
0043-3462
Pages
pp. 83-84
Launched on MUSE
2017-10-04
Open Access
No
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