Julien Gracq The Opposing Shore.
Columbia University Press, 320 pages, $19.95

The word surrealist is appropriate here, in one of its few current applications: a French schoolteacher, Julien Gracq (born Louis Poirier) was an admiring companion of the poet Andre Breton, the founder of literary Surrealism. Gracq wrote a book-length appreciation of that “saint of poetry,” its first edition, in 1948, illustrated with a frontispiece by Hans Bellmer. Julien Gracq’s writings may be, finally, the only truly successful works of serious fiction written under Breton’s direct influence. Of them, The Opposing Shore (Le Rivage des Syrtes) is the best known among French readers.

Gracq’s books are finely crafted intellectual puzzles, dense with perceptiveness, complex in fantasy and language, and stimulating even to a reader of cultivated taste. If only by virtue of its ability...

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