Abahn Sabana David

Open Letter. Jun. 2016. 108p. tr. from French by Kazim Ali. ISBN 9781940953366. pap. $12.95; ebk. ISBN 9781940953403. F
It's hard to imagine anything by durable French author Duras left to translate into English, but here it is. Written late in her career, when she was abandoning her communist sympathies, this novel is set in 1968 in an unnamed country controlled by a repressive political party. As night falls coldly, Sabana and David arrive at an isolated house to stand guard over Abahn, who will be executed in the morning by local party leader Gringo for certain offenses—what Abahn has done and why remain vague even to him. Abahn is also called the Jew, though Jews here seem to stand for anyone in opposition; the appearance of another man named Abahn further clouds the situation. In fact, David, who claims he's not part of Gringo's party, has surprising reasons of his own for being there.
VERDICT Beautifully cut to the bone yet increasingly absurdist, the narrative delivers an unsettling sense of ideology run amok. It's challenging and not always satisfying but will attract those serious about their reading.

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