0562 | Inferno | Henri Barbusse

0562 | Inferno | Henri Barbusse post image

Context: read this as we went for breakfast at a new restaurant nearby. Nice, but pricey and bore zero resemblance to the pics on the menu.

Not a very long novel and not a completely entertaining one either. Barbusse has constructed a hotel room where the unnamed protagonist discovers a hole which allows him to see into the next room undetected. Through this, he manages to view a wide range of events, overhear every single word of every conversation and thereby satisfy his every voyeuristic whim. It’s not entirely edifying.

I read somewhere that the idea is that the hole enables a view of the full range of life. There are illicit lovers, obscure conversations about life, betrayals and even a death. Every conversation is laden with pathos and melodrama. Trouble is, life, especially that in hotel rooms, is usually banal and humdrum. This seems to have been lost on Barbusse.

Putting aside the contrived plot device of a small hole conveying omniprescience, there’s still little here that’s going to engage many modern readers. Nor did I feel that there was anything scintillating that Barbusse had to say about the human condition that wasn’t idealistic somehow. That would come later when WW1 gave him plenty of material to work with.

In the interim, Barbusse was just sharpening his quill as a writer and revolutionary. By all accounts, he would go on to better things.

FIRST

The landlady, Madame Lemercier, left me alone in my room, after a short speech impressing upon me all the material and moral advantages of the Lemercier boarding-house.

LAST

This might reveal the ending. If you want to see the quote, click show

RATING infernor
Key: Legacy | Plot / toPic | Characterisation / faCts | Readability | Achievement | Style
Read more about how I come up with my ratings.

Leave a Comment

%d bloggers like this: