Thursday, January 3, 2008

A review of The Statement by Brian Moore

The Statement by Brian Moore is a little more than a pursuit thriller. I stress a little more because it genuinely transcends the “who’s going to do it” genre, though overall it misses an opportunity to address some important and potentially fascinating ideas. 

Pierre Brossard is the original, but not the only name of a politically right-wing Frenchman who worked with a wartime fascist militia in Vichy France. As part of his duties he was responsible for assisting the transport of Jews to Nazi concentration camps and at least once he organised killings, in particular a massacre of fourteen individuals. He was later tried and convicted, though years later a Presidential pardon meant that he was no longer a wanted man. Still one the run, however, he was convicted of a crime against humanity via a judgment and indeed a jurisdiction that not everyone in France either respected or recognised. 

Pierre Brossard’s rediscovery of his Roman Catholic faith provided him with something more than solace. Through confession he could secure effective pardon, both within his own and also his sympathisers’ minds, where forgiveness was not needed. But also he secured effective support within the minds of sincere devotees of the faith, who often declared themselves more interested in a believer’s soul than any debt to history or even the human race. So, on the run for years, Brossard found haven in a series of religious houses where, in effect, he could come and go incognito, almost as he wished. 

Meanwhile cheques supplying his financial needs arrived regularly from both known and unknown donors, some connected to societies within the Church, societies that also sympathise with a more traditional form of the faith than that emanating from Rome. Brossard is pursued by the law, a faction of which wants to bring him to justice, whilst another wants to protect him. He is also hunted by an untraceable Jewish group that hires contract killers to do away with him. 

Paradoxically, the faction of the police that wants to bring him to justice also wants to arrest him to protect him from the assassins. And all this in just over two hundred pages. And that, perhaps, is the problem. Though the book is well written, well set and constructed, the characters, including Brossard, never attain much more than cameo status. Several of the protagonists express strong opinions about race, culture and faith, but we are never presented with a probing analysis of their motives or identities. 

The role of the Church in supporting, or at least turning a blind eye towards fascism is mentioned, but not worked through. The schism represented by the Lefevre faction in 1980s France is mentioned, but its ideological foundation is glossed over. The existence of Masonic-type societies within the Church is mentioned, but quite who they are, what they want to achieve and how they operate is largely ignored. Even Brossard’s own identity is effectively taken for granted, once we have been introduced to his racism, his anti-Semitism and his ruthlessness. 

The Statement of the title refers to a typed sheet carried by Brossard’s would-be assassins. It is their intention to pin it to their victim’s corpse, thus claiming closure of the case of the wartime massacre of Jews in the village of Dombey. The plot, as ever in a “who does what”, eventually works its way out. I will, of course, not reveal the detail, because with The Statement that would remove the prime reason for reading the book. If some of the other themes the book touches upon had been worked through – even just a little – the book would have provided a more substantial, subtle and sophisticated experience and it would be an interesting read even if the reader knew all the plot. As it is, it fills a couple of hours in an enjoyable, mildly informative and mildly stimulating way. 

View the book on amazon The Statement

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