Gascar, Pierre (Pseudonym of Pierre Fournier)
Gascar, Pierre (Pseudonym of Pierre Fournier) 1916–
Gascar is a French novelist who began his writing career as a journalist. The influence of his experience as a German prisoner of war during the Second World War is felt throughout his work. Gascar's fictional world is one of cruelty and hostility, the tone of his work is pessimistic and despairing.
Chester W. Obuchowski
Inasmuch as war looms large in Les Bêtes and lies at the very center of Le Temps des morts Gascar impresses one as being of that class of writers, of which Ludwig Renn and Norman Mailer are prominent representatives, who achieve by far their highest literary flights under its crushing impact.
With Les Bêtes it is the world of Kafka born anew: strange, somber, mysterious, irrational, eternally menacing. The animals, swarming everywhere, quail helplessly before the onslaughts of their human tormentors, who, in their turn, fail not only to breach the curtain of incomprehension isolating the species but also that which segregates them from their fellow creatures. And in the three most powerful stories, those directly embraced within this study, a Kafkaesque dream-like haze envelops the impotent animals and anguished humans, overlying the world of reality and lending an air of timelessness to their tragic situation.
Not necessarily intended as such, "Les Chevaux," the book's opening selection, can readily be taken to be a strong indictment of war…. Throughout, war is ingeniously painted as epic chaos and a massacre des innocents. (pp. 327-28)
The grim face of war again terrorizes men and animals alike in "Les Bêtes," which gives its title to the volume. A masterly contrived piece, it would rate inclusion in any anthology of contemporary short stories…. In a world gone...
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Judith J. Radke
It is in the half-light of limbo that we see the forms of animals and men in Gascar's Les Bêtes…. The stories with a war or pre-war setting take place in semi-darkness, an absence of light…. The evening light in which animal forms proliferate and images of fear multiply is both that of a tormented world at war and that of the interior recesses of the minds of individual men.
When one is at that time of day which is "entre chien et loup," it is difficult to distinguish the man from the animal, the animal from the object. The title, "Entre chiens et loups," given to the longest story of this collection, is doubly ironic: it intimates that the conflict of man and dog described in the story is that of the dog with a more savage animal, a wolf, and it describes too that indistinct twilight in which the story is bathed, one in which it cannot be determined if the ambiguous shape seen in the distance is dog or wolf. One form appears to already be, or be about to become, another. The bench on which the butcher kills his animals resembles his victims with outspread legs; trees become "crucifiés" in the winter light…. (p. 85)
There is not just a superficial resemblance of forms in the dimness nor does Gascar stress this similarity solely for the purposes of comparison, in a symbolic or metaphoric fashion. In this dream-like atmosphere one form becomes another; there is a constant metamorphosis. There is the...
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If Heraclitus had written fiction, it would have resembled the novels and stories of Pierre Gascar, where earth, air, fire, and water, and the vivid creation which they support are no less alive than man himself. Gascar's tales are like those enormous medieval tapestries, where princes and violets are set down with equal clarity, and the prince must share the stage with water, owl's ears, and the webbing of frog's feet…. [In] his stories simplest acts become ancient rites: he sees his own life blessed with the permanence of a myth.
In his collections of stories, Les bêtes, Les femmes, soleils, and his autobiographical writings, La graine and Le meilleur de la vie, good and evil have the taste of water and sun, guilt and hate have the sting of blood and salt. They cannot be separated, for more than an act of language keeps them together. The elements participate directly in the lives of his characters, fuse with their values and surround them with an ethical landscape of their own making. Transformed to a wasteland or a garden, nature mirrors their acts of hate or acts of love, just as an internal conflict, says Gascar, may be triggered or reinforced by a symbol. (pp. 104-05)
With symbols Gascar makes a new language. He never writes of ideas but fuses them with the material world where they were born…. Like Bergson, Gascar believes that when you try to describe your feelings, spreading out in...
(The entire section is 1308 words.)