(Masterpieces of World Literature, Critical Edition)

Despite its subtitle in English, The Wind Spirit: An Autobiography might be more accurately called a series of autobiographical essays. While Tournier certainly provides factual details about his life, most serve as springboards for more general comments. The book is studded with ideas, aphorisms, and philosophical observations—many of them highly provocative. Thus his account of his childhood in “Born Under a Lucky Star” includes attacks on the “mutilating, castrating culture” in which he grew up, the rigidly antisexual Christian religion to which he was exposed, and the city of Paris, which he found thoroughly hostile. By contrast, he remembers with delight his grandfather’s seemingly magical pharmacy and the fairy tales of Hans Christian Andersen.

Tournier stresses his family’s identification with Germany and German culture, and in the book’s second (and longest) chapter he traces the origin and gestation of his most highly regarded novel, The Ogre. In a particularly striking passage, he describes his adolescent delight in the chaos that followed France’s defeat by Germany in World War II. He concludes with a moving lament for the culturally sophisticated Germany that Adolf Hitler destroyed. While a novel must be judged independently of its author’s comments and opinions, readers of The Ogre will find that The Wind Spirit provides invaluable insights into the novel’s symbolic structure and...

(The entire section is 457 words.)