Writing always somewhat outside the mainstream of French (and American) fiction, Julien Green managed literally to survive most of his contemporaries, remaining active as a writer and granting frequent interviews well into his nineties. In Green’s case, the happy accidents of longevity and sustained productivity assured a continued interest in his work, including those novels published near the start of his career. The Dark Journey was the third of Green’s novels to be published while the author was still in his twenties. His early novels are marked by a sureness of touch rare for an author of that age, especially in the creation and delineation of his characters. Green’s characters impose themselves on the reader, drawing him or her deeply into a threatening reality that lurks just beneath the surface of everyday life. Thus do Guéret’s yearnings, harmless enough at the start, pass quickly into obsession, violence, and murder.
Using shifting viewpoints, although always narrating in the third person, Green shows society as a potential danger zone of conflicting preoccupations and obsessions. Like some of the most memorable characters in Honoré de Balzac’s multivolume La Comédie humaine (1829-1848; The Human Comedy, 1895-1896, 1911), written a century earlier, many of Green’s characters tend to be monomaniacs, motivated by a single overriding passion. Unlike Balzac, however, Green presents his characters in...
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