Ilya Ehrenburg Bernice Whittemore - Essay

Bernice Whittemore

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

The Extraordinary Adventures of Julio Jurenito, that highly imaginative brain-child of Ilya Ehrenbourg, and his equally highly imaginative companions, leave one more or less wondering just what the tempest in the teapot is all about. The author meets Julio, the "Master" … in a Paris café. Julio, the author fancies, is the devil and appears greatly disappointed to learn from Julio that the devil is a state of mind and not blood and bone. Ehrenbourg becomes Julio's first disciple and with him starts the story on its weird pilgrimage—philosophical and actual. The others are picked up on the way, each individually fantastic…. Ehrenbourg's fantastic characters live in the days of peace, war, and revolution on the continent—Senegal, Moscow, and many other places. The "Master" dissertates at length on religion, physical love, art, and numerous other topics. The whole is really a brilliantly and powerfully written "satirical delusion," an emulation of the immortal Candide, entirely lacking in Candide's subtlety. The publisher's blurb says, "his fantasy of sensation and satire will shock, violate, and exhilarate the most jaded." Guaranteed to violate but not exhilarate. Continual and inept references to the sexual impulse in the human relationship and the animal kingdom prove so distasteful that it is hard for one to rise above this predomination to the appreciation of a narrative well written. One might feel more kindly toward the arguments presented if they weren't so lewdly and salaciously thrust down one's throat. It is to be regretted that one who wields such a facile pen could not have utilized his capabilities in a more constructive, or entertaining, manner.

Bernice Whittemore, "The Leisure Arts: 'The Extraordinary Adventures of Julio Jurenito'," in Outlook and Independent (copyright 1930, by the Outlook Company), Vol. 155, No. 12, July 23, 1930, p. 470.