The Other Side of the Mountain Critical Essays

Michel Bernanos


(Critical Survey of Science Fiction and Fantasy)

The Other Side of the Mountain has some clear forebears when it comes to its style, overall mood, and general story line. The novel is written in the lean, spare style one associates with Albert Camus’ novel The Stranger (1942) and that is generally thought to be derived from American hard-boiled writers such as Dashiell Hammett and James Cain.

On the other hand, the introspective, somewhat formal character of the narrative recalls the nineteenth century, including some works of Edgar Allan Poe, who remains a favorite of French readers. The generally gloomy mood of the story also recalls Poe but adds overtones of the twentieth century’s horror-fantasy genre, exemplified by such authors as Harlan Ellison and H. P. Lovecraft. It would be reasonable to hypothesize that Bernanos wrote his novel with Lovecraft’s At the Mountains of Madness (1936) in mind. Even more pronounced is the novel’s resemblance to Poe’s novel The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym (1838). That novel also involves a disastrous sea voyage and subsequent journey beyond the outer reaches of the familiar world.

In The Other Side of the Mountain, Bernanos gives a conclusion to Poe’s work, albeit one with philosophical overtones drawn from the twentieth century. These overtones are definitively religious and existential in nature. The novel is full of references to God, prayer, and salvation. On the other hand, the benevolent,...

(The entire section is 514 words.)