Last Updated on May 6, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 521
Moore continues to explore the possibilities of the historical novel by writing a political thriller that is as entertaining as it is thought-provoking. An elderly man, Pierre Brossard, is pursued by a nameless figure in southern France. The reader is led to believe that Brossard, because of his age, is a defenseless victim until he suddenly brandishes a pistol, shoots his pursuer, and rolls his car off a high mountain road. Among the dead man’s possessions is a document indicating that Brossard is a former chief in the Vichy government responsible for the execution of fourteen Jews in 1944. The novel quickly evolves into an intricate game of cat and mouse as government officials search and Brossard hides in one monastery or abbey after another.
The novel offers a sophisticated psychological study of a depraved soul in torment. On the surface, the central situation—a Nazi sympathizer escaping justice—does not provoke sympathy in most readers. Yet Moore so finely developed his character that Brossard is by turns thoroughly contemptible and oddly pitiable. Through much of the novel the reader cannot determine whether Brossard is a depraved killer or a victim of overzealous officials looking to place blame on a convenient scapegoat. In a clever dream sequence the reader eventually learns that Brossard is all that his accusers have contended.
Brossard is not only a study in persecution but an example of a thoroughly self-absorbed creature as well. His life revolves around simple Darwinian self-preservation and self-justification. He has convinced himself that he is a hero, one who stood up for the true France, battling infidels and remaining loyal to the misunderstood Marshal Philippe Pétain. Because of the support he has enjoyed for so long from the Catholic Church, he is further convinced of his moral superiority.
In emphasizing Brossard’s relationship with the Catholic Church, Moore once more explored his ambivalent feelings about religion and Catholicism in general. Moore often vacillated in his attitudes about Catholicism, and an interesting counterpoint is The Color of Blood (1987), another political thriller set in an unidentified Eastern European country dominated by a totalitarian regime. A radical wing of the Church encourages revolution, while the protagonist, Cardinal Bem, is a centrist dedicated to what he believes is God’s will and the best interests of the laity. Consequently, he opposes rebellion yet resists collaboration with the state, and the novel suggests, in spite of Moore’s oft-stated contempt for the Church’s control of its followers, that as long as the Church is led by selfless men like Bem, it can be a genuine force for the betterment of humankind.
In The Statement, however, the Catholic Church and its leaders represent self-serving mendacity and political manipulation. Historically the Church, from Pope Pius XII down to parish priests, supported the Vichy government because of its opposition to communism. After the war, many members of the Church aided Vichy collaborators in evading the law. As Moore makes eminently clear, the Church is not simply a bastion of spiritual high-mindedness but a sophisticated and often ruthless institution that is well versed in the language of political intrigue.
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