Main character name:
Year published: 1996
Time period: 1990's
Subgenres: Political, Thriller
Although it's all about the past, in a sense The Statement could hardly be a more timely novel. There has been a lot of apology in the air in 1997, with much of it centered on the Holocaust. The Swiss government has publicly apologized for its banks' profiteering from the victims of the Nazis, and the French Catholic Church recently made a ÔPublic Statement of Repentance' for its failure to speak out against collaboration with the Nazis during WWII. (No word from the Vatican as yet.)
This complicity of the French church is at the center of Brian Moore's fine thriller. The protagonist is Pierre Brossard, a Frenchman in his 70's who was a champion of the collaborationist Vichy regime, and who went above and beyond even that call of duty in his own persecution of Jews. In present-day France, Brossard lives undercover, receives monthly checks from several unnamed sources, and takes shelter in churches and monasteries as he roves around France. As the novel starts, he is being tracked by an unnamed assassin, whose job it is to pin a statement of guilt to Brossard's corpse.
Brossard's case is being brought to public consciousness again by a series of legal actions, and the Church is on the defensive for having ever given him aid. The Church defends itself with the rhetoric of forgiveness and healing, but the question remains: who is forgiven first, and how eagerly?
This is not really an action-packed novel, and those with absolutely no interest in the background or subject matter may find it just a bit too talky. But Moore is a master at building suspense, and somehow he makes the reader live and breathe the tension of a man who is unsympathetic in every way. None of the characters are heroes, and the closest thing to a pure villain is the character we come to know the best. The ambiguity is unsettling, but adds a feeling of veracity to this complex and disturbing story.
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