Set during World War II, this novel describes the disquiet and dread of a French lieutenant and his men, deep in the forest on the French-Belgian border, waiting for the war to begin.
Julien Gracq (1910-2007), whose real name was Louis Poirier, was a French geographer and historian, and the author of four novels, poetry, and a play. His work was influenced by surrealism, and he dedicated his first novel, The Castle of Argol, to AndrU Breton. In 1951 he won the Prix Goncourt for his third and best-known novel, The Opposing Shore (though he refused to accept the prize). He taught at LycUe Claude-Bernard for twenty-three years. Richard Howard is the author of seventeen volumes of poetry and has published more than one hundred and fifty translations from the French, including, for NYRB, Marc Fumaroli's When the World Spoke French, Balzac's Unknown Masterpiece, and Maupassant's Alien Hearts and Like Death. He is a National Book Award and Pulitzer Prize winner. He lives in New York City.
"Richard Howard's sinuous translation...is from 1959 but feels perfectly up-to-date...The war arrives in this unexpectedly delicate story with the shadowy unreality of a dream...but it is a dream of a vastly different nature." --Sam Sacks, The Wall Street Journal "A Balcony in the Forest presents Grange's fantasies in prose that is lyric, yet precise; Richard Howard's translation of 1959 still seems fresh." --Nick Holdstock, TLS "Only one writer could give expression to the venomous poetry of those months of watching and waiting, of waking dreams, and that was Julien Gracq." --Claude Roy, Lib ration "One of the very few first-class novels about the 1939 war that I have ever read." --Norman Shrapnel, The Guardian "His precise, meticulous descriptions are entrancing. A work at once powerful and delicate." --Maurice Nadeau, Observateur "Balcony in the Forest is not a 'war novel, ' although it describes the experiences of Frenchmen in uniform during the early days of World War II. Julien Gracq has written a sensitive and analytical study of men enmeshed in a phony war--a war that would ultimately result in the tragic, dramatic fall of France.... The facile pen of the author is evident on every page, especially in the descriptive passages of the phantom forest, the seasonal landscape colors, and the beauty of nature in contrast with man's destructiveness in wartime. These descriptions sing in the exceptionally smooth translation by Richard Howard, who, like the writer Julien Gracq, reveals a poetic sense throughout this cogitative novel." --Max Bogart, The Saturday Review "A series of brilliantly written descriptions of the Forest of Ardennes, the winter of the 'phony war' and of what it is like to be a soldier in a blockhouse there, waiting for a war one does not really expect to come." --Kirkus Reviews "Balcony in the Forest is a strange, elusive novel. Is Grange an unrealistic dreamer who takes refuge from the realities of war in the dream forests of childhood fairy tales? Or is he tapping into some primal force or existential plane that transcends the pettiness of human history?" --Vertigo (blog) "The translation, by Mr. Richard Howard, is worthy of a book whose force depends almost entirely on the quality of its writing." --The Times Literary Supplement "A most pleasing novel. Written in a prose that avoids all eccentricities and experiments, it moves rapidly and smoothly because each word seems exactly the one required." --New York Herald Tribune