Book of the Day: Henry de Montherlant's Chaos and Night
Thu Feb 5 2009
The hero of French author and later messy suicide Henry de Montherlant's soon-to-be rereleased novel, Chaos and Night, is one of the more miserable sons of bitches you'll ever see on the printed page. Don Celestino is his name, and in his youth he enjoyed killing Falangists in Spain. Because of that partisan hobby, as an old man, he now lives (and complains) in exile with his dutiful but unhappy daughter. While there are many references—both ex- and implicit—to Don Quixote in the book, it is the work of Austrian novelist Thomas Bernard that Chaos and Night most recalls, with its complicated ambivalence toward kin and homeland. Author Gary Indiana puts it best in his introduction to the book, when he writes that it "reads like a qualified apologia for its author's lifelong, obdurate repudiation of humanism." Sounds like Don Celestino definitely belongs here.