by Edie Meidav
Category: Fiction / General
400 pages; ISBN: 0374130752
Rating: 9/10 (Ratings explained)
Reviewer: Harriet Klausner
FSG, Aug 2005, $25.00, 400 pp.
From 1940-1945, Emile Poulquet served as the Prefecture of Finier in which he exiled thousands to die. After the War, he had cosmetic surgery to disguise himself by eliminating the facial hump his father thought personified evil, but would identify him to authorities on their Nazi sympathizer witch-hunt. In 1999, the authorities catch eight-four years old Emile, who stands trial for his role in genocide over five decades earlier. However, he remains spry and sharp, and escapes.
Emile takes the train south to Finier. In the train’s lavatory he writes his last will to give to his Arianne, a resistance hero’s widow, for he expects that upon returning for the first time since he spent a month there in 1960, this will end his odyssey. In Finier, Emile is sidetracked by the town’s wartime reunion that touches his withered soul as he knows he can never participate though he obsesses with the need to join even at the cost of his wasted life.
CRAWL SPACE is a deep character study of an octogenarian who knows that even death will not eliminate the guilt that haunts him. His need to “go home” grips readers, but Emile knows that he can never truly go home. Interestingly he feels more remorse over one incident than over sending thousands to their certain death as the latter is more a statistical consequence of his job while the former was caused by his emotions. Edie Meidav does the impossible turning a Nazi butcher into a sympathetic protagonist though the audience will believe he deserves an abode in hell; Emile would affirm that a life with no place to call home is hell.
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