Tiie Miraculous Barber


by Marcel Aymé.Harper, $3.00.
This is the third novel published in this country by the most entertaining of contemporary French writers. It is a subtly mocking satire, touched with fantasy, of the unedifying condition of French society and politics in the midthirties. A wealthy industrialist of flawless respectability dies mysteriously at luncheon. His wife discovers that he had a mistress. His newly married daughter discovers that her husband, an athlete, gives priority to outdoor sports, and she becomes involved with a young tough who, for economic reasons, is affiliated with an elderly pederast. The other characters include a typically Gallic elder novelist, bucking for a decoration; an old soldier burning to liquidate the Popular Front; and two arty young ladies who have fed on avant-garde ideas not wisely but too well.
A murder and a strike keep the plot humming. And eventually all problems are cynically settled by a miracle-working barber, who typifies the opportunism of the Français moyen in the thirties. Aymé’s book is very funny, terribly true, and, of course, quite sad.