Greg's Reviews > Men God Forgot

Men God Forgot by Albert Cossery
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it was amazing
bookshelves: short-stories, re-read, favorites

1. The Postman gets his own back
2. The Girl and the Hashish-Smoker
3. The Barber has killed his Wife
4. The Danger of Fantasy
5. The Hungry only dream of Bread

There is no story to any of these five short-stories, none have an ending, they are oblique. Each one is like an extract, a day out of a continuum in their relentless poor lives of despair. These stories are miserable and have a simplicity that draws you in. Although each story is individual, they collectively combine as a greater whole. The characters are illiterate, their street is their world. They don't understand how the world works. Events or news of a neighbour are magnified huge and significant. Some terrible act they don't understand becomes driven by mystical malevolent forces. There is an underlying theme of their fear of authority.
Albert Cossery likes the word 'lugubrious', or the translator does. This makes me wonder how well these stories translate from the original.

The third story, The Barber has killed his Wife - The one thing that didn't ring true for me was, to emphasise their poverty, despair and suffering, the Tinker's small son is fully aware of 'the injustice in the world, that he is alone in an unknown world of distress'. His father tells him that God has forgotten them.

The fourth story, The Danger of Fantasy - about a school of beggars, explores an interesting point. In a conversation between Abou Chawali, professor of Mendicancy, and the man of letters Tewif Gad, they discuss whether begging should be a sincere reality of their suffering of an act similar to acrobats to induce sympathy. "It is a reality, not a fantasy - Mendicancy will not stand modifications".

Re-reading this book, it still has the magic.

I find these stories are very similar to Paul Bowles' A Hundred Camels in the Courtyard.
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Reading Progress

January 1, 2012 – Shelved
February 11, 2014 – Started Reading
February 11, 2014 – Shelved as: short-stories
February 11, 2014 – Shelved as: re-read
February 11, 2014 – Shelved as: favorites
February 11, 2014 –
page 29
28.43%
February 14, 2014 –
page 57
55.88%
February 15, 2014 –
page 78
76.47%
February 19, 2014 – Finished Reading

Comments Showing 1-6 of 6 (6 new)

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Greg I'm reading this again. Five short stories.
First is The Postman Gets His Own Back. Zouba the postman, Hanafi the laundryman. Subtly entwined in the story, Cossery shows how small gestures like a smile from a learned stranger, or an insult from the ignorant can can empower or destroy the spirit.


message 2: by Stephen (new)

Stephen P Greg, you make this book sound both difficult and enticing. A nice wave of a magical hand. I'm tempted. Nicely done.


Greg Thank you Stephen. These stories certainly reward returning to. The style of writing is not like a beginning, middle and neat ending.
There are some superb lines in these stories. An example from The Danger of Fantasy. "They all seem ready to collapse; but the eternal misery which built them with its wild hands, had left on them its imprint of eternity".


message 4: by Stephen (new)

Stephen P Greg wrote: "Thank you Stephen. These stories certainly reward returning to. The style of writing is not like a beginning, middle and neat ending.
There are some superb lines in these stories. An example from ..."


Thanks Greg. That is a superb line. I'm always moved when from such suffering a profound wisdom and beauty can rise.


Greg Stephen, this morning, reading Delacroix's journal, a line jumped out, a quote sentence. "In adversity people regain all the virtues which they lose in prosperity".
Like all good quotes, it makes one think.


message 6: by Stephen (new)

Stephen P Greg wrote: "Stephen, this morning, reading Delacroix's journal, a line jumped out, a quote sentence. "In adversity people regain all the virtues which they lose in prosperity".
Like all good quotes, it makes ..."


And Greg makes me smile at all the truth it holds. :)


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