THE FOUR HORSEMEN OF THE APOCALYPSE by Vicente Blasco Ibanez

4 horsemen  Geez what a tedious book.   I know, I know, lots of people loved this book, which was written in 1918.  It was a best seller in the US in 1919.  It is probably Ibanez’s most well known work.

Ibanez was a Spaniard, and wrote a fair number of books,  three or four others having some fame as well.  But this one even had movies made of it.  He died in the late 1920’s.

It is about the first world war, very anti-German.  Lots of pages of rants by various characters.  I am too old to devote a lot of time to fictional ranting.  Actually, I have no patience for real life ranting, either.

Just in case you do not know, the four horsemen of the apocalypse reference is from the Book of Revelations  of the bible and the appropriate bible passages are quoted directly in the book.

The essential story is that in the late 1800’s,  a Frenchman in his early twenties leaves Paris  to avoid going into the army.  He travels to Argentina, where after a few gigs in unpleasant work, he finds employment with a wealthy landowner. Working with him is a German immigrant who works on the books.  The landowner has two daughters and the German and our protagonist each marry a daughter.   Are ya getting where this is going now?  Right.

Sometime in the early 1900s, the German guy and his wife and children move back to Germany, where he claims to have some minor aristocratic connection.   Our French guy’s wife and grown children eventually start bugging to move to Paris, since the ranch they live on is so rural and provincial.  He finally agrees,  and off they go.

The story is concerned with the mobilization of Paris during the early days of the war, and the atrocities committed by the Germans, the life of his grown son, and his obsession with his possessions.  He had bought a castle in the countryside, and filled it with riches he bought at auctions and sales which the German army proceeds to seize and empty of its goodies for themselves.

One of the more humorous pieces was about the sister-in-law, that is his wife’s sister married to the German guy.  Even since they moved back to Germany, their letters were all about how wonderful Germany was, the culture, the society, the life, the education.  Nothing could compare.  The sister became more German than the Germans.  lol   Right before the outbreak of the war, she and one of her sons comes to visit, and she is staying with Marcelo and his wife.  Then war starts, the border closes, and she cannot get back home, and is stuck living in what would become an occupied country.  The family can’t tell anyone she was married to a German because she would be taken away to some camp.  So we have the family every night at dinner talking about the latest war news, with the French family convinced they will triumph over the marauding Germans, and the Germanized sister elated at any news of German victory.

Maybe because I have read all the war stories I really want to read in this lifetime, or maybe because I have read so many treatments of greed, power, war, family ties and loyalties, etc., that I feel were so much better done,  that this was just old hat for me.

The bones of the story were quite good.  The problem for me was that the bones were covered with so much flesh that I got tired of reading.

Maybe I will try his La Barranca (The Hut) or Cañas y barro,  both very popular, as well.

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