Book review: The Man Who Walked Through Walls by Marcel Aymé

The Man Who Walked Through Walls
The Man Who Walked Through Walls

Remarkable. Surrealism, the coldest literary form, with heart and soul. Each story turns on the extraordinary, but the extraordinary accepted without question, from the the titular man who walked through walls to the seven-league boots for sale in a junk shop. There is great theological insight too in some of the stories, combined with considerable humour, for example  the old lady, widely believed (particularly by herself) to be a saint who finds that the only way she can get into heaven is to pose as the regimental whore for her reprobate nephew’s army unit.

But it is the insight into humanity, particularly the humiliations of everyday poverty, that give the stories emotional heft and depth, and lift them above the usual exercises in literary form that anaesthetises most exercises in surrealism and magic realism.

I first gave this book four stars, but the way the stories have remained with me suggests that I have undersold it. This is definitely a five-star book.


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