Decimation

7 10 2017

The Tenth Man by Graham Greene

 

In a prison in Occupied France one in every ten men is to be shot. The prisoners draw lots among themselves – and for rich lawyer Louis Chavel it seems that his whole life has been leading up to an agonising and crucial failure of nerve. Hysterical with panic, fear, and a sense of injustice, he offers to barter everything he owns for someone to take his place.

Graham Greene wrote The Tenth Man in 1944, when he was under a two-year contract to Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, and the manuscript lay forgotten in MGM’s archives until 1983. It was published two years later with an introduction by the author.

It’s an extraordinary premise and the consequences of the offer made by Chavel have a profound impact on the lives of those who remain. Having persuaded another to take his place and ultimately released from prison Chavel ends up returning to his former home where the family of the victim are now living and, changing his name, he starts work as their handyman. Things take a darker turn though when another arrives at the house claiming to be Chavel.

A short and punchy entertainment it is well worth a read.

 

 

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