5
Dec 06

back berna: kid-lit supplementZoR

FT + The Brown WedgePost a comment • 601 views

flood(being a follow-up to this)

in order of interest:
the mystery of the cross-eyed man (1969): pretext = world-turned-upside-down by NATIONWIDE TRAIN STRIKE, so kids (2xboys, 6&14) who were waiting for adult must make own way from Paris to southernmost point of French east coast — viz by HITCH-HIKING w.total strangers — enduring on the way being mistook for runaway sleb kids (2xboys, 6&14); being pursued by incompetent but persistent private dick (see title for details); meeting up and joining forces with runaway sleb kids (2xboys, 6&14); various car wrecks… all of which feels VERY dated — partly bcz of the now-impossible hitching w.strangers dimension, partly bcz of the comedy rich-foax identity mix-up caper shenanigans, which feels like it wz the plot of EVERY SECOND MOVIE 1955-65, partly also perhaps bcz of the strike-as-setting…
the secret of the missing boat (1969): set in britanny’s inner sea; a BOYCHILD who is also the BEST SEAMAN in the Golfe du Morbihan helps find a missing art treasure while dodging the clutches of (a) some inept but thuggish villains and (b) a local TEACHER who wants him to go to school now and then. For self-evident reasons rather Swallows and Amazonsy (the plot is also a bit pointlessly convoluted tho this may be the result of REALISM rather than carelessness)
the knights of king midas (1958): gaby-esque gang of kids pledge to raise money so that local old folks can carry on living where they always lived — set on the med; the MISTRAL is co-opted as an unnoticed extra gangmember — features TV QUIZ which the brainy kid aces (obv)
bernapieflood warning (1960): a school story — all boys except for a teacher’s wife and daughter — when all concerned are PUT TO THE TEST by freak weather (the loire bursts its banks; the entire region is overwhelmed, and all of the school in the end submerged except for a ruined tower); they learn about friendship and leadership and teamship and blah blah… in content and delivery this is formally and very nearly timelessly perfect (all that dates it is berna’s fascination with types of late 50s helicopters!); the only weird element is the nickname of the shy newbie teacher who discovers his authority = RABBIT’S EGGS!ok and this is weird as much as anything bcz eithger it is a straight lift (by berna or translator) from kipling’s stalky & co. (yet the insulted in stalky, if reffed, is nothing like the insulted in flood warning)… or else it was INVENTED INDEPENDENTLY (or exists in playground lore but i can find no web-ref for this) — not a big thing at all but it made me blink (the translator, the same for all of berna, is NOT THAT GREAT as i noted before — he goes v.stilted in the face of berna’s colloquialism…)
they didn’t come back (1969): by comparison with all the above this is a genuine oddity — which surely speaks to berna’s mysterious pre-lit career, tho hardly revealingly… it is the early 60s and a schoolmaster and a priest in the upper rhone region set a gang of kids to discover the truth of the war years, the baffling vanishing during the occupation of a 100-strong troop in the maquis — painfully and semi-accidentally they uncover a tale of betrayal, tragedy, good and bad lies and the last resting place of the resistance column… now given that “what did you do in the war daddy?” was a thicket of contention in france at the time (many more claimed to be down with the resistance than were), this seems both a daring and a difficult topic to plunge into unless you had an agenda — his conclusion lets the present off the hook, at the expence of the past (ie there is a NICE YOUNG GERMAN involved; and no one is in the end fingered for the betrayal — the terrifying impossibility of wartime under the nazis is noted…)

conclusion: talking to some friends last week — not-yet qualified hackney-based teachers working their residual idealism and their day-to-day disenchantment — the most obvious charming unrealism to take away from this oeuvre is berna’s absolute faith in the innate honour of children, rich or poor: adults are really bad, just caught in bad situations, but kids have the power to rescue grown-ups… my nearly-teacher friends would i think scoff at this as a deluded mirage, yet it’s hard not to feel that something is lost if the illusion is allow to just go smash on the rocks of cynical social realism :(

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