Europe After The Rain. Alan Burns. John Calder. 21s.

The essence of the absurd is the absence of ends; omitting the purpose we are left with an unintelligible process. This technique is well used in Europe After The Rain to describe an unnamed foreigner’s search for an unnamed girl in an unspecified country of Europe devastated by a war which continues or perhaps has finished. Concrete, but fleeting descriptions in terse, disjoined clauses, intensify the sense of chaos. A Party rules, a commander rampages, a leader is sentenced, the narrator seeks a girl whom he has probably loved—though this cannot be said. To say it would be to admit to a value, to posit a project which—however absurd—could be intelligible in human terms. But, typical of the contemporary absurd, we are not dealing here, as in Kafka, with a person seeking, however vainly, to understand; we are dealing with the bewildered contemporary for whom the state of the world is past understanding. In this such a work, even one as well written, may tell us as much about contemporary society as about Europe After The Rain.