Michel Tournier is, without doubt, the most important French writer of the last 50 years. One of his biographers has spoken of him having "Reconceived the very nature of fiction".
'The Ogre' (his second book) is widely regarded as one of the greatest novels of that same period and yet it seems to have fallen, if not into obscurity, then at least somewhat out of the spotlight.
Tournier is most interested in the essential myths of Western culture. He reinterprets these in his novels and uses them to critique the assumptions and the norms of our society.
'The Ogre' or 'The Erl-King' as it was originally titled, is an utterly extraordinary book. It concerns the life of Abel Tiffauges, a physical monster, but also an innocent. His story is set largely among the rise and fall of the third Reich, but encompasses a breathtaking array of mythological, psychological and spiritual ideas.
The language of the novel is sumptuous, the attention to detail unparallelled. Certain passages of the book are completely heart-breaking, particularly when exposing the casual cruelty of man, whilst others are entrancingly beautiful.
Alongside that the book is also a compulsively readable tale of adventure, destiny and discovery. Full of wonderfully arcane details and fabulously structured parallels and mirrors the book continually delights and enriches the reader.
I've just finished re-reading 'The Ogre', some 12 or so years after my first encounter, and I can honestly say it's the best book I've ever read.
All lovers of Nabokov, Ian McEwan, Calvino, Borges, Joyce, John Banville & Umberto Eco should order their copy now!