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4.0 out of 5 stars The Man Who Has A Fertile Imagination, 21 Sept. 2012
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This review is from: The Man Who Walked through Walls (Pushkin Collection) (Kindle Edition)
The title is that of the first of a set of mostly surrealist short stories in which a man can really walk through walls, and we see the uses to which he puts this gift. A beautifully judged story of just the right length.

This cannot be said of the next one, entitled "Sabine Women", is about a woman called Sabine who has the ability at will to multiply herself with identities that live in totally different locations. Moreover, each of the likenesses has the capacity to do the same, so in the end there are sixty-seven thousand look-alikes all over the world, each of them in some way linked to the experiences of any one of them. Not only does their ability to multiply run out of control (like the broom in the Sorcerer's Apprentice), but so, I think, does the story itself, which is wild and much too long.

The title of the next story is "Tickets in Time". In this one the government has a way (unexplained) of temporarily killing unproductive citizens - they disappear from the land of the living for a number of days each month. They are given tickets to indicate the number of days docked each month, the number depending on the degree of their unproductivity. They come back to life when the new month begins. What would be the effect of such a scheme?

"The Problem of Summertime": if governments can add an hour to summer time, why stick at one hour? In 1942 the Vatican gave relief to a world weary of the war by ordaining that time should advance by seventeen years. What happens to a Frenchman when he suddenly finds himself living seventeen years later with the knowledge of what happened in the interval? And after he has lived for some time in that future, what happens when, for some unaccountable reason, he suddenly finds himself back in 1942?

There is nothing surrealistic about the next story, "The Proverb", a painful story of paternal bullying, with an unexpectedly charitable ending.

"Poldevian Legend": the wrong people are given precedence in entering Heaven through the Pearly Gates.

"The Wife Collector" is about a tax-collector who is in arrears with his own taxes. The title gives you a clue to this the zaniest of all the stories in the book.

"The Seven League Boots": a gang of young schoolboys are obsessed by a pair of boots which a weird junk-shop owner has displayed in his window with the label that they are Seven League Boots. Until the last paragraph this story is less supernatural than the others, but examines gang-relationships and the touching relationship of one of the gang to his mother.

"The Bailiff": another story involving the Pearly Gates: when a bailiff approaches the Pearly Gates, St Peter and God disagree whether a bailiff should be cast into Hell, and he is given his life back so that - he is told - by the time of his next death the evidence will be clearer one way or the other. But when the time comes, God and St Peter are still at odds.

"While Waiting": The opening sentence of this story; "During the 1939-1972 war, in Montmartre, at the door of the grocer on rue Caulincourt, there was a queue of fourteen people who, having become friendly, decided never to part again." For what was there to go home for? They explain the misery of their lives in war-time, mostly at great length. The war seems never-ending, and so does this story.
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