From Scribner's, March 1934
Passion's Pilgrims. (Men of Good Will, Part II). By Jules Romains. Knopf. $2.50.
Many people simultaneously go about their inward and outward business in Passion's Pilgrims. There is a murderer who enjoys his murder and is very logical about it; to him his murder was a job that had symmetry and charm. There is a capitalist bent on deceiving his fellow-capitalist both in love and business. There are two students, both keenly aware of flesh, conscience, and progress; and each envious of what he supposes to be the other's amorous history. There is a dog who is as human as he is allowed to be. There is a speech-making, weak member of the Chamber of Deputies, whose opposition to high capitalism has its reservations. And there are women with desires of all kinds, managing them in all kinds of ways. And there are real historical and literary characters of France and Paris, 1908—like radiantly honest Jean Juarès and the exquisitely suffering poet, Moréas.
It was a lovely sight in the past to see eight wilful horses driven at once by a cool and knowing coachman; and something like that sight is present when Romains makes his scenes and characters go through their psychical paces. For in his book Romains is at once poet, psychologist, and general. He has been interested in the changing shadows on a wall and the transmutations of twentieth-century industry. He has observed the stupefying manoeuvres of sex and money. He has tried to get into the inside of a man meaning to make a million francs in real-estate and of a woman meaning to be correct in love. But Romains' chief feat as a novelist and writer is the giving of a new unity to crowds of people. He has made out of a city an instantaneous emotional brotherhood and sisterhood. And because he has seen each emotional unit that is a person as part of a great emotional unit, he has been able to bring a newness to the old task of telling what the human heart is up to.
The very greatest fictional intensities have been denied to Romains; but something important that is not in Dickens, Balzac, or Tolstoy is in Men of Good Will. It is something of our moment: not Shakespeare's or Homer's or Dostoievsky's. It is now taking sensational economic or political form. As Romains uses this sentiment of our immediate time, he tells us something not told before of what happenswhen a few million beings, with mysterious bodies, live together on the same few