June 30, 2015
In the Shadow of the Prodigy by Frank van Dun
Reviewed by Thomas F. Bertonneau
I happened to have been reading Frank van Dun’s novel In the Shadow of the Prodigy (2015) during the week of the United States Supreme Court’s latest trespass into the constitutional domain of law-making, formerly reserved to the legislative branch. The same week saw several new instances of Islamic savagery – in France and Algeria – and the collapse of the Greek economy. It is difficult to say whether these events colored my assessment of van Dun’s prose or the other way around. I have been carrying a knot in my stomach for days; my brow has been creased. One way or another, In the Shadow of the Prodigy is a book for our time, breaking up the white dazzle of overlapping crises that constitutes the contemporary scene into the refracted strands of its elementary colors. Van Dun’s story is a mystery, so I will be calling attention to it in such a way as not to divulge too many of its plot-points.
In the Shadow of the Prodigy narrates the collision of naivety with evil. The novel’s various manifestations of evil appear banal but are no less wicked for their appearances. Indeed, as van Dun sees things, contemporary shoddiness and a fixation on low stakes belong to the prevailing corruption. The vileness that drives men and women to wanton deeds is as paltry in its objects as the evil is banal. Van Dun sets his action twenty-one years ago, in 1994, on the verge of that epochal event, the Internet, which serves the author for one of his chief symbols – a creeping multi-tentacular but invisible monstrosity that ensnares the multitudes of the unwary. Read More »