Sunday, April 25, 2010

The Day of the Jackal

As the Jackal readies his rifle, adjusts it into the perfect position and positions himself to pull the trigger, my pulse races. Even before he pulls the trigger, I become sure that in the next few paragraphs, I'll read about how Charles De Gaulle will die on the spot, how he will lie in a pool of blood with his skull cracked, how the highest authorities of France will not be able to save their president despite all those security measures and how people all over the world will be stunned at the whole incident. But, unfortunately, the Jackal is unsuccessful. Its hard for me to believe that he, The Jackal, is unsuccessful. Its so tragic that even after all his preparations, he falls prey to one of those slight, and yet, very big, mistakes which human beings commit. He overlooks a simple Gaullist ritual and misses his target, eventually bringing about his own downfall.


I know that while reviewing any book or movie, I'm not supposed to give out the end. But, for this masterpiece named 'The Day of the Jackal', written by Frederick Forsyth, I couldn't help doing so. I strongly wanted to express how bad I felt for The Jackal in the end. The Jackal is the codename of the anonymous Englishman who had been hired by Marc Rodin, Operations Chief of the French OAS organisation of the 1960s, to kill Charles De Gaulle, the president of France. The book starts off with the true account of an unsuccessful attempt to kill De Gaulle in August 1962, by Bastien-Thiry and others. After Thiry's execution, Marc Rodin decides that the only way left to overthrow De Gaulle, is to hire a foreigner to kill him--a very experienced and skilful killer, but a foreigner, whose name won't be present in any French police records. It is then that The Jackal enters the scene and chooses his codename himself.

The book is divided into three parts. The first part, 'Anatomy of a Plot', describes how The Jackal plots to kill De Gaulle. He goes about securing false passports and driving licenses and makes very careful observations to assume as many as four false identities. He gets a very special rifle made,practices with it and decides everything relating to when, where and how he will kill De Gaulle. Everything goes on very smoothly for him and there seems to be no force on earth which can discover his activities and stop him.

But, as the first part draws to a close, we find Commissaire Claude Lebel, 'the best detective of France', on The Jackal's trail, after a certain OAS member is captured. The French police and other authorities conclude that a man about whom nothing, save his codename, is known, is out there somewhere, waiting to take the life of the French President. It is then that Lebel is ordered to take the rsponsibility of finding him out with necessary help from other departments. And, when it is the question of the life of someone as important as the French President, the authorities leave no stone unturned to try and track The Jackal down. The second part of the book, 'Anatomy of a Manhunt', concerns this tracking down. The third part, 'Anatomy of a Kill', is about the final touches to the work on the part of both The Jackal and Lebel , ultimately resulting in the detective's victory.

But, I so wish that The Jackal had been successful...Its not that I particularly hate De Gaulle when I say this. In fact, I'm not considering any historical fact here. Its the fictional part about The Jackal's adventures that enthralls me. His cleverness, his extreme courage and confidence to undertake those risks and his sheer determination to carry on, even after knowing that the whole of France was on the lookout for him, make me feel sorry when he misses his target by inches. Full credit goes to him because while he laid out the plan and almost executed it completely on his own, Lebel received loads of help from the authorities of several countries. Sometimes, The Jackal is very ruthless, killing two or three innocents, when he realizes that they may prove to be obstacles in the path leading to De Gaulle. He is not bothered by these crimes because the only thing that matters to him is piercing a bullet through De Gaulle's head. In spite of this ruthlessness, he spins a secure web of support in the end from the readers.

The author also presents several other characters, who are connected with the main plot in one way or the other, and also portray the attitudes and emotions of people who had been affected by the Gaullist policies. Lastly, kudos to Mr. Forsyth for presenting The Jackal in such an exciting manner! The various situations he has created in the book can engage the readers so much that they cannot let their attention be diverted even for a fraction of a second, and therein lies the biggest power of his writing--to keep the readers glued to the book till the last page is turned.

7 comments:

Nanine said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
newsgroups said...

Hi!

For my English class I also have read a Forsyth. It was a very dull book (just like all other books I had to read for class, which will say more about me than about the books). I therefore was surprised to read that you have been glued to the book. That's good! But I wondered how you can been glued while reading the first part? Detailed descriptions of preparations seems very dull to me. The second part seems OK; and the third part looks as you describe: full of a strong feeling of disappointment, which to me (critical on literature) seems as having been necessary to distinguish this book from an ordinary book.

Butterfly said...

@Nanny
And, I'm surprised to know that a book by Forsyth can be dull because this one was so interesting. But then,I have read only this book by him.Which one are you talking about?
The first part was very good because it showed just how skilful and clever a man can be. His preparations were not ordinary. He didn't just go to the market, buy a gun and leave for France the day after to kill the president. He planned everything. I suggest that you read the book. Otherwise, you won't understand what I'm talking about. You'll fall in love with the jackal,if not with Forsyth!:-)

Subhadip said...

I haven't read this book, but I have seen a movie based on this book. Going by your words, the book seems to be far more interesting than the movie!

Kanu said...

Ahem...when we are talking Forsyth, there has to be more to it. I am glad that you read the book and you liked it...though I am amazed that you did not mention anything about the way it truly ended...is Mr. Jackal dead? Half of Forsyth fans are waiting for a book titled 'The Return of the Jackal'. Now tell me why....

As for Subhadip....please do not even begin to compare the movie to the book. It's a ghastly adaptation. Do read the book, you would enjoy it.

P.S. also by the same author I recommend to Sinjini...collection of short stories by Forsyth, titled No Comebacks. If you enjoyed the day of the Jackal you would be enthralled by these. Do grab them I would love to read your comments on them. Good lock and God bless

Butterfly said...

@Subhadipda
And, I haven't seen the movie!:-)Going by your and Kanu's words, I don't think I want to see it anymore.

@Kanu
I didn't mention the way it truly ended because I didn't want to play spoilsport. Unfortunately, The Jackal was killed by Lebel's bullets and he was burried....
And, ok, I'll read those short stories and write a post on them. :-) Thanks for your suggestion...

Aritro Dasgupta said...

I loved the line ,I do not rememebr precisely, something like...."Marc Rodin believed that soldiers were the true salt of the earth..."