Francis Walder (1906-1997), was born in Brussels, and became a military academic for want of a better title. Captured by the Axis forces during WW2, he became a P.O.W. After the war ended he then moved into a diplomatic negotiator sphere during post war discussions. One suspects that sitting opposite different cultural, and varied philosophical people, he mentally noted the ways of negotiation that took place, and thus began to correlate his thoughts, and to write his books.
He chose for his first book, a historically (1570) factual account of negotiations between the King of France, Charles IX, and the Huguenot believers, that were creating what was to be known as the Religious Wars, or Civil War in medieval France. The meetings took place at Saint-Germain, and briefly drew a veil over the dispute. The characters involved here, really existed; pictures to that end are included within the book. However, this book is not the story verbatim, a fictitious female is drawn into the story, and this tends to lend itself to a confusion of interests, mainly the narrator.
Walder has constructed a prize-winning novel (pub 1958), based on documented discussions between the two factions, with the aim to secede various towns to the opposition. This is simply to prevent further bloodshed. This book is therefore more a treatise on how these discussions take place. The mannerisms, the faces, the style of dress, the body language, the deviousness, the misplaced loyalties and so on. This can be compared equally with today’s political negotiations, as one side attempts to become more the celebrity than the other, all done with panache, and guile, but ultimately, deceitfully.
This, the latest translation of the book ‘The Negotiator’ is taken up by Gerald Lees, eminently qualified to do so. It is handsomely presented in a 128 paged; hardback book, and contains a few pages of pictures that enhance the text. I was really pleasantly surprised to see how differently a novel could be presented to the reader. It took me a while to engage with it, but once entered into, I enjoyed the book a lot.
Reviewed by Reg Seward
Published by Universe (4 Mar. 2021)
Hardback, ISBN 978-1913491284