A year ago it was bruited that the primary character in Erich Maria Remarque's new novel was based on the Marquis Alfonso De Portago , the Spanish nobleman who died driving in the Mille Miglia automobile race of 1957 .
If this was in fact Mr. Remarque's intention he has achieved a notable failure .
Clerfayt of `` Heaven Has No Favorites '' resembles Portago only in that he is male and a race-driver -- quite a bad race-driver , whereas Portago was a good one .
He is a dull , unformed , and aimless person ; ;
the twelfth Marquis De Portago was intelligent , purposeful , and passionate .
One looked forward to Mr. Remarque's ninth book if only because not even a reasonably good novel has yet been written grounded on automobile racing , as dramatic a sport as mankind has devised .
Unhappily , `` Heaven Has No Favorites '' does not alter the record except to add one more bad book to the list .
Mr. Remarque's conception of this novel was sound and perhaps even noble .
He proposed throwing together a man in an occupation of high hazard and a woman balanced on a knife-edge between death from tuberculosis and recovery .
His treatment of it is something else .
His heroine chooses to die -- the price of recovery , years under the strict regimen of a sanatorium , being higher than she wishes to pay .
Her lover precedes her in death , at the wheel , and presumably he too has chosen .
Between the first meeting of Clerfayt and Lillian and this dismal denouement , Mr. Remarque has laid down many pages of junior-philosophical discourse , some demure and rather fetching love-making , pleasant talk about some of the countryside and restaurants of Europe , and a modicum of automobile racing .
The ramblings on life , death , and the wonder of it all are distressing ; ;
the love-making , perhaps because it is pale and low-key when one has been conditioned to expect harsh colors and explicitness , is often charming ; ;
the automobile racing bears little relation to reality .
This latter failure is more than merely bad reportage and it is distinctly more important than it would have been had the author drawn Clerfayt as , say , a tournament golfer .
Hazards to life and limb on the golf course , while existent , are actuarially insignificant .
Race-drivers , on the other hand , are quite often killed on the circuit , and since it was obviously Mr. Remarque's intention to establish automobile racing as life in microcosm , one might reasonably have expected him to demonstrate precise knowledge not only of techniques but of mores and attitudes .
He does not .
The jacket biography describes him as a former racing driver , and he may indeed have been , although I do not recall having encountered his name either in the records or the literature .
Perhaps he has only forgotten a great deal .
The book carries a disclaimer in which Remarque says it has been necessary for him to take minor liberties with some of the procedures and formalities of racing .
The necessity is not clear to me , and , in any case , to present a case-hardened race-driver as saying he has left his car , which , or whom , he calls `` Giuseppe '' , parked `` on the Place Vendome sneering at a dozen Bentleys and Rolls-Royces parked around him '' is not a liberty ; ;
it is an absurdity .
But it is in the matter of preoccupation with death , which is the primary concern of the book , that Remarque's failure is plainest .
Clerfayt is neurotic , preoccupied , and passive .
To be human , he believes , is to seek one's own destruction : the Freudian `` death-wish '' cliche inevitably cited whenever laymen talk about auto race-drivers .
In point of fact , the race-drivers one knows are nearly always intelligent , healthy technicians who differ from other technicians only in the depth of the passion they feel for the work by which they live .
A Clerfayt may moon on about the face of Death in the cockpit ; ;
a Portago could say , as he did say to me , `` If I die tomorrow , still I have had twenty-eight wonderful years ; ;
but I shan't die tomorrow ; ;
I'll live to be 105 '' .
Clerfayt , transported , may think of the engine driving his car as `` a mystical beast under the hood '' .
The Italian master Piero Taruffi , no less sensitive , knows twice the ecstasy though he thinks of a car's adhesion to a wet two-lane road at 165 miles an hour as a matter best expressed in algebraic formulae .
Clerfayt , driving , sees himself `` a volcano whose cone funneled down to hell '' ; ;
the Briton Stirling Moss , one of the greatest virtuosi of all time , believes that ultra-fast road-circuit driving is an art form related to ballet .
Errors in technical terminology suggest that the over-all translation from the German may not convey quite everything Mr. Remarque hoped to tell us .
However , my principal objection in this sort of novel is to the hackneyed treatment of race-drivers , pilots , submariners , atomic researchers , and all the machine-masters of our age as brooding mystics or hysterical fatalists .
The west is leaderless , according to this book .
In contrast , the East is ably led by such stalwart heroes as Khrushchev , Tito , and Mao .
Against this invincible determination to communize the whole world stands a group of nations unable to agree on fundamentals and each refusing to make any sacrifice of sovereignty for the common good of all .
It is Field Marshal Montgomery's belief that in most Western countries about 60 per cent of the people do not really care about democracy or Christianity ; ;
about 30 per cent call themselves Christians in order to keep up appearances and be considered respectable , and only the last 10 per cent are genuine Christians and believers in democracy .
But these Western countries do care about themselves .
Each feels intensely national .
If , say , the Russians intended to stop Tom Jones' going to the pub , then Tom Jones would fight the Commies .
But he would fight for his own liberty rather than for any abstract principle connected with it -- such as `` cause '' .
For all practical purposes , the West stands disunited , undedicated , and unprepared for the tasks of world leadership .
With this barrage , Montgomery of Alamein launches his attack upon the blunderings of the West .
Never given to mincing words , he places heavy blame upon the faulty , uncourageous leadership of Britain and particularly America .
At war's end leadership in Western Europe passed from Britain because the Labour Government devoted its attention to the creation of a welfare state .
With Britain looking inward , overseas problems were neglected and the baton was passed on to the United States .
Montgomery believes that she started well .
`` America gave generously in economic aid and military equipment to friend and foe alike '' .
She pushed wartorn and poverty-stricken nations into prosperity , but she failed to lead them into unity and world peace .
America has divided more than she has united the West .
The reasons are that America generally believes that she can buy anything with dollars , and that she compulsively strives to be liked .
However , she really does not know how to match the quantity of dollars given away by a quality of leadership that is basically needed .
But the greater reason for fumbling , stumbling American leadership is due to the shock her pride suffered when the Japanese attacked at Pearl Harbor .
`` They are determined '' , Montgomery writes , `` not to be surprised again , and now insist on a state of readiness for war which is not only unnecessary , but also creates nervousness among other nations in the Western Alliance -- not to mention such great suspicions among the nations of the Eastern bloc that any progress towards peaceful coexistence or disarmament is not possible '' .
The net result is that under American leadership the general world situation has become bad .
To `` Monty '' , the American people , who in two previous world wars were very reluctant to join the fight , `` now look like the nation most likely to lead us all into a third World War '' .
As faulty as has been our leadership clearly the United States must be relied upon to lead .
The path to leadership is made clear .
Montgomery calls for a leader who will first put the West's own house in order .
Such a man must be able and willing to give clear and sensible advice to the whole group , a person in whom all the member nations will have absolute confidence .
This leader must be a man who lives above illusions that heretofore have shaped the foreign policy of the United States , namely that Russia will agree to a reunited Germany , that the East German government does not exist , that events in Japan in June 1960 were Communist-inspired , that the true government of China is in Formosa , that Mao was the evil influence behind Khrushchev at the Summit Conference in Paris in May 1960 , and that either China or Russia wants or expects war .
Such a leader must strengthen NATO politically , and establish that true unity about which it has always talked .
After drastically overhauling NATO , Western leadership should turn to reducing the suspicions that tear apart the East and West .
Major to this effort is to get all world powers to withdraw to their own territories , say by 1970 .
`` The West should make the central proposal ; ;
but the East would have to show sincerity in carrying it out '' .
`` But where is the leader who will handle all these things for us '' ? ?
Montgomery knew all the national leaders up to the time of Kennedy .
The man whom he would select as our leader for this great task is De Gaulle .
He alone has the wisdom , the conviction , the tenacity , and the courage to reach a decision .
But De Gaulle is buried in the cause of restoring France's lost soul .
Whoever rises to the occasion walks a treacherous path to leadership .
The leader Montgomery envisages will need to discipline himself , lead a carefully regulated and orderly life , allow time for quiet thought and reflection , adapt decisions and plans to changing situations , be ruthless , particularly with inefficiency , and be honest and morally proper .
All in all , Montgomery calls for a leader who will anticipate and dominate the events that surround him .
In looking as far back as Moses , thence to Cromwell , Napoleon , Lincoln , Churchill , and Nehru , Montgomery attempts to trace the stirrings and qualities of great men .
He believes that greatness is a marriage between the man and the times as was aptly represented by Churchill , who would very possibly have gone down in history as a political failure if it had not been for Hitler's war .
However , Montgomery makes little contribution to leadership theory and practice .
Most of what is said about his great men of history has already been said , and what has not is largely irrelevant to the contemporary scene .
Like Eisenhower , he holds the militarist's suspicion of politicians .
However , at the same time Montgomery selects as his hero De Gaulle , who is a militarist dominated by political ambitions .
`` Monty '' shows a remarkable capacity for the direct statement and an equally remarkable incapacity for giving adequate support .
For the most part , his writing rambles and jogs , preventing easy access by the reader to his true thoughts .
Nevertheless , Montgomery has stated courageously and wisely the crisis of the Western world .
It suffers from a lack of unity of purpose and respect for heroic leadership .
And it remains to be seen if the new frontier now taking form can produce the leadership and wisdom necessary to understand the current shape of events .
It is no common thing for a listener ( critical or otherwise ) to hear a singer `` live '' for the first time only after he has died .
But then , Mario Lanza was no common singer , and his whole career , public and non-public , was studded with the kind of unconventional happenings that terminate with the appearance of his first `` recital '' only when he has ceased to be a living voice .
It is a kind of justice , too , that it should originate in London's Royal Albert Hall , where , traditionally , the loudest , if not the greatest , performers have entertained the thousands it will accommodate ( RCA Victor LM 2454 , $4.98 ) .
To be sure , Lanza made numerous concert tours , here and abroad , but these did not take him to New York where the carping critic might lurk .