Books: Spies and Surfaces

THE SECOND DEATH OF RAMON MERCADER

by JORGE SEMPRUN 377 pages. Grove. $7.95.

Can there be any point to writing a spy thriller in extreme slow motion? That is the sort of paradox that could only attract a French novelist who has also worked in French cinema—a man, in fact, like Jorge Semprun, who was born in Madrid but has lived in France since 1939, where he has won literary prizes and has written screenplays for films including Costa-Gavras' Z.

For 20 years it has been the preoccupation of French novelists of the nouveau roman—Alain...

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