“The Double View”, first published in 1960, has been described by its author, Chandler Brossard, as a “savage book”. Critics have referred to this work by Brossard, as a distillation of the thoughts of Kafka, Dostoevsky and Hugo. Set at the tail end of the beat movement, the book explores the lives of a group of urban intellectuals whose disenchantment with the status quo drives them to desperate measures in an attempt to define their raison d’etre.
The ensemble of characters includes: Margaret, the Park Avenue Debutante, who seeks fulfillment from her privileged, yet hollow existence by engaging in dangerous sexual liaisons; Hawkins, the black college professor, torn between his contempt for a pre-civil rights era racist society, and his yearning for acceptance into Manhattan’s exclusive literary circles; Phillips, the Jewish intellectual, struggling to maintain his bohemian lifestyle in the face of nascent, postwar materialism; Carter and Rand, two writers, each driven to nervous breakdowns by their lack of faith in their own self-worth and symbiotically connected by their love for the same woman. As one tries to hold on to sanity within the confines of a psychiatric hospital, the other attempts to cope in the outside world while wondering, who is truly the most disturbed. And cynical Harry, so unable to derive any satisfaction from his upper middle class life as a Manhattan literary critic that he is driven to seek pleasure through an alter ego. Masquerading as a low life punk, he becomes involved in a variety of illicit activities with a group of petty thieves.
Chandler Brossard is also, the author of “Who Walk in Darkness” which has often been described as the first “Beat novel”, a label that the self-educated Brossard largely dismissed. A contemporary of Jack Kerouac and Allen Ginsberg, Brossard seemingly had no interest in being a spokesperson for the beat generation, or the bohemian life he wrote about in his controversial book. Often misunderstood by American critics, the work of Brossard was embraced by the French, who described his work as a "new wave, nightmare presented as a flat documentary."