in her black-and-white view of thenworld as she was in her personal relationships.nIn West’s postmortem, reality andntruth have as much weight as any othernopinion, and she has been draggednover the coals by all and sundry, evennby her only son, who had noted cynicallynthat his mother thought “lifencould be improved by editing.” (For anneglected child, Anthony West hadnlittle rancor for his father, H.G. Wells,nwho conveniently stayed away fromnhim all his life.)nThough she was equally celebratednfor her fiction, that part of her oeuvre isnof less importance. Her novels arenuneven and not so much works of artnas explorations of an art form. Her firstnnovel. The Judge, leaves the readernwondering whether the exotic atmospherenand anatomic treatment of charactersnare a coincidence, a fad, or annattempt by a young artist to develop anrecognizable hand. In her best fiction.nThe Fountain Overflows trilogy (in anway foreshadowing Ayn Rand), anfamily’s story comes alive, but West isndefinitely not at her best in fiction: shenis much stronger than any of herncharacters. She attains her true staturenby combining the assumed, thenglimpsed, or the desired with the realn—as in her best work. Black Lamb andnGrey Falcon — confusing most criticsnalong the way.nAn imaginative journey through thenmountains and the valleys of the Balkans,nwith ruminations upon Bogomilnsanctuaries and Roman ruins. BlacknLamb and Grey Falcon is full of unforgettablenpeople — a nameless Montenegrinnwoman near an incredibly bluenriver, distraught over her wasted life,ntrying to make sense of it; the youngnsoldiers guarding a military cemeterynon the Kaymakchalan, afraid of thendead soldiers calling for their mothers;nan officer grieving beyond humann(Western) limits on a hilltop abovenSarajevo (while at the same time maintainingnhis composure for the sake ofnhis uniform)—who were also seen bynmany critics as chance destinies ofnnameless beings, entirely divorcednfrom our common condition.nTo people in the Balkans, the exoticnplaces West mentions are the familiarncountryside in which they lead theirneveryday lives. By elevating what shensaw to a higher level of myth, shensketched a parable of life beset by thenforces of evil.nFor feminists, leftists, and others itnwas easiest to identify this work as a sortnof science-fiction travelogue—with itsnirrelevant images of snow burying Croatianin April, covering the fields and thenroad leading the author and her companionsnto a disastrous dinner. West’sntale of how a Hungarian king and hisnqueen found refuge from Asiaticnhordes on an Adriatic Island, and werensaved only by several feet of seachannelnand the news of the GreatnKhan’s death, has, naturally, no bearingnupon anything we know. Removednin space as in time, nothing, of course,nis relevant, because nothing is coded,nand the clef fails.nRebecca West’s Manichean world ofnultimate evil arraigned againstnblemishless virtue, brilliant as it is unbearable,nis her only tool. But the evil isnnot to blame for being true to itself; thensacrifice of a black lamb on the Sheep’snField in Macedonia by nominal followersnof a monotheistic religion is for herna stark illustration of what “good”npeople are doing all the time, to saventhemselves. West’s sickening descriptionnof the sacrificial stone, slimy withnthe blood of butchered sheep, withnbarefooted Moslem dervishes (probablyngood men all) extolling their acts ofnMolochian faith, came out in 1941, atna time when the Yugoslavs joined Polesnand Czechs as victims sacrificed tonappease the powers of destruction. (Allnof it as if happening on another planet,nat a mythical time—the rite of mollifyingnthe “idiotic god.”) In our minds.nWest says, we have distilled the Choiceninto the impossible alternative of beingneither the victims or the butchers.nEvery August, thousands ofnpeaceniks paint themselves black andngray and prostrate themselves on thenstreets of major Western cities, eager tondie in innocence. They, wrote West,nprobably see themselves as noble asnSerbian Prince Lazar, who chose to dienon the battlefield of Kosovo, in 1389,nrather than live, in anything else thannbeatitude. The Poem of the GreynFalcon, which Dame West quotes in itsncrucial part, sings of Prophet Elijahndisguised as the gray falcon, comingndown to Prince Lazar, on the eve ofnthe Serbian defeat with the offer of anchoice between the heavenly and thenearthly kingdom. The Turks, sings thennnfalcon, will lose if Lazar chooses to livenand win, but the Serbian kingdom willnbe only temporal, earthly, mortal, andnvirtueless . . . On the other hand, andefeat will transform the Serbs into anheavenly host, alive forever, to defendnwhat is worth defending . . . Few foreignersnhave ever felt the Serbian “epicnof defeat” as Rebecca West; few havenspurned it as vehemently as she, withngreater love for the living, real, flawednSerbs.nIt is said among the Serbs thatnPrince Lazar lost his battie because ofnanother famous Balkan ingredient—ntreason. Wanting either to settle a scorenor hoping to gain from the overallndefeat of his race, Lazar’s vassal VuknBrankovic arrived conveniently late toncommit his forces in the decisive Battlenof Kosovo.nBut Rebecca West didn’t have to gonback to the mythical Balkan world, innsearch for answers. In the post-WorldnWar II years the examples of treasonnwere many and the need for response,nin her view, more than urgent.n”Once a traitor comes to court, ornunder the notice of Parliament,” shenwrote, “all that should interest thenlawyers or the ministers concerned isnwhether he has been exercising hisnprofession or not and who has beennhelping him. If inquiry is made into hisnpolitics and his morality much will bensaid, probably untrue, which will divertnattention of the community from thenreal threat by the new traitor.”nIn the Western societies’ refusal tondeal with the fact and the meaning ofntreason, the case of William Jones,n”Lord Haw-Haw” (covered in West’snbook The Meaning of Treason), was ansignificant event: “Haw-Haw” was thenlast Western traitor sentenced to deathn(in 1946, for collaboration with thenNazis). At that time, no one but a fewnlonely voices protested against his punishment.nThe cases of such postwarnspies, as Alan May Nunn, thenRosenbergs, Klaus Fuchs, Burgess andnMcLean proved, however, much different.nThe Western public saw thennew breed of traitors not for what theynwere, but as refugees from “the vulgarndistrict in the world of fancy.” Afternthe images of the war started fading,nthe hunger for heroes had to be satednby what was at hand, and it was AndrenGide who wrote, “To me a worstninstinct has always seemed sincere.”nJULY 1988127n