FICTION

The Fate of Fausto: A ­Painted Fable

Philomel. Sept. 2019. 96p. Tr $24.99. ISBN 9780593115015.
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Gr 2-5–In Antoine de Saint-Exupéry’s The Little Prince, the titular prince on an intergalactic journey meets a businessman who believes that he owns everything he sees. The prince is offended by the businessman’s callous greed, and readers may find themselves feeling similar indignation toward Fausto in Jeffers’s beautiful and sharply evocative “painted fable.” Fausto, whose name will remind older readers of another avaricious literary figure, is a demanding, mustachioed man who stomps around and claims ownership of a flower, a tree, a mountain, etc. The objects he claims are left withered and lifeless in Fausto’s selfishly destructive wake: the flower is plucked, the leaves fall from the tree, even the mountain stoops in sorrow. Jeffers’s painted backgrounds use a blue or brown palette to evoke the mood of a world left drained and joyless. Hot pink flowers and Fausto’s ironically cheerful neon yellow rain slicker draw the eye from the monochromatic backgrounds. Fausto continues in his blustery manner until his blind greed leads to his literal consumption. Some readers may be shocked by the blunt honestly of the fable’s finale, but totalitarian greed is an issue that must be firmly addressed.
VERDICT Only Jeffers knows if this 2019 fable is about Trumpian terrors, the horror of late-stage capitalism, or simply a cautionary tale against greed that is as old as storytelling itself. Regardless of its intentions, this minimalistic masterpiece is a must-read for all ages.

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