Tahar Ben Jelloun ‘Marriage of Pleasure’

For once, this evening I’m going to tell you a story of love, an overwhelming impossible love, lived fully until their last breathe by each of these characters. But as you will see, behind this miraculous story there is hate, contempt, wickedness and cruelty. Its normal, that’s how people are. I preferred you should know so that nothing would surprise you.***

In the city of Fès in Morocco, each spring, a storyteller sets up his equipment and waits for a crowd to form, this is how Ben Jelloun’s tale of three generations of a Marocain family begins, and then to further warn us and thus distance us from the substance of the story , he tells if of its contents as illustrated in the opening quote. The story then pulls us in. The storyteller, Goya, tells us of a pious and upright merchant in the 1940’s, Amin, whose father and grandfather before him, have for generations made the two week trip to Dakar in Senegal by train then wagon and finally by camel where they passed several months negotiating spices and had contracted pleasure marriages whilst there. Amin who wished to respect the rules of Islam then consults the Moulay Ahmad, a professor of theology:

Moulay Ahmad reassured him. He quoted verse 24 of the sourate “women” : “you have the obligation to use your wealth to marry honourably and not to live in common law. It is a requirement that you hand over the arranged dowry to she with whom you have entered into marriage…” in other words, it is legal for a man away from home for long periods, to enter into a marriage of “pleasure”, “of enjoyment”, “of well being”, which guarantees the wife a dowry and the respect of the one she marries. God established this to fight against prostitution.***

This is the the basis of the story, each time Amin goes to Senegal he contracts a “pleasure marriage” with Nabou, a young Peul, with whom he discovers a sexual freedom and satisfaction he has never known with his first “white” wife the Lalla Fatma. After one trip he cannot imagine leaving her and decides to bring her back to Fès as his second wife. Goya in several parts of the story lets us understand how difficult this may be, he tells us of the slave market in Fès that was active until a few decades prior to the story, of the way the peasants from the land when they fall on hard times are used as unpaid cooks and helpers by the méchants of Fès, of stories of other African wives that are brought back to Morocco and used as sex slaves and how even the well meaning men have no stay over the way the first, “white” wife runs the house. As if to confirm this as Lalla Fatma says:

You’ve brought into this house, misfortune, evil and discord, you want to marry a servant, a negress whose skin colour betrays the darkness of her soul, but does she even have a soul? I wonder. And finally you’re a disappointment, do whatever you will! I’ll take care of my children’s education, I’ll keep them away from that wicked, stinking thing. You’re neither the first nor the last to risk a family for a negress allied to Satan. God is great.***

Nabou then gives birth to twins, one black and one white, Hassan and Houcine. From the treatment of Nabou and that of her sons we follow the differences in racial treatment of her two sons, of Houcine’s integration and of Hassan’s difficulties. Discrimination seem to improve with time over the decades until the wheel comes full circle and faced with the mass migration across Marocco of Africans towards Europe, the attitude to these darker skinned Africans hardens until one day Nabou’s grandson and Hassan’s son, Salim, is rounded up with other people of the same skin colour and deported to Senegal where after some time discovering his grandmother’s roots he sets off on foot for Europe.

First Published in French as “Le Marriage de Plaisir” in 2016 by Gallimard
*** my translation

The quotes as read in French before translation

Une fois n’est pas coutume, ce soir je m’en vais vous conter une histoire d’amour, un amour fou et impossible pourtant vécu jusqu’au dernier souffle par chacun de ses personnages. Mais comme vous le verrez, derrière cette histoire miraculeuse, il y a aussi beaucoup de haine et de mépris, de méchanceté et de cruauté. C’est normal. L’homme est ainsi. Je préférais que vous le sachiez pour que vous ne vous étonniez de rien.

…Moulay Ahmad le rassura. Il lui cita le verset 24 de la sourate “Les femmes” : “… il vous est loisible d’utiliser vos biens pour vous marier honnêtement et non pour vivre en concubinage. C’est une obligation pour vous de remettre la dot convenue à celle avec laquelle vous aurez consommé le mariage…” Autrement dit, il est légal, pour un homme absent de son foyer pour de longues périodes, de contracter un mariage “de plaisir”, “de jouissance”, “de bien-être”, qui garantit à la femme une dot et le respect de celui qui l’a épousée. Dieu a institué cela pour lutter contre la prostitution.

Tu as fait entrer dans cette maison le malheur, le péché et la discorde, tu veux épouser une domestique, une négresse dont la couleur de peau trahit sa noirceur d’âme, mais a-t-elle une âme? Je me le demande enfin tu es décevant fais ce que tu veux moi je m’occuperai de l’éducation de mes enfants je les tiendrai loin de cette chose mal faisant, mal odorant, tu es ni le premier ni le dernier à mettre en péril toute une famille pour une négresse alliée de satan. Dieu est grand.


Zia Haider Rahman ‘In The Light of What We Know’

Before 9/11, I was invisible, unsexed. How is it that after 9/11 suddenly I was noticed. Not just noticed but attractive, given the second look, sized up, even winked at? img_1515Was that the incidental effect of no longer being a piece with the background, of being noticed, or was it sicker than that? Was this person among us no longer the meek Indian, the meek Pakistani, the sepoy, but fully man? Before 9/11, I was hidden behind the wall of colonial guilt after having been emasculated by a history of subjugation.

It’s 2008 and there’s a knock on the door of the narrators home in south Kensington he answers to an unkempt skinny brown skinned man who he doesn’t initially recognise, but is his best friend who had dropped off of the radar ten years earlier. Here is a story told slowly over time in a series of one on one discussions in the narrators home by Zafar to his friend. Both are first generation arrivals from South East Asia, but with very different backgrounds thet earlier, as friends, the narrator had never really explored. He came from a rich Pakistani family with powerful connections and links to the military which of course Zafar knew, we then learn together that Zafar’s family came from Bangladesh, once East Pakistan and we are told of the difficulties between the two regions from the outset:

Even the name of the new nation, the most loyal expression of a people’s language, it’s label, was an act of exclusion and subordination. The préfabrication of one Choudhary Rahmat Ali: P, Punjab. A, Afghania, K Kashmir, and the -stan, the annexe of land, land of the PAK, with an anaptyxic epenthetic i, don’t you know, just to root the acronym in the land, all of which made a neat little pun, Land of the Pure, the Muslims, while it brought together its constituent peoples. Only it didn’t. Where were the Bengalis? Where was the B? 1000 miles of India between them. Surely not left out merely because the pun wouldn’t work but never conceived as a piece of the country, a part of the main. Next in 1948, the West made Urdu the sole official language of the Eastern part..

The story weaves backwards and forwards in time according to the seemingly random choice of Zafar, they had both studied in the USA together, mathematics before branching out differently, the narrator in at the very start of the sub-prime packaging (yes 2008 was an uncomfortable time for him) and Zafar had been sucked into the void that was Afghanistan. But how and why, where is the story taking us? We learn that Zafar had always been able to defend himself if necessary from violence and he tells uf of the changes he perceived in peoples attitude to him in Ney York after 9/11 as illustrated in the opening quote.

Zafar is a tortured personality, fistly we learn that his family, the people that brought him up were not his parents, back to Bangladesh:

In March of 1971, the Bengal state -at that time officially East Pakistan – declared its independence as Bangladesh. West Pakistan imported troops to put down the rebellion. Until India’s armed intervention in December 1971, Pakistani troops waged war against the Bengalis. Estimates place the death toll at 3 million, the number of women raped at over 200,000 and their resultant pregnancies at 25,000
-Dorothy Q. Thomas and Regan E. Ralph,’Rape in War: Challenging the Tradition of Impunity’.

Slowly throughout the book we learn of his relationship with the aristocratic Hampton-Wyvern family, of the difference of class, Penelope the mother and Emily the daughter, of his time with Emily not quite working out and his eventually spending time in care after  suffering a break-down with occasional visits by Emily but in spite of being informed by Emily, the narrator never visited him. Interspersed with this we learn of his time in Afghanistan working for AfDARI, the Afghan Development, Aid and Reconstruction Institute, pulled in because of his education and background:

My stated business, at least as documented, was to act as adviser to a department of the new Afghani administration. Advisers were numberless in Kabul, like stray dogs in Mumbai;even the advisers had advisers, and none of them were less than ‘special advisers’ or ‘senior-advisers’.

But where is all of this hugely sweeping story taking us? well of course after taking in large pans of world history the point we are circling is much more personal, much closer to home, the story is designed to bring the two men closer:

I’m asking questions and you’re uncomfortable. Relax. I can stop, said Zafar.
Of course he could stop and I could have stopped him…. But I said nothing. It’s a difficult thing to admit, but Zafar’s potential for cruelty has always pulled me in, binding me to him. Here he was, staying at my home, eating my food, availing himself of my hospitality. I wanted to tell him that I was the successful one here. But the ungenerous thought couldn’t withstand the reality: My marriage was a disaster; my home, this retreat, was foreign soil , made bearable only by his arrival..

Closer, which they need to become in order to discuss the heart of the matter and the Hampton-Wyverns.

A story crammed full of information and written in a very precise style, a worthwhile read.

First Published in English as “In the Light of What We Know” in 2014 by Farrar, Straus and Giroux

S. J. Watson ‘Before I Go To Sleep’

THE BEDROOM IS strange. Unfamiliar. I don’t know where I am, how I came to be here. I don’t know how I’m going to get home….It is then that I hear a juddering intake of breath behind me and realize I am not alone. I turn around. I see an expanse of skin and dark hair, flecked with white. A man. He has his left arm outside the covers and there is a gold band on the third finger of the hand. I suppress a groan. So this one is not only old and gray, I think, but also married. Not only have I screwed a married man, but I have done so in what I am guessing is his home, in the bed he must usually share with his wife. I lie back to gather myself. I ought to be ashamed.

In this, Watson’s first published book, ‘Before I go to sleep’ a thriller, the story begins as Christine wakes, reasonably supposing she has partied too hard and discovers the man she is in bed with, seethe opening quote. But then as she sneaks into the bathroom the shock is total when she looks into the mirror and sees a lady in her fifties looking back at her and the begins to scream. Christine is suffering from a rare form of memory loss where whenever she sleeps her memory of the day she has lived is wiped clean and this has been going on for twenty years!

So much for the base on which the story is then built, this idea was already investigated by Jonathan Nolan’s Memento Mori, where Earl uses notes and tattoos to keep track on ideas. Here Christine is broken out of her Groundhog Day, waking each day with no memory of events and discovering the same things each day with her husband calming her and explaining the situation to her before leaving for work, when she is contacted by a doctor who persuades her to keep a private diary and who phones her every day to tell her where to look as she the discovers from her accumulated writing the inconsistencies in the information she is given by her husband.

Can a person with no memory exist, have an identity, a question Watson puts forward through Christine’s questions to herself:

There, in the bathroom, I thought of my old age. I tried to imagine what it will be like. Will I still wake up, in my seventies or eighties, thinking myself to be at the beginning of my life? Will I wake with no idea that my bones are old, my joints stiff and heavy? I cannot imagine how I will cope when I discover that my life is behind me, has already happened, and I have nothing to show for it. No treasure house of recollection, no wealth of experience, no accumulated wisdom to pass on. What are we, if not an accumulation of our memories? How will I feel when I look in a mirror and see the reflection of my grandmother? I do not know, but I cannot allow myself to think of that now.

As for the thriller, well it can only work if things are not what they seem, and of course they are not, what more unreliable narrator than one with no memory. As the story progresses though, as Christine strings together day after day in her diary, is her memory beginning to come back or is she embroidering adding layer after layer of almost truths? Is there hope? What do you imagine?

First Published in English as “Before I Go To Sleep” in 2011 by Harper

Nick Harkaway ‘Gnomon’

Which brings her back to Hunter who’s mind conceals not one untruthful life but three, three mirages layed on top of one other so that the dismissal of the first becomes the gateway of the second and so on and on deeper and down this recording is a sinking sand of the mind… img_1496it is a breathtaking defense the architect of this barrier did not attempt to harden the mind against enquiry did not build some brittle wall to keep the Witness out but accepted the stricture of intrusion and created a defense in depth…it was done either to the woman or by her with this end in view that when, not if, when the Witness touched her mind Diana Hunter would confound it..

Diana Hunter dies during interrogation by the Witness and Inspector Neith, of the Witness is brought in to investigate. This is the simple opening premise to Nick Harkaway’s, far from simple doorstep of a book set in a near future London where everyone is under surveillance all of the time and in order to follow and act in time on anything that is observed, or predicted based on the observations humans have abdicated responsibility to an AI, known as the Witness, with a number of checks and balances:.

In this environment there’s simply no such thing as privacy anymore every action is visible to the system and it can call you and demand an accounting in the midst of a perfect world where power is in a way truly held by the people and government has almost entirely gone away, there’s a thin strand of horror of interrogation machines mandated by the majority and algorithms that see everything you do and want to know why you did it that understand your actions according to an actuarial chart and analyse you as an aspect of behavioral economics.

As the story begins, we follow Neith, as she takes part in her everyday life activities on line, assisting in debates she has been chosen for by the Winess, where her views or knowledge would be pertinent, asking questions where necessary and voting on line in what appears to be direct democracy where the people decide almost everything and we understand that Neith is exemplary in her involvement and her honesty. So back to Diana Hunter, for exceptionally dangerous behaviour, citizens can be interogated and if necessary their minds can be corrected by direct intervention, but deaths at the hand of the Witness are exceptionally rare, the Witness has direct access to their minds and their thoughts, so in steps the inspector of the Witness who has access to the recordings of the interrogations and can “live them”.

Diana Hunter’s interrogation is exceptional, And accounts in part for the length of the book as Neith discovers one after the other three completely different characters within Hunter’s head as illustrated in the opening quote. Who’s purpose becomes sort of obvious as the story progresses.  In order to render these lives real, the story Harkaway writes around these characters is enough to cover a short story for each one.

There is Constantine, a Greek banker from our time who after a near death incident with a shark sees on his screen certain fiancial events before the happen and so becomes incredibly rich.

There is Athenais, an alchemist and one time mistress of Saint Augustin, the mother of his son, who’s death she cannot prevent but who’s resurrection she tries to attempt.

And finally there is Berihun Bekele, an Ethiopian artist who had been arrested in the military coup after the death of Haile Selassie and imprisoned in a cell in Alem Bekagn, the infamous prison of Addis Ababa who’s name means Farewell to the World. Berihun later in his life works with his daughter Annabelle on a computer game which resmbles the life Neith is living with the Witness.

Did I say the last of the three, Neith then discovers a bug, a fourth character Lernrote or Gnomon,  does he exist only in Hunter’s head or does he exist in real life?  Harkaway throws in a spanner, a person from the far off future. Was it he who fabricated Gnomon:

In this new world many people, most in fact exist across bodies, that is to say that their thoughts are distributed between a large number of individual brains rather than concentrated in just one. Each individual body has a little doodad in it that sends and receives messages to all the others.

Slowly Neith becomes suspicious of the system she relies on and the characters within Hunter’s mind, indirectly make her understand something is rotten in the kingdom of Denmark.

What if the weak link in this system of surveillance and perfect government of the people by the people was in fact the people? how would they be stopped from making the wrong decisions?

As Neith’s freind Tubman says:

Obfuscation like you’re asking about, hiding in plain sight, breaking up the message well I suppose you could call it artisanal, you could do it but you’d need to be brilliant and dedicated, a bit mad maybe, three words which summarise what you don’t want in an adversary.

First Published in English as “Gnomon” in 2018 by Windmill Books

Michel Houellebecq ‘Submission’

I was hungry and what’s more I felt like shopping for something to eat, a blanquette de veau, hake cooked with cervil, a berbère moussaka; meals for the micro-wave, reliable in their insipidness, but with  colorful  packaging…not ill intended and the feeling to be taking part in a deceptive collective, yet egalitarian experience.***

In this book from 2016 by Houellebecq, in a near future the narrator, a bored university lecturer at Paris-Sorbonne, in between having affairs with his students is watching his life drift past, as it would seem is the whole country, in passive dissatisfaction. A perfect idea of his character is given by the opening quote.

Houellebecq picked up well on the mood of the nation with regard to the existing political landscape as was confirmed afterwards by the election of Emmanuel Macron, as  the narrator introduces us to election night:

I’ve always liked presidential election evenings; I even think that with the exception of football world cups, they were my favorite television programs. There is obviously less suspense, elections obeying to the singular narrative disposition of a story whose outcome is known from the first minute.***

But in this election night Houellebecq puts the Muslim brotherhood, a little like Hitler in his time, in a position of force to form a coalition government with the socialists. And as the book goes on he imagines the changes this could bring about, accepted apathetically by the electorate. Let us take the narrators profession as one of the examples he presents:

The republican school system stays as is. Open to everyone – but with much less money, the education budget will be divided by three at least, and this time the teachers won’t be able to save anything, in the curant economic climate any budget cuts will be certain to obtain large approval. And in parallel a system of private muslim schools will be put in place. Obviously in next to no time public schooling will equal low cost schooling.***

Houellebecq as other authors in dystopian novels plays on the readers fears as the narrator loses his job because his university becomes the Islamic university of Paris-Sorbonne and he is not Muslim (but no panic, the university is payed for by the Saudis and he is well paid off). He plays on arrangements to make polygamous mariages legal as the narrator’s colleagues become Muslim to keep their jobs, at three times the pay level, including wives found for them by the administration and  he imagines changes to our shopping centres:

Inside the shopping centre, things were more nuanced. Bricorama (DIY) was uncontested, but Jennifer (adolescent clothes) certainly wouldn’t last long, they sold nothing that would suit an islamic teenager. Secret Stories  on the other hand, that sold cut price branded underwear, had nothing to worry about: the success of similar shops in merchant galleries in Riyad and Abu Dhabi was incontestable…..dressed in impenetrable black burkas during the daytime, when the evening comes rich Saudi women are transformed into birds of paradise.***

This book was well received by the critics I, however, was uncomfortable with it, I found it quite simply plays on readers prejudices, and wouldn’t recommend it, look elsewhere for dystopian futures and imagine, maybe optimistically, that populations everywhere take an active interest in the way their countries are governed.

First Published in French as “Soumission” in 2015 by Flammarion
Translated into English as “Submission” by Lorin Stein and published in 2016 by Vintage
*** my translation

The quotes as read in French before translation

J’avais faim et plus encore j’avais envie d’acheter à manger, de la blanquette de veau, du colin au cerfeuil, de la moussaka berbère; les plats pour micro-ondes, fiables dans leur insipidité, mais à l’emballage coloré et joyeux… aucune malveillance ne pouvait s’y lire, et l’impression de participer à une expérience collective décevante, mais égalitaire.

J’aimais depuis toujours les soirées d’élections présidentielle; je crois même qu’a l’exception des coupes de mondes de football, c’était mon programme télévisé favori. le suspense était évidemment moins fort, les élections obéissant à ce dispositif narratif singulier d’une histoire dont le dénouement est connu dès la première minute.

l’école républicaine demeurerait telle quelle, ouverte à tous – mais avec beaucoup moins d’argent, le budget de l’Education nationale sera au moins divisé par trois, et cette fois les profs ne pourront rien sauver, dans le contexte économique actuel toute réduction budgétaire sera certaine de rallier un large consensus. et puis parallèlement se mettrait en place un système d’école musulmanes privées. Evidemment, très vite, l’école publique deviendra une école au rabais.

A l’intérieure du centre, le bilan était plus contrasté. Bricorama était incontestable, mais les jours de Jennifer était sans nul doute comptés, ils ne proposaient rien qui puisse convenir à une adolescente islamique. Le magasin Secret Stories par conte, qui vendait de la lingerie de marque à des prix dégriffés, n’avait aucun souci à se faire: le succès des magasins analogues dans les galeries marchandes de Riyad et d’Abu Dhabi ne s’était pas démenti….Vétues pendant la journée d’impénétrables burqas noires, les riches Saoudiennes se transformaient le soir en oiseaux de paradis.

Lexie Elliot ‘The French Girl’’

Looking back, the most striking thing is that she knew I didn’t like her and she didn’t care. That type of self-possession at the tender age of nineteen—well, it’s unnatural. Or French. She was very, very French.

Six university friends spend their summer holidays in a Dordogne farmhouse, Kate, the narrator and her best friend Lara “, Lara picks up men like the rest of us pick up newspapers. She puts them down in the same way, too.” Caro, Lara, Tom, Seb, Theo, Kate, did I say friends…what group of six students, wouldn’t have tensions build up between them living together over their holidays, throw in some drugs and a catalyst, the nineteen year old neighbour, Severine, who uses their pool, see the opening quote, and I guess they would never be friends the same way afterwards, if they ever were. A banal story and life goes on, but then ten years later Severine’s body turns up at the bottom of the well in that same farmhouse.

Kate, who has started her own legal personnel head hunter company and in trying get established lives on a a daily diet of adrenaline and worry, gets a call out of the blue from one of the four, Theo was killed in Afghanistan. Tom tells her about the discovery of the body and of the French policeman, Modan, that would be questioning her. Severine, who had been seen leaving the area, at the bus station, on the morning of their own departure had never been seen again.

As the story advances and Kate’s memory of events proves at first rusty, and then she realises there were things happening that she didn’t know about, Severine begins to appear to her beginning as her dead bones:

One morning I find those very bones, bleached white and neatly stacked in a pile with the grinning skull atop, resting on my kitchen counter; blinking does not remove them, though I know they’re not there.

Somebody wants Kate to carry the can and her previous friends clearly know things she doesn’t, Kate had been there with her then partner Seb and she was the only one of the six who didn’t know that their relationship was coming to an end.

A not too memorable crime thriller where the narrator, seeing a dead girl following her seems the most “normal” of the bunch.

First Published in English as “The French Girl” in 2018 by Corvus

Robert Menasse ‘The Capital’

For any member of the Commission hoping to promote a project, to realise that nobody takes an interest in it is a great relief.***

This is a satire about Europe and the European ideal seen through the eyes of multiple characters, each with their own responsibility within the Europe they live in and its almost planned stagnation. This book looks at the two contradictory forces playing with the destiny of the continent, on one hand a supranational European organisation lead by the Commission and set up after the results of the unbridled nationalism of the early twentieth century had gone to the extremes of the extermination camps and with the main objective which could be summed up as “never again”. On the other hand the representatives of the nation states who want to protect their individual states from a supranational ideal and are themselves at present undergoing the pressure and changes brought about by populism and nationalism within their own countries.

There is the ambitious Fenia Xenopoulou, a Cypriote but with a Greek passport as Cyprus was not a member of Europe until after she had arrived, trained in economics but who has been promoted to a role in Culture:

Greece eventually gets “Culture”….with its never ending financial and budgetary crisis, Greece had hit rock bottom and thus was defenseless and had no other choice but to accept what was given to them: the department everybody looked down on. It wasn’t a mission it was a punishment: when you dont know how to handle money, it’s best not to have any, and so that’s how you wind up with a department that has no budget.***

Xeno, as she is known needs a success to get her career back on track. When in answer to a call for a project to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the commission one of her team comes up with the idea of putting Auschwitz at the centre of the celebrations, “never again”, why populism and nationalism should never again be allowed to gain foothold, Menasse’s satire on the inner workings of the the Commission and how to kill a project is sumptuous. Xeno is outplayed by the chief of cabinet of the president of the Commission, Romolo Strozzi, a former Olympic fencing medalist, who gives her project the go ahead:

She had a strange feeling. she suppressed it. What was troubling her were the last few sentences Strozzi spoke at the end about planning the next stage: Oh yes, Ill take care of how we’ll include the member states in the project.
The member states? you mean the Council? Xeno replied. Why? I thought we’d agreed, the project is the Commissions responsibility.
Yes that’s clear. But but it was the member states that created the Commission.
Yes of course.
It was at that moment exactly that Xeno wasn’t agile enough. that “yes of course” cut an opening in her defense.***

Strozzi is then able behind the scenes to use the member states against the Commission to kill the project. Menasse gives us his view of the sterility of advisory groups who are experts in the status quo and a case study of Europe being unable to negotiate a contract to sell pork offals to China with then, Germany first, and the other nations each negotiating their own contracts with China but from positions of weakness as no individual country is able to satisfy the full demand.

In these few lines I’ve simplified a rich and thought provoking book.

First Published in German as “Die Hauptstadt” in 2017 by Suhrkamp
Translated into French as “La Capitale” by Olivier Mannoni and published in 2019 by Verdier
Translated into English by Jamie Bullock and to be published in 2019 by Maclehose Press.
*** my translation

The quotes as read in French before translation

Pour tout membre de la commission désireux de faire avancer un projet, constater que personne ne s’intéressait été un grand soulagement

“La “culture” revint finalement à la Grèce….avec son interminable crise financière et budgétaire, la Grèce avait déjà touché le fond, elle était donc sans défense et n’avait d’autre choix que de prendre ce qu’on lui donnait: le service que tout le monde dédaignait. Ce n’était pas un mission, c’était un punition: quand on ne sait pas se débrouiller avec l’argent, mieux ne pas en avoir entre les mains, et c’est comme cela qu’on se retrouve avec le département dépourvu de budget”

Elle a eu un drôle de sensation. Elle la refoula. Ce qu’elle repoussa, c’étaient les deux ou trois phrases que Strozzi avait prononcées à la fin, à propos de la suite de la planification: Ah oui je m’occuperai de la manière dont nous intégrerons les états membres dans le projet. Les états membres? Le Conseil donc? avait répondu Xénon. Pour quoi faire? Nous étions d’accord , le projet est l’affaire de la commission.
Oui c’est claire. Mais ce sont les états membres qui ont fondé la commission.
Bien sûr.
C’est précisément à ce moment là que Xeno avait manqué d’agilité. Ce “bien sur” creuset une ouverture définitive dans sa défense.