Paul Lynch ‘Grace’

They stand in the yard of an abandoned farmhouse that shapes its gloom over a barren garden, a feeling of emptiness like presence. She wonders why an elm has had its bark stripped to head height and sees another just like it. Colly says, this was a house of tree eaters, I told you this was going on.

Grace, a story of the famine as if you were, there tells the story of Grace’s survival, read for the Roman De Rochefort. This book covers several themes, why was there a famine, who starved and why, and what are people capable of when faced with hunger. As the story begins, Grace, a young, girl of twelve, is living with her subsistence farming mother and siblings in a hut in The Black Mountains in Donegal. The potato harvest has failed and Grace doesn’t fully grasp what is to come as the landlord’s rent collector will want a rent that cannot be payed. Her mother Sarah with her daughter’s survival in mind, and a mouth less to feed at home, dresses her as a boy and sends her to do whatever work a friend of her ex-husband can find for her:

Sarah…produces cloth to bind Grace’s chest, stops and says, you’ve no need of it. Hands her a man’s shirt that swallows her. It smells like rocks pulled from a river. She holds the breeches in front of her and studies them. The fawn fabric is patched tan at the knees. She thinks, they look like a dog has had them for slumber. From whom did they come? Into the first leg she steps and then the other and she looks down at herself—such a sight, wishbone legs snapped loose into two gunnysacks. The breeches go past her ankles. Sarah rolls the ends up, stands behind her and loops the waist with string. A jacket that stinks of rained-on moss. A frieze coat ravelly about the neck and yawning at the elbow. I might as well be wearing jute. Sarah whispers. Here. Put on your boots. And try this cap. Your brother’s cap is too small for you. Pull it lower. Plenty of boys go about dressed in a father’s old clothing. Grace stands staring past the door at the world held starless by a flat dark. Leg-skin strange in these breeches and the cold whittling her head. Sarah hands her a candle and the light falls from her mother’s face so that it seems she is not herself, stands masked to her own daughter. She fusses over Grace, puts a satchel over her shoulder, rolls up the sleeves of the jacket. Then she looks towards the sleeping children, holds Grace with a long look, and whispers. Get to the town and don’t dally on the mountain road. Ask for Dinny Doherty and tell him you are your brother. He has always been kind to us.

As Grace leaves in the quiet of early morning, to avoid the rent collector, her younger brother, Colly, runs after her and whilst fishing with his hands falls in the river and drowns. As she then moves on from situation to situation, Colly’s voice follows with her as a counterpoint to her own survival decisions, telling her about the characters of the people she meets and helping her to survive.

At one job, Grace finds an abandoned hut where she tries to create a normality of life but is saved from a man, that has recognised her as a girl and followed her to her hut, by Bart, a small one armed man from the same work group who has learned to survive by his skill with knives. Grace and Bart then take to the road:

Of a sudden she knows what he is and what he is not. He turns without word and starts for the path without her. She stares at the path and stares at the dying man, another body left lying about and you’ll be the one who has to take care of it and maybe you’d be safer with this knife fighter. Wait! she shouts. She goes into the cabin and bundles her blanket and belongings. When she steps out of the house the dead man has gone. She says, what did you do with him? He says, I did nothing with him. So where is he gone? He got up and ran off. I thought he was dying.

The themes of who and why are examined as two separate worlds seem to coexist as Grace and Bart walk south along the roads, of the rich landowners in their protected estates who grow varied cash crops and corn, and of the poor, for whom potatoes is the only crop capable of producing enough calories to survive on their small plots, whose crops have failed, like Grace taken to the roads in search of food, work or charity:

Every flour cart on the road has been accompanied by soldiers. And in these great vales of Tipperary, the farming estates are sometimes as big as a town. They meet villages where the gardens are tended, the houses fashioned and slated. The great fields of corn giving to the world their color. How they crane their necks towards the flashing scythes. And yet there are the townlands you must go through with shut eyes, where grass grows over the doorways, where the fields learn color only from the sun. The have-it-alls and the have-nothings, Bart says. I give it a year before the country splits apart.

As winter turns to spring, somehow Bart and Grace have survived when so many about them have died, often in ditches at the sides of the roads as the people have become too weak to fight or resist:

They have tunneled through dark into this town called Ennis. Scavengers on the streets like stunned crows. The town watched over by buildings that might be flour mills. She thinks she will always remember the look of the fever hospital, the fright-shapes in the dark by the gates waiting to get in. Bart stops and leans out of breath against a wall. They find a place to sleep on the edge of town, some old forge, she thinks, though it might have been a baker’s once. There are other rough sleepers who speak in coughs.

Grace, Bart and a friend of Bart’s, McNutt, take to robbing the speeding coaches of the rich rushing up and down the same roads where the poor are dying in the ditches, or some of the less well protected houses, to survive whilst living in the hills. And then one day, thirteen long months from the start of the ordeal it happens, harvest comes and the potatoes are once again rotten, another year like the last is ahead of them, except that people are now already starving. Huts, farms and whole villages are now empty with people often lying dead in their huts with no one left to discover them, illustrated by the opening quote.

Slowly now the strong and the survivors weaken and die, including Bart and McNutt, and progressively Colly entirely takes over Grace as the survival instinct causes her to do the unimaginable:

that’s another dead-cart gone past and see what is on it—you will be on it soon no I will not yes you will—and do you know why those men are digging they are digging at meat that grows in the ground—you are not dead yet—yes you are—no you are not—soon unless you do something you must—hee! Tell no one—tell no one who is to know, wait until night like those others you saw in the dark and now it is dark and crawl so yes I will—not crawling walking crawling careful careful in case somebody sees—hee!—shovel hands—hee!—shoveling hands—who is that laughing sounds like Grace—Grace is dead—no she is not she is waiting in the house—it is a dog, a dog laughing—the dog is here for the meat also—how to bring this meat to Grace—it is not meat—it is meat—meat does not grow in the ground—is meat—isn’t—who will know anyhow—you won’t even know if you don’t think about it—dark and nobody is watching—to live is to die and to die is to live who said that—what silliness. Digging fingers meet the meat that lies under cloth—rip cloth—meat on the bone is meat in your hand will taste of mud and dead will it not and so what—the body won’t know what it’s eating, the body won’t care—nobody will know—

Grace is however found in the bottom of a pit of dead bodies and saved but no longer speaks. This is a harrowing story of deprivation, with whole villages of the poorer people being wiped from the map.

First Published in English as “Grace” in 2017 by Little, Brown and company.


Joseph Ponthus ‘Back to the production line’

The factory has got to me
I only ever call it my factory
As if the simple temp that I am amongst so many
others owns in any way the
machines or the fish or the shrimp

This is Joseph Ponthus’ first published book, read for the Roman De Rochefort prize, and there can be no doubt that what is described in these pages, written in verse, represent actual episode lived by Ponthus. He tells us of working on production lines as a temp in the food industry in Brittany, beginning in fish transformation factories which seem hard until he describes his missions in an industrial slaughterhouse.

Through his writing we live with him the exhaustion and the mind numbing days measured by the continual advancement of the production lines. He tells us of the nobility of the workers ensuring against the odds that the lines are never brought to a halt but also in contrast the futility of many of the tasks in under-maintained factories.

The work isn’t so hard
Empying twentyfive kilo crates
to fill other twentyfive kilo crates
We may seem like cartoon characters
But its a factory
And you build your muscles.***

As the story goes on everything outside of his time and energy consuming factory becomes peripheral to his life, even his wife and his dog. We get the feeling of someone on a treadmill fighting to stay on as the physicallity of his job slowly destroys his articulations, as life is reduced to the counting of the minutes between cigarette breaks, of working day in day out at whatever hours the machines require, of passing each working moment under basic neon light.

You leave behind your sleep yet again full of dreams
of the factory
to plunge back into another night
Cold artificial and lit by neon.***

And then there is the absurd, the managers and sales people that cannot really comprehend the work in their own factories, illustrated by the folloxing quote, where after a week pushing quarters of beef in a freezer along ill installed rails, requiring lifting the carcasses to advance and thus moving four hundred kilos a day every day, the monthly accident figures are put on the notice boards with a positive poster:

The one that made us laugh for a month

A female production operator from the red
offal section ‘the less I carry the better I feel’
I remember that the morning that poster was
put up
How we Laughed
And we laughed
And we laughed***

This is a book about life, about the will to go forward in the battle that is life, Joseph Ponthus has given us a unique look behind the curtains at the factory and its workers.

First Published in French as “À la ligne” in 2019 by La Table Ronde.
*** my translation

The quotes as read in French before translation

L’usine m’a eu
Je n’en parle plus qu’en disant
Mon usine
Comme si petit intérimaire que je suis parmi tant
d’autres j’avais une quelconque propriété des
machines ou de la production de poissons ou de

Le boulot n’est pas si dur
Vider des caisses de vingt-cinq kilos
pour remplir d’autres caisses de vingt-cinq kilos
Certes on dirait des Shadoks
Mais c’est l’usine
Et ça fait des muscles

On sort du sommeil encore marqué de rêves
Pour replonger dans une autre nuit
Artificielle froide et éclairée de néons

Celle qui nous a fait rire un bon mois

Une opératrice de production piéceuse aux abats
rouge disant ‘moins je porte mieux je me porte’
Je me souviens que le matin où l’affiche avait été
On se marrait
On se marrait
On se marrait

Peter Hannington ‘A Single Source’

Nawal tried to remember when she’d stopped being scared. A few weeks ago she would have turned tail at the sight of a police van–the smallest hint of trouble. 2B6816D8-026B-40D9-B167-8AC87892C425Now, when she heard sirens and the swell of noise coming from the other side of Tahrir, from close to the governing party headquarters, she shouldered her rucksack and practically ran in that direction.

In this story centred around the Arab spring in Tahrir Square, the second book by Peter Hannington, with the reporter William Carver at the centre, Hannington, an ex-BBC reporter himself tells us how big stories and scoops come together in the modern age where anyone with a smartphone can monitor events or report them. There are four themes  to this story, firstly the events in Tahrir Square where Carver, arriving ahead of the field, makes contact through a young girl on the hotel staff who helps him unofficially with translations with Nawal, an active participant in the events unfolding in the square, see the opening quote, but also a Twitter source:

@tsquarelawan New Cairo Hospital needs help. Anyone with blood type O please go. Big shortage of type O!

The second theme playing out in parallel is the story of Gabriel and Gebre, two Eritreans trying to join Europe where we meet them as they are talking with the first link in the chain of human smugglers who will cheat them along the way:

I told old Gabriel that I would treat you well; that the price he has paid will be the total price. I promised him this.’ Gebre studied Mr Adam. He wondered what this man’s promise was worth. ‘So, you two will not get the normal trip … you will get the VIP trip, you understand?

The third theme plays out in London between the permanent secretary to the defence minister and his press officer, Robert Mariscal, an ex-journalist and colleague of Carvers gone over to the dark side, payed to put spin on information for the press. And finally the fourth theme is Carver himself, the newshound, known for losing interest in any story that becomes mainstream.

When Nawal inadvertently tips off Carver to a story within the story concerning supplying the regime with a capability to fight the demonstrators, how much danger will this place her in? Just how far will The permanent secretary back the wealthy and influential  defence contractors through his press officer? Is Robert Mariscal now totally engaged in his role as a press officer despite his journalistic background.

In the modern day version of the slave trade that is people smuggling, some things don’t change and when the brothers learn that the smugglers are making money on more than one leg of their triangular trade, from Eritrea to Libya, from Libya to Egypt and from Egypt to Eritrea, what would it take for them to want to tell anyone?

And finally, how far is Carver prepared to go for a story risking not only his life but the lives of those associated to his scoop?

This story kept a realistic feel to it throughout, a readable thriller.

First Published in English as “A Single Source” in 2019 by Two Roads.
*** my translation

Sarah Chiche ‘The Obscure’

I know you, he said in perfect french with a hint of an accent which let me know he was a German speaker. You’re the woman who, yesterday afternoon in the Volksgarten, threw herself on the man who had just slapped a child.***

Sarah is married to Paul, an intellectual and writer whose theme of study is the approaching apocalypse, wars, global warming, growing population and strain on resources, and she is a clinical psychologist and psychoanalyst and they live in Paris. As the book, read for the Roman de Rochefort begins, she has come to Vienna to write about the conditions with which migrants are treated in the refugee camps and it is quickly clear that she is emotionally emerged in and drained by her visit. As she visits a gallery, a tall distinguished looking man talks to her about having seen her the previous day as illustrated in the opening quote.

Although happily married to Paul, she quickly begins an all consuming relationship with Richard K, a renowned musician and German speaker, a language banned from her home life as she was a child, and quickly the relationship brings out the dark side, boiling beneath the surface, of Sarah. Who are we, how are we affected by our younger life and the lives of our parents and grandparents. How much empathy can a woman have for a mother that systematically beat her, as her mother says to her:

I want to thank you…
Thank me? But why?
Because you lived through things that a child of your age should not normally have to live through. You heard things a child shouldn’t have to hear. You saw things that scared you. You were, of all of us, the most courageous because your heart is pure.***

Sarah’s father died as she was young, Sarah’s grand father had been interned in Buchenwald where he had survived and seen and lived things that altered his perspective on life, which then later included incest amongst other things. We learn that Sarah’s great grandmother and her grand mother were interned in Saint Anne’s a notorious mental health clinic, as was her mother, the very hospital in which Sarah now works. As Sarah keeps her continued relationship with Richard K a secret from her family and as she battles with her past and her worries that she too could follow in their footsteps she also tells us of the fight within the hospital with the Freudians, essentially over compassion:

For years I’d explained, in articles and in reading notes, why the scientific, intellectual, clinical and therapeutic prestige of psychoanalysis had irredeemably waned…. we were taught, in a fascinating mixture of complacency and ignorance but also highly cultured, that autism was a psychosis resulting from a bad relationship with the mother and therefore, if a certain child was autistic it was in all probability because his mother was very cold towards him…., in spite of all of the learned studies, which already at that time, had very clearly identified the mutations on the genes responsible for the communication between nerve cells and shown that difficulties in the autistic spectrum had a genetic component and that hormones such as melatonin and ocytocin played a non negligeable role.***

This is the second book in my reviews that refers to the Winterreise, the first being Eins I’m Andern By Monica Schwitter, the verse referenced here is a beautiful verse, about carrying on with life and not lamenting come what may:

Fliegt der Schnee mir ins Gesicht,
schüttl’ ich ihn herunter.
Wenn mein Herz im Busen spricht,
sing’ ich hell und munter.
Höre nicht, was es mir sagt,
habe keine Ohren;
fühle nicht, was es mir klagt,
Klagen ist für Toren.
Lustig in die Welt hinein
gegen Wind und Wetter!
Will kein Gott auf Erden sein,
sind wir selber Götter!

This was not an easy book to follow, as I read it over three weeks I lost the thread repeatedly, between her mother Ève, her grandmother (Ève?)Lynne, and Her great grandmother Cecile, and the story being told by several of the women.

First Published in French as “Les Enténébrés” in 2019 by Les Éditions Du Seuil.
*** my translation

The poem translated into both French and English taken from the internet follows

Que m’aveugle la neige,
Je la secoue d’un geste,
Que s’épanche mon cœur
Et je chante à tue-tête.
Jamais je ne l’écoute,
Je fais la sourde oreille,
Et j’ignore ses plaintes,
Seuls se plaignent les sots.
Courons gaiement le monde
Contre vents et marées,
S’il n’est de dieux sur terre,
Nous serons dieu nous-mêmes.

The snow flies in my face,
I shake it off.
When my heart cries out in my breast,
I sing brightly and cheerfully.
I do not hear what it says,
I have no ears,
I do not feel what it laments,
Lamenting is for fools.
Merrily stride into the world
Against all wind and weather!
If there is no God on earth,
We are gods ourselves!

The quotes as read in French before translation

Je vous reconnais, dit-il dans un français parfait avec une pointe d’accent qui me fait comprendre qu’il est germanophone. Vous êtes la femme qui, hier après-midi, dans le Volksgarten, s’est jetée sur un homme qui venait de gifler un enfant.

Je voudrais te remercier, lui dis-je.
Me remercier? Mais pourquoi?
Parce que tu as traversé des choses qu’un enfant de ton âge ne doit normalement pas traverser. Tu as entendu des choses qu’un enfant ne devrait pas entendre.Tu as vu des choses qui t’ont fait peur. Tu as été de nous tous là plus courageuse,parce que ton cœur est pur.

pendant des années j’avais expliqué, dans des articles, dans des notes de lecture, pourquoi le prestige scientifique, intellectuel, clinique et thérapeutique de la psychanalyse s’était irrémédiablement étiolé….on nous enseignait, dans un fascinant mélange de suffisance et d’ignorance mais aussi de haute culture, que l’autisme était bien une psychose résultant d’une mauvaise relation avec la mère et donc, si tel enfant était autiste, c’était parce que très probablement sa mère était trop froide…..,au mépris de toutes les études savantes, qui a l’époque déjà, avaient très clairement identifié des mutations sur des gènes impliqués dans les communications entre cellules nerveuses et montré que les troubles du spectre autistique avaient une composante génétique et que les hormones comme la mélatonine et l’ocytocine y jouaient un rôle non négligeable.

Pascal Garnier ‘Moon in a Dead Eye’

A SECURE GATED COMMUNITY There’s nothing quite like knowing you’re protected and secure. With a dedicated caretaker-manager on site 365 days of the year, our residents can enjoy total peace of mind.

As retirement arrives, people can be coaxed into looking for ideals. Here Martial and Odette, happy until now living in Suresnes, close to Paris, find that the people around them and their local references are changing, their friends are moving house, some have died, they have heard rumours of people being robbed at cash machines, their local market store holders have retired, and so with this background they let themselves be seduced into selling up and moving to the south of France, to Les Conviviales, a retirement village, see the opening quote. Except that things are rarely as they seem as they are the first to arrive in winter:

Martial compared the photo on the cover of the brochure with the view from the window. It was raining. It had rained almost every day for the past month. A slick of water shone on the Roman-tiled roofs of the identikit ochre pebbledash bungalows, each fronted by a matching patch of Astroturf-green lawn. At this time of year, the regimented rows of broom-like shrubs provided neither leaves, nor flowers, nor shade. All the shutters were closed. The fifty or so little houses were lined up obediently on either side of a wide road, with gravel paths leading off to each home. Viewed from the air, it must have looked something like a fish skeleton.

This begins as a satire on seeking change, as the village only ever attracts five people, Martial and Odette the first arrivals and then Maxime and his wife Marlène, and finally Léa. Pascal Garnier then slowly investigates these people living in their gated village in the middle of nowhere, each of them having their own quirkiness, for instance Léa who has been given the house by her former employers family after her death to get rid of her and as she admits to Nadine, the village social secretary, she now cannot move as the houses are unsaleable. As she and Nadine are preparing supper one evening we understand that Léa has absences:

The wine had made them a little drunk. They spontaneously moved to tutoiement.
You must have a good laugh watching us, right?
I admit that sometimes I have trouble not laughing.
The other day for instance, when Marlène……Léa… What are you doing?…
Léa was smiling, Her eyes were empty, as she filled the salad bowl with anything at hand, peelings, her keys, her purse……Nadine watched her, eyes wide open….
Léa let herself be led to the sofa. No sooner was she sat down than she closed her eyes and fell asleep. She was still smiling.***

As the story moves on, a camp of gypsies, the grain of sand, move next to the gated community and from then on things spiral out of control with the true sides of each of the residents shining through until the explosive end. A well written satire, don’t let anyone sell you a hapiness package for your retirement!

First Published in French as “Lune captive dans un oeil mort” in 2009 by Zulma.
Translated into English by Emily Boyce and published as “Moon in a Dead Eye” in 2013 by Gallic Books
*** my translation

The quote as read in French before translation

Le vin les avait rendues un peu pompette. Spontanément, on était passé au tutoiement.
Tu dois bien t’amuser à nous observer, non?
J’avoue que parfois, j’ai du mal à me retenir.
L’autre jour, par exemple, quand Marlène a…. Léa?… Qu’est-Ce que tu fais?…
Léa souriait, l’œil vide, en remplissant le saladier de tout et n’importe quoi, les épluchures, ses clés, son porte-monnaie….Nadine la regardait faire, les yeux ronds….
Léa se laissa conduire jusqu’au canapé. À Peine fut-elle assise qu’elle ferma les yeux et s’endormit. Elle souriait toujours

Luc Chomarat ‘The Latest Norwegian Thriller’

You can bet on the next work of Grundozwkzson being a hybrid product, available only in digital form, with links that will steer the reader towards video extracts and creating crowdfunding for anything based on the text. You could even imagine a sufficiently controlled filing hierarchy allowing each reader to create his own ideal thriller, deleting such and such a person, raping and torturing such and such a girl, the book, the film, the game merging together into a single interactive product with maximum and immediate profitability.***

Dr Flknberg the profiler, Olaf Grundozwkzson the Nordic crime sensation, writer of The Eskimo and inspector Bjornborg and his detective Willander of the police force who are too short staffed to do anything except follow the procedure, well with these characters you know you’re in Scandinavia. In this, Luc Chomarat’s latest book, read for the Roman De Rochefort, the French editor Delafeuille, with his industry is disarray due to the impact of digital publishing, has been sent to Danemark by his traditional company to sign up Olaf Grunozwkzson, the biggest thing in Scandinavian thrillers, for all translation rights in the French speaking world, where he is in competition with Gorki who has a very “modern” vision of the “product” as illustrated in the opening quote.

In this satire on nordic thrillers, Delafeuille soon realises that he himself is in just such an interactive product as he discovers that both the story and exerpts from the book have the same sentences. He finds himself meeting Inspector Bjornborg who represents the boring Scandinavian police:

Bjornborg went back to his Volvo fleet car. As he slid behind the wheel, he felt an overwhelming weariness come upon him. The enquiry was going nowhere, and even that didn’t help him to see clearly. In reality enquiries didn’t actually advance, but neither did they in Nordic thrillers. They are often rather large laboriously written books. As for the cop’s wives waiting for them when they get home, and the relationship between them, well that too was like real life. In short there was no way out.***

And he soon finds himself working to solve the cases of the beautiful blondhaired girls being violently murdered in Copenhagen along with Sherlock Holmes. When they realise that they are protagonists of the story they decide to try too get an interview with Grundozwkzson with Holmes writing to him:

I’m writing to our friend. I’m proposing to interview him at his home on a certain number of subjects, the Nordic thriller, his personal works, the Change to digital form, etc. I’m flattering him a little That should interest him.
I don’t really understand. Why should he see us?
I’m using the old procedure of the Trojan horse. You see: I’m signing with a fantasy name, Ulla Ogsen, which sounds both Scandinavian and erotic, I’m quickly creating a pretty realistic false profile of a journalist, to which I’m attaching the photo of a silicon enhanced Ukrainian porn star.
It’s a crude trap.
He’ll fall for it old boy because his fantasies are as simplistic as my methods.***

Chomarat takes us through all of the clichés of the Nordic thriller, the violent deaths of beautiful young women this in countries famous for fighting for feminine equality, the pointless deadends to the story, the profiler obsessed by sex, the police force with no budget, the extreme climate eventually causing the main protagonists to be isolated from the world. Even the name of the book, “The Eskimo”. I liked the moment of realisation that something was wrong, if they were in Scandinavia trying to sign the rights for the French translation, as Holmes points out why was the story they were discovering already in French?

An amusing satire read in one day.

First Published in French as “Le Dernier Thriller Norvégien” in 2019 by La Manufacture de Livres
*** my translation

The quotes as read in French before translation

Il y a gros à parier que le prochain opus de Grundozwkzson sera un produit hybride, lisible exclusivement sous forme numérique, avec des liens qui permettront de diriger le lecteur vers des extraits vidéo, et de générer automatiquement du crowdfunding pour toute forme dérivée du texte. On peut même imaginer une arborescence suffisamment maîtrisée pour permettre à chaque lecteur de créer son thriller idéal, supprimer tel ou tel personnage, violer et torturer telle ou telle fille. Le livre, le film, le jeu se fondront en un produit unique, interactif, à rentabilité maximum et immédiate.

Bjornborg rejoignit sa Volvo de service. En se glissant derrière le volant il sentit une lassitude sans nom lui tomber sur les épaules. L’enquête n’avançait pas, et même cela ne l’aidait pas à y voir plus clair. Dans la réalité, les enquêtes n’avançaient pas effectivement. Mais dans les polars Nordiques non plus. C’étaient souvent des assez gros bouquins, à l’écriture laborieuses. Quant aux épouses de flics retrouvaient à la maison et aux rapports qu’ils entretenaient avec elles, cela aussi ressemblait fort à la vraie vie. Bref, il n’y avait pas d’issue.

J’écris à notre ami. Je lui propose de l’interviewer chez lui, sur un certain nombre de sujets, le thriller nordique, son œuvre personnelle, le passage au numérique, etc. Je le flatte un peu. Cela devrait l’intéresser.
Je ne comprends pas très bien. Pourquoi nous recevrait-Il?
J’utilise le vieux procédé du cheval de Troie. Voyez: je signe d’un nom fantaisiste, Ulla Ogsen, qui sonne à la fois scandinave et érotique. Je crée très rapidement un faux profil de journaliste assez vraisemblable, auquel je rajoute une photo de pornstar Ukrainienne siliconée.
C’est un piège grossier.
Il va tomber dedans, vielle branche, parce que ses fantasmes sont aussi rudimentaires que mon procédé.

Pedro Mairal ‘The Uruguayenne’

Just that morning, I’d looked at your earrings in the bathroom, large silver hoops, expensive, thrown down there…and I remembered that saying from the Caribbean: she shakes her hoops with anyone. Who shook your hoops Catalina? Your earrings from Ricciardi bouncing around in your sexual endeavours, your rings from avenue Quintana ringing in deceit, chiming like a crystal chandelier in an earthquake.***

Lucas Pereyra, an archetypal loser, weighed down by money problems, owing a book to his editor, not meeting many people or so it would seem outside of his participation in literary festivals can save himself, his self esteem and his marriage in this book read for Spanish and Portuguese lit month. But then there is Guerra the Uruguayenne he met at a festival months ago, with whom he has stayed in touch with WhatsApp and whose name he has called out in his dreams.

The Argentine Peso is not exactly a stable currency, and the taxes! Pereyra arranges to be paid in a bank in Montevideo and leaves early one morning to take the boat across the Rio De la Plata, and will meet up with Guerra. But wasn’t his own wife not above suspicion, as his thoughts are given in the opening quote.

But a loser is a loser, Lucas picks up the money in cash which he hides in a secret money belt. And he is careful, watches all around himself as he strolls in the pleasant sun filled avenues of Montevideo, reminiscing of the time he had wanted Guerra, where they had nearly had sex together on and around the beach but we’re always interrupted, a loser. He has a few drinks and relaxes a little and as he meets up with Guerra and then drinks a lot more and smokes weed his defences weaken:

You have to watch out with Uruguay, especially if you turn up thinking that it’s like a province in Argentina but better, kinda like there’s no corruption or péronisme, you can smoke weed in the street, it’s the little country where everyone is nice and likeable and all that shit. If you don’t watch out Uruguay will fuck you from behind!***

He should have read the previous quote before going. A short easy read, a well worthwhile change of horizons.

First Published in Spanish as “La Uruguaya” in 2018 by Libros del Asteroida
Translated into French by Delphine Valentin and published as “L’Uruguayenne” in 2018 by Buchet-Chastel
*** my translation

The quotes as read in French before translation

Ce matin justement, j’avais regardé tes boucles d’oreilles dans la salle de bains, de grandes anneaux en argent, coûteuses, jetées là…et je m’étais rappelé cette expression des Caraïbes: Elle fait trembler ses créoles avec n’importe qui. Qui faisait trembler tes créoles, Catalina? Tes boucles de chez Ricciardi se balançant dans la cavalcade sexuelle, tes boucles de l’avenue Quintana tintant dans la tromperie, cliquetant comme le cristal d’un lustre en pleine secousse sismique.

Faut faire gaffe avec L’Uruguay, surtout si tu débarques persuadé que c’est comme une province argentine mais en mieux, genre il n’y a pas de corruption ni de péronisme, on peut fumer de l’herbe dans la rue, c’est le petit pays où tout le monde est gentil et aimable et toutes ces conneries. Tu lâches prise et l’Uruguay te baise par derrière.