Alexis Zante is one of the 35 vice-presidents Of the Bergson Bank. In order to reach the top, in theory he would need to eliminate the president and his 34 counterparts. But as with the world of finance itself this line of thought is purely speculative because of the total separation between the objects and the abstract system that governs them.
A man, he explains to me whilst bringing his fingertips together, harvests a ton of wheat. Six months earlier this ton had been bought by another person who had himself sold it on before the plant had begun to grow out of the ground. In the mean time, others will have gambled on the variation of its sales price, taken out insurance on the evolution of the stock markets and these insurances themselves will have been grouped together in packages by investment funds. When the traders have unloaded them on their clients no one will have the slightest idea what he has bought, if the ton Han actually been delivered and who had eaten the bread.***
Julia Deck has put together a spoof story about espionage and intervention in Switzerland centering around the worlds of finance, art, investment and ideas. The objective of the mysterious organisation behind the action, Sigma, is to prevent the subversive ideas that a painting, once thought lost but which may have been discovered, from affecting society, they tell us about one of the best ways of neutralising a work of art:
You have commissioned our organisation to fight against undesirable works of art. When it proves to be impossible to eliminate them at their source, we arrange for them to go into museums, where their ability to harm our interests slowly peters out. No major work of art escapes our organisation.***
This story is full of interesting characters and situations, the actress, Pola Stalker, balancing choices of films for popular cinema favoured by Sigma, and arthouse works for her image, or of the professor, Lothaire Lestir, à specialist In neuroscience who lectures that the inequality in society between men and women can be traced to the fact that in their lifetimes a woman has on average 32 times less orgasms than a man and preaches equality, for which Sigma believes that despite their hatred of revolutionary ideas, this one is too far from being applicable so no action is needed.
Each of the characters has a private secretary and each of these are employed covertly by Sigma, Has Alexis Zante found the missing monochrome painting? Where could you hide a monochrome? Can Elvire, the gallery owner obtain it? Can she use her sister Pola Stalker to seduce Zante? like any true spy story there are twists, seemingly innocent deaths and an explosive ending, after all humans under pressure are unpredictable. This book was fun and was read quickly.
First Published in French as “Sigma” in 2017 by Les Éditions De Minuit.
*** My translation