Quai du Polar 2021: And The Winner Is…

Quai du Polar 2021: So here we are, with the event delayed until July this year,7f4889a0-23d1-4f38-b05c-ddb85d1ae29a I’ve had ample time to read all six of the short listed thrillers, and I must say that I needed the extra time, you’ll find out why. Here then is my “official” Winner. Let’s see if the event jury get it right on the 4th of July……………

Hannelore Cayre “Richesse Oblige”. An interesting book from a historical perspective.

Joseph Incardona “La soustraction des possibles”. This complex story, its construction, and the slightly sarcastic style combine to make this a most enjoyable book.

Gabrielle Massat “Le goût du rouge à lèvre de ma mère”. This was a long book, and pretty improbable, setting it in San Francisco seems to me to be an over complication.

Sébastien Rutés “Mictlán”. I had read a comment of despair about this before hand and can safely now say I share this despair, I needed two months to get over it.

Benoît Séverac “Tuer le fils”. An honest story, just not my cup of tea.

Patrice Gain “Le Sourire du scorpion”. This uncomfortable story is based on the true life events of a genocidal criminal arrested in Lyon in 2011.

And finally, I’ve gone with:
Joseph Incardona “La soustraction des possibles” (Éditions Finitude).

Sites to visit linked to this proud going ahead now just 3 months late.
Emma, Marina-Sofia and the official event site Quai du Polar


Olga Ravn ‘The Employees’

Booker International Prize 2021: 6 Books shortlisted for this prize.
“The Employees”: In order of reading book number 5.

What are the Booker International Prize Jury doing? From In Memory of Memory my last read, I would have needed auto blood transfusions to keep the yellow jersey and finish the book to this seemingly promising but unfindable book (even Amazon, like em or hate em, if you can’t find it they’ve got it, “normally”). Couldn’t read it, therefore no article!!

A Wave of Apathy

The coronavirus is an easy scapegoat, since the UK brought back the quarantine and France reciprocated, holiday plans were thrown into limbo, second wave and tuti quanti. Haven’t been able to see my parents, daughter and grandchildren for a year.

So yes a wave of apathy has submerged my blogging, but now I am resurfacing and should probably admit to myself that from time to time my output flags. So before I get hit by the second wave of apathy time to start again.

Are you ready…… Don’t all answer at once.

Joël Dicker ‘The Mystery of Room 622’

Macaire was a man who would never hurt her, always cares for her, always ready to bend over backwards for her. Men who bend over backwards are men that are conquered and passion doesn’t last after conquest. Now what she needed was passion.***

After the East coast of America Joel Dicker brings us back to Switzerland, where he tells us a story of bankers and the fight for succession at a private investment bank, the Ebezner Bank, whilst in parallel developing for us his views on story telling and a eulogy to his late editor Bernard de Fallois as he, the writer, tracks down the tale. For Joel in the book, a story begins with an enigma which can then be explored.

Here as Joel feels alone, he decides to take a few days in the mountains in a hotel that Bernard de Fallois used to use, the Palace de Verbier in the story, and as he goes to his room on the sixth floor he noticed that there is a gap in the room numbering and that there is no room 622, but why? From this enigma he develops a story where we understand that a good story does not need verisimilitude to succeed, the characters and their interactions suffice.

He tells us the story of Macaire Ebezner, a mediocre banker who would have been next inline to be president of the family bank had his own father not changed the rules before his death, calling for a board vote, of Macaire’s wife illustrated in the opening quote who is secretly in love with his successful rival Lev Levovitch and of Tornogol the rich Russian oligarch who, thanks to Macaire, and to his late father’s displeasure leading to the change in the rules of succession, has a seat on the board.

No one is who they seem as we discover mystery after mystery, toxic mothers, jealous fathers and mediocre bankers. The tension builds up to the banks annual get together at the Palace de Verbier where the new president is to be announced and the events in room 622.

This book has had mixed write ups but I confess the suspension of reality worked for me, larger than life but fun.

First Published in French as “I’énigme de la chambre 622″ by de Fallois in 2020
*** my translation

The quote as read in French before translation

Macaire était un homme qui ne lui ferait jamais de mal, toujours au petits soins pour elle, à se plier en quatre pour elle. Les hommes qui se plie en quatre ce sont des hommes conquits et la passion ne survit pas à la conquête. Aujourd’hui elle avait besoin de passion

Shokoofeh Azar ‘The Enlightenment of the Greengage Tree’

Booker International Prize 2020: 6 Books shortlisted for this prize.
“The Enlightenment of the Greengage Tree”: In order of reading book number 4.

As I was exiting the house mum repeated one of her favourite sayings, “I don’t care if people’s lives are divided into before Nowruz and after Nowruz, or before the revolution and after the revolution, in my family it’s divided into before the Arab invasion and after the Arab invasion.” After that event mum always said Arab invasion, not fire or burning, she still wants to make the point that they came and burnt, plundered and killed just like 1400 years ago.

This powerful book about the decades following the Iranian revolution, the “Arab invasion” of the opening quote is told to us in this very personal view of events, by Shokoofeh Azar, from her new home in Australia and not from Iran, of course. Azar chooses to tell the story of one age-old family, of Hushang and his wife, and of their children, Sohrab, Beeta and the young narrator Bahar, and how their family tree ended.

This was a cultured Persian family who watched as Khomeni swept away the Shah and civil society to replace it by his  oppresive regime, they leave Teheran for a village, Razan, lost and forgotten far from the cities after a group of revolutionaries filled with hate arrive at their home:

I died the day inflamed revolutionaries boiling with revolutionary hatred and fervour poured into our house in Teheranpars and making strange noises cried out God is great, God is great, they stormed dad’s basement workshop and after, pouring kerosene on all his handmade tars and books and mulberry wood, set them alight. I was just 13 years old and was down there practising tar when they savagely attacked, I crawled under the table paralysed by fear. I saw with my own eyes how they splashed petrol everywhere and threw the lighter.

As the ghost of Beeta tells us, through stories interspersed with dreams and Zoroastrian folklore, there was no escape even in their backwater. She tells us through the arrest, torture and death of Sohrab of the price the population was made to pay for this revolution:

There was no news from Sohrab because he was waiting, he was waiting for the executions to end. They did end, some say it was september 22nd 1988, and some say it was later, either way they eventually came to an end. 5000 men and women, young and old, whose only crime had been their political or religious beliefs, were killed in the prisons of Teheran, Kharaj Mashhad and other cities. Once they had all finally died and their corpses had fed the crows and stray dogs in the dessert they didn’t sit idle, they set off, the ghosts of 5000 political and religious prisoners rose up from the cities deserts and from around Teheran and Havaran and looked at their smelly maggot infested body parts strewn around and carried in all directions in the mouths of crows and dogs, they set off with a common loathing, they wanted to see their murderer’s face up close. They could have appeared instantly in Khomeni’s bedroom the man who had signed their execution orders.

She tells of the revolutionary guards come to Razan to forcibly conscript all of the men to fight in the war against Iraq, of the sorrow of the mothers as none of them came back and of the contempt of the regime that gave them no news until the martyr foundation one day, with no warning, drove into the village with bronze plaques for them, the Black Snow in the quote refers to an actual event as in 1991 the Kuwaiti oil fields burned, black snow fell on mountainous regions:

The mothers thought that if we die they call our lone defenceless children orphans, but when our children die nobody calls us lone defenceless mothers. It was thus that they began calling themselves orphan mothers, mothers who had been orphaned by their children. Just as the happless arrival of the martyr foundation employees was beginning to fade from its memory, Rasan’s seemingly calm and beautiful heart suddenly stood still when it found itself the sudden home to a large graveyard, a graveyard the breadth of memories hopes and dreams, a graveyard the length of the past present and future. in the days and months after the storm of the black snow and the end of the war there was no news from veteran soldiers and nobody came from the provincial capital or Teheran to help the inhabitants of Rasan or even remembered their existence.

Late in the book, as Hushang, a bystander, is arrested on the margins of a demonstration and is then forced to write his story as a confession, there is a moment which reminded me of “The Life of Pi”, when the choice between the real story and a romanced version is presented.

This was a very personal story which also gives insight into how criminal regimes self perpetuate. Give those actually doing the dirty work more to lose by the fall of the regime than its perpetuation. This is of course a fiction, told in poetic language which contrasts with its backgroung setting.

First Published in Farsi.
Translated into english by Adrien Kijek and published as “The Enlightenmet of the Greengage Tree” by Wild Dingo Press in 2017

Readalong with Caroline: Blue Night – Simone Buchholz comment 4

Readalong with Caroline.

As the story moves on and it starts to get nasty its back to business school:

“Croc, codeine tablets cooked up with Formic acid and match heads is meth’s cousin from hell, dead in six months… with meth you can hold it together for years, Croc kills quickly, it doesn’t quite fit the business model”

Readalong with Caroline: Blue Night – Simone Buchholz comment 3

Readalong with Caroline.

Well, Chastity’s got out of Hamburg for the day, I get to feeling that Leipzig really isn’t like Hamburg, that said I’ve never been to Leipzig, I like the nail scissors.

“Leipzig looks like any other medium sized German city, only a bit better, tidy in a Bavarian kind of way pretty, old, picture book, listed buildings everywhere, we come to a tree lined square that looks like it was smartened up with nail scissors.”

Readalong with Caroline: Blue Night – Simone Buchholz comment 2

Readalong with Caroline.

“Then they whip the coshes out from under their jackets. Three jackets, three coshes. Left leg, right leg. Left arm, right arm. And six feet for twelve pairs of ribs. Your very own many-headed demon. Tailor-made to order. Then out come the pliers. Right index finger. A clean crack. But you’re left-handed; they don’t know everything.”

Well as I skipped through the opening chapter and the man being beat to a pulp was able to congratulate himself on his attackers not knowing everything (that he was right handed) I thought to myself : “well he’ll still be able to write” and then later in the book I felt like Marylyn Monroe in Some Like It Hot: Not very bright

Readalong with Caroline: Blue Night – Simone Buchholz comment 1

Readalong with Caroline. Well I’ve just met the main protagonist Chastity Riley the hamburg state prosecutor and what have I learnt so far. After she breaks down in the country side somewhere between “Mecklenberg and wherethehellever”  we learn from her friend Faller “Why do you do these things Chastity? Just head off out of town? you need your concrete” . I guess she’s a city girl.