Flash update, my second choice came in first, see the bottom of this article
After having debated (with myself), the 2023 reader’s prize goes to Tristan Saule’s ‘Héroïne’
I have read through the shortlist for the reader’s prize, just in time, and several of the books were good so, after reading my previous write ups, much like Goldilocks I first eliminated:
L’affaire de l’île Barbe – Surin d’Apache 1 de Stanislas Petrosky – AFITT Éditions This book is too short The crime itself and its resolution, or in this case non resolution felt like a book only half finished.
Then again like Goldilocks I eliminated
Le Blues des phalènesde Valentine Imhof – Éditions du Rouergue This book is too long The subjects, all 4 of them, could have each represented a book all alone, well researched judging by the pages of references, in places interesting, but I just kept looking at my watch.
But I also know when I am beaten.
Pas de littérature !de Sébastien Rutés – Éditions Gallimard. I didn’t read this one 2 years ago I did try to read the last of his to be selected for this short list, but it was unreadable (I very rarely give up). I’m not sure how the short list is drawn up but Gallimard can do better!
So then in third place:
Le Tableau du peintre juif de Benoît Séverac – Éditions La Manufacture de livres Then begins a Tour de France and of Spain as he seeks to unravel the story and clear his grandfather’s name. I must admit that I lost a little interest as he went from location to location with descriptions of the places etc; not a winner for me.
Next we come to the two finalists, I enjoyed both books but there has to be a winner, so in second place:
Nous étions le sel de la merde Roxanne Bouchard – Éditions de L’Aube The facts, or the memories of this story: another sea death when every fishing family has lost someone at sea, this is not an unusual event, are slowly, almost reluctantly distilled over 300 pages as Roxanne Bouchard slows the story down to the speed of the sea. This is a clear possible winner.
And Finally Goldilocks says ‘this one is just right’:
Héroïnede Tristan Saule – Le Quartanier Éditeur This really was rather an excellent story with a twist at the end. A real competitor for the prize!
It’s a heartbreaking tracking shot, and Laura is the camera filming the scene as she lives it, stunned by the composition, by the light, by the senseless emotion it provokes in her, the anger, the despair in her throat, the shame, the fear and the pity in the eyes of Marion, frozen on her doorstep. A small boy holding her hand.***
For my fourth book read this year for the Readers Prize at the Quai du Polar in Lyon I am reading Tristan Saule’s ‘Héroïne’. Set in the first months of the lockdowns, in reading it, I realised that there is now an adequate distance in time for my mind to ask if this actually happened rather than shrinking from it. The story takes place in a run down high rise housing estate there are the petty criminals peddling drugs, each zone of the estate, here the Heights, with its chain of command. But this is thrown into disarray by the lockdowns because after the first months no more drugs are available. Until a consignment of heroin could become available:
Lounès and Tonio get out of the car. Tonio locks the doors and the BMW says good night. An ambulance slowly crosses the neighbourhood, lighting up the square in a blue reflection. — what’s wrong? Asks Tonio noticing that Lounès doesn’t go straight in but is standing there on the pavement waiting. The ambulance slows to drive over a speed bump. Blue lights shine silently on the cars, the windows, the balconies, the walls and the two night owls. The ambulance turns left heading for the hospital, disappears. —Salim says there’s a bastard looking to sell heroin in the “Hights”. You’ve heard anything, you? In daylight Tonio’s blushing cheeks would have given him away. —No, he answers. Nothing special.***
There are the ordinary people living in these high rise estates, Joëlle who normally lives from cleaning jobs, paid cash in hand, but her clients are locked down and all are at home, there is Thierry, who can’t afford to buy nappies for his baby and there is Zacharie who pedals to deliver food but has no fixed income and only lives on commission. They are contacted to distribute the heroin:
Listen, says Zacharie. All day me, I deliver food. I pick it up in kitchens, and I swear, you wouldn’t leave a flee ridden rat in them. That’s my fault? Fuck, I’m a delivery man. If there are blokes that want to buy that stuff, that’s their problem. This, this is the same thing. — come on, heroin, it’s not kebabs is it interrupts Joëlle. My sister in law, she liked to get stoned on heroin and she died. My brother in law, he eats kebabs and he’s just fat.***
And then there is Laura, an auxiliary nurse at the local hospital with her life about to come crumbling around her, her girlfriend of two years no longer answers to her calls since the start of lockdown and she discovers the truth about Marion as illustrated in the opening quote. We then live an extenuating night in the COVID intensive care unit with Laura.
It only takes a small grain of sand for all of these worlds to come into collision, as the gypsy who is receiving the heroin falls ill and is rushed to hospital after telling his drinking friends a hidden secret about himself. Then under the effects of morphine he mistakes Laura for a girl he met in the war in Bosnia, Lejla:
All the while talking, Laura comes closer and pulls the sheet up over the gypsy’s chest. He puts his hand on hers. This time the movement is smoother. Laura doesn’t pull away. —The dope, he says. You have to go and find the dope, Leijla. I’ve hidden it but they’ll find it in the end. You have to get it.
This really was rather an excellent story with a twist at the end. A real competitor for the prize!
First Published in French by Parallèle Noir in 2022.
*** my translation
The quotes as read in French before translation
C’est un travelling poignant, et Laura est la caméra qui filme la scène en même temps qu’elle la vit, abasourdie par la composition, par la lumière, par l’émotion insensée qu’elle provoque en elle, la rage et le désespoir dans sa gorge, la honte, la peur et la pitié dans les yeux de Marion, figée sur le seuil de sa maison. Un petit garçon lui tient la main.
Lounès et Tonio sortent de la voiture. Tonio verrouille les portes et la bm dit bonne nuit. Une ambulance traverse le quartier à faible allure, illumine la place carrée de reflets bleutés. — Qu’est-ce qu’y a? demande Tonio en constatant que Lounès ne rentre pas directement chez lui et qu’il attend planté là, sur le trottoir. L’ambulance ralentit pour passer un dos d’âne. Les éclairs bleus frappent en silence les voitures, les fenêtres, les balcons, les murs et les visages de deux noctambules. L’ambulance tourne à gauche, prend la route de l’hôpital, disparaît. — Salim, il dit qu’il y a un bâtard qui cherche à fourguer de l’héroïne dans les Hauts. T’as entendu parler de ça, toi? En plein jour, le rouge qui teinte les joues de Tonio l’aurait trahi. — Non, répond-il. Rien de spécial.
Écoute, dit Zacharie. Toute la journée, moi je livre de la bouffe. Je vais la chercher dans des cuisines, je te jure, tu mettrais pas un rat pouilleux là-dedans. C’est de ma faute? Putain, moi je suis le livreur. S’il y a des mecs pour acheter ça, c’est leur problème. Là, c’est la même chose. — Enfin, l’héroïne, c’est pas des kebabs quand même, intervient Joëlle. Ma belle-sœur, elle s’est défoncée à l’héroïne, elle est morte. Mon beau-frère, il bouffe des kebabs, il est juste obèse.
Tout en parlant, Laura s’approche et remonte le drap sur la poitrine du Manouche. Il pose sa main sur la sienne. Cette fois, le geste est moins brusque. Laura ne se dégage pas. — La came, dit-il. Il faut que t’ailles chercher la came, Lejla. Je l’ai planquée mais ils finiront par la trouver. Il faut que tu la récupères.
I maybe have another, professor… Lacassagne and Gustini turned to look inquisitively at me. — Well go ahead, speak young man. Don’t keep us hanging on for no reason! —This….as I spoke, I rolled up my sleeve. —But why didn’t I think of that before! It’s a totally valid hypothesis…this woman could have tattoos on her legs which would have allowed us to identify her.
Next, my third book read this year for the Readers Prize at the Quai du Polar in Lyon. This is meant to be the first book in a series named after a street gang in Lyons, the Apaches, whose main protagonist, Ange-Clément Huin, an ex-member of this gang, assists the medical examiner, Alexandre Lacassagne in the early 1880’s.
This first case begins with an unknown woman’s corpse, with the legs sectioned and missing, being found in a sack, floating on the river Rhône. At the time the morgue was on a docked river boat, not close to the houses due amongst other reasons to the smell, and the law for viewing dead corpses:
It had frozen on the night of the 10th to the 11th of January 1881. The slight wind that deadens your ear tips was particularly disagreeable. Already a long queue was beginning to form on the river bank. Outside of the floating morgue which was anchoredto the Hôtel-Dieu Quai, opposite the Soufflot Dôme, by large chains, the public was getting impatient. I had never been able to understand all of these onlookers who turned up to queue at the break of dawn to see corpses! They were thus able to quench their unhealthy thirst for curiosity thanks to the law that states that “any unidentified body brought to the morgue will remain exposed to the public for as long as its state of conservation will allow”.
Ange-Clément uses his knowledge of the criminal world at the time to help Lacassagne to better understand criminal motives and the underworld in general, such as his description here of his arm:
I thought back to a street fight I’d been part of….I was faced with several ruffians and had no more ammunition for my pistol. I had the same handgun as all of the Apaches. Which was a bit like that strange knife that the Swiss army had just bought for its soldiers. You could eat with it, take your rifle apart, and it had a blade, a tin opener, a flat head screwdriver and a punch. And so my weapon was at once a revolver, a dagger and a knuckle duster.
The idea for this series is interesting, the language giving a feeling of the 1880’s and the interaction of the characters seems good, but the crime itself and its resolution, or in this case non resolution felt like a book only half finished and left me slightly frustrated in spite of the many many pages of reference texts about the characters and period at the end of the book. Unfinished is the feeling that remains with me at the end.
First Published in French by AFITT editions in 2022.
*** my translation
The quotes as read in French before translation
Moi, j’en aurais peut-être bien une autre, professeur… Lacassagne et Gustini se tournèrent vers moi avec des yeux pleins d’interrogation. — Eh bien allez-y, parlez, mon garçon. Ne nous faites point donc languir plus que de raison ! — Ça… En parlant, je retroussai ma manche afin de laisser apparaître mon avant-bras. — Mais comment n’y ai-je pas pensé plus tôt ! C’est une hypothèse tout à fait possible… Cette femme pouvait être tatouée sur les jambes, ce qui aurait permis de l’identifier.
Il avait gelé dans la nuit du 10 au 11 janvier 1881. Le petit vent qui vous engourdissait la pointe des oreilles n’était pas ce qu’il y avait de plus agréable. Déjà, une longue file commençait à naître sur la rive. Le public s’impatientait devant la morgue flottante amarrée par de grosses chaînes sur le quai de l’Hôtel-Dieu, en face du grand Dôme de Soufflot. Jamais je n’avais pu comprendre tous ces badauds qui venaient aux aurores faire la queue pour pouvoir voir du macchabée ! Ils profitaient, pour assouvir leur curiosité malsaine, du règlement qui disait que « le cadavre de toute personne inconnue apporté à la morgue restera exposé aux regards du public tant que son état de conservation le permettra ».
Je repensais à une bagarre de rue à laquelle j’avais été mêlé… Plusieurs bougres me faisaient face, et je n’avais plus de munitions dans mon revolver. Je disposais de la même arme de poing que tous les Apaches. Qui était un peu comme ce drôle de couteau que l’armée suisse venait d’acheter pour ses soldats. On pouvait manger avec, démonter le fusil d’ordonnance, et il disposait d’une lame, d’un ouvre-boîte, d’un tournevis plat et un poinçon. Eh bien mon arme faisait office de revolver, de surin et de coup-de-poing américain.
Gaspésie is a land for the poor whose only wealth is the sea, then the sea dies. It’s a jumble of memories, a country which shuts its gob, and so doesn’t upset anyone, a land of misery with only the open sea as comfort. And so we hung on like men with nothing. Like fisherman that need to be consoled.***
“We Were the Salt of the Sea” , by Roxane Bouchard was my first book read this year for the Readers Prize at the Quai du Polar in Lyon this year. This a book about a remote fishing village in Quebec, at the mouth of the Saint Lawrence river. A land of fishermen before the sea fish, the cod and the Mackerel became rare, emprisoning the older villagers as the community ages and the younger generations tries to make the switch to tourism, as illustrated in the opening quote. I will admit that the writing, trying to convey the local vernacular nearly lost me, the writing can only do half of the work and I don’t really have a reference in my mind for the musicality of this particular way of speaking allowing me to do my half of the work, I was further confused by the Hiiii before every sentence spoken by Cyrille, thinking it was his way of speaking ( but before every sentence), only learning at the end that he had trouble breathing. But with Vital always saying “saint-ciboire-de-câlisse?” With every sentence and Renaud beginning every sentence with “j’m’en vas vous dire rien qu’une affaire,” I confess I found this off putting.
But I persevered through the first thirty pages, and what chance, this is a marvellous book! Set mostly in the modern day but with a couple of flashbacks to the seventies. As the book begins back then, a woman is giving birth alone on a yacht, a sailor on another ship in the dock hears screaming and comes aboard, helping to finish the birth. Forward to the present day as a drowned dead body is caught early one morning:
“Hiiii…Hi youngster! So you came in the end! — Well yeah! — Well we’re not going straight away. — what do you mean? What’s up? — It’s Vital. Hiiii… You who likes that, fishing stories, well you’re gonna get one! — I don’t follow. — Seems he caught a someone drowned in his net…. Hiiii…. S’what he said on his VHF radio.”***
We soon learn that the dead body is Marie Garant, a woman in her sixties who’s home is here but spends her life sailing around the world and only coming back every few years for a short stay. Why was the detective from the City, Montréal, chosen to investigate in this village where everyone knows everyone and the coroner decides from the start that this must be an accident, she must have hit her head on the boom and fallen overboard. Who is the young woman Catherine Day that turned up around the time of the “accident” and is asking questions? Nearly all of the protagonists are of a similar age to Marie Garant. And why does she always go back to sea, as Cyrille tells Catherine:
Exoticism is a trap, doc, temporary entertainment for amateur photographers that make a scrapbook of their lives.***
The facts, or the memories of this story: another sea death when every fishing family has lost someone at sea, this is not an unusual event, are slowly, almost reluctantly distilled over 300 pages as Roxanne Bouchard slows the story down to the speed of the sea. This is a clear possible winner.
First Published in French by vlb éditeur in 2022.
*** my translation
The quotes as read in French before translation
«La Gaspésie, c’est une terre de pauvres qui a juste la mer pour richesse, pis la mer se meurt. C’est un agrégat de souvenirs, un pays qui ferme sa gueule pis qui écœure personne, une contrée de misère que la beauté du large console. Pis on s’y accroche comme des hommes de rien. Comme des pêcheurs qui ont besoin d’être consolés.»
«Hiiii… Salut la p’tite! T’es venue, finalement! — Ben oui! — Mais on partira pas tout de suite. — Comment ça? Qu’est-ce qui se passe? — C’est Vital. Hiiii… Toi qui aimes ça, les histoires de pêche, tu vas en avoir toute une! — Je comprends pas. — Ça a l’air qu’y’a ramassé un noyé dans son filet… Hiiii… Y l’a dit dans sa radio marine.»
L’exotisme, c’est un leurre, doc, un divertissement temporaire pour les amateurs de photos qui font du scrapbooking avec leur vie.
It’s that time of year again, Quai du Polar is back and for the “Prix des Lecteurs”, on the 12th of January, the following 6 books are in the running for 2023.
Nous étions le sel de la merde Roxanne Bouchard – Éditions de L’Aube
Le Blues des phalènesde Valentine Imhof – Éditions du Rouergue
L’affaire de l’île Barbe – Surin d’Apache 1 de Stanislas Petrosky – AFITT Éditions
Pas de littérature !de Sébastien Rutés – Éditions Gallimard
Héroïnede Tristan Saule – Le Quartanier Éditeur
Le Tableau du peintre juif de Benoît Séverac – Éditions La Manufacture de livres
The short list contains 6 books, but my time is too precious to waste, so I won’t be reading the Rutés, 2 years ago I did try to read the last of his to be selected for this short list, but it was unreadable (I very rarely give up). I’m not sure how the short list is drawn up but Gallimard can do better!
If you decide to read these books before the event to outguess the jury, let me know!
Quai du Polar 2022: Books shortlisted for the readers prize, Book read Number 4
Michèle Pedinielli : La patience de l’immortelle (L’éditions de l’aube)
Letizia is dead, it doesn’t make any sense. Because I only know one Letizia, she’s Jo’s niece, the daughter of his sister Antoinette. But Jo’s niece, his sister Antoinette’s daughter, is a magnificent young woman who has no reason to die.I sometimes come across her face on the television when the regional news are on when by thumb zaps onto France 3 Corsica where she is the news anchor, well dressed in her suit, as if to hide her juvenile face.***
Diuo, from last year’s selection for the same prize, well they are faithful to their writers, this is one of two writers who were also present last year, is asked by her ex husband Jo to go to Corsica to investigate his niece’s death. Letizia from the opening quote is found in the boot of her car, in the middle of nowhere in Corsica, shot at close range and then burned with the car, presumably to destroy any clues. Well when a journalist is shot dead you look into their investigations which is what Diou does, whilst the police warn her off and question the person she was due to meet that night, an isolated sheep farmer. Where the police get short shrift, Diou, who lived on the Island at the beginning of her first marriage to Jo is able to get some information, although she gets no help from Antoinette on from Antoinette’s sister in law , Diane who with her grown up son Pasquale lives with Antoinette after her husband is shot dead in a hinting accident, and as often in Corsica, the perpetrator was never found. And then Letizia husband goes missing:
Nothing special happened on my first morning alone, until I walked into the bar. I sat down at the same table, Ange brought me a coffee without sugar and didn’t leave at once. “Jean Noel has disappeared.” I dropped my tablet I was getting out of my bag. It fell on the cup making a terrible mess, the owner grabbed his tea towel to mop up whilst I tried to limit the mess. Without a word, he went back to his percolator and returned with a new espresso. I was still there mouth wide open.***
Nothing is over telegraphed, but as the story goes on, lead after lead head nowhere, swindles to make money from previously non constructible land or drug trafficking involving Diane and Pasquale lead nowhere. Diane tries to see Antoinette but is always sent away by Diane.
I get back in the car to cross the village up to Antoinette’s house. I must stop thinking of it as Antoinette’s house because it’s Dianes’s house too. Speaking of the devil….The pigheaded one is sweeping out the yard. She looks up seeing me coming. Before I could even open my mouth to say hello, she marks her territory. “You can’t see Antoinette, she’s in bed. She’s been resting since the police left. – They told you about the case? – No.” As if I could expect anything else. Suddenly I realise, almost with joy: Diane isn’t the incarnation of Colomba, but of Cerberus, the dog guarding hell.***
I’m really not sure that this book is better than last years selection, Après les chiens, and since last year’s didn’t win…..
First Published in French as “La patience de l’immortelle” in 2021 by L’éditions de l’aube.
*** My translation
The quotes as read in French before translation
Letizia est morte. Ça n’a toujours pas de sens. Parce que Letizia, je n’en connais qu’une, c’est la nièce de Jo, la fille de sa sœur Antoinette. Mais la nièce de Jo, la fille de sa sœur Antoinette, est une magnifique jeune femme qui n’a aucune raison de mourir. Je croise son visage parfois à la télévision à l’heure des informations régionales quand mon pouce zappe sur le canal de France 3 Corse où elle présente les journaux, vêtue d’un tailleur strict, comme pour faire oublier son visage juvénile.
Ma première matinée solitaire n’a pas été remarquable, jusqu’à ce que j’arrive au bar. Je me suis installée à la même table, Ange m’a apporté un café sans sachet de sucre et n’est pas reparti tout de suite. « Jean Noël a disparu. » J’en lâche la tablette que j’étais en train de sortir de mon sac. Elle tombe sur la tasse, ça fait un bordel monstre, le cafetier saisit son torchon pour éponger pendant que je tente de limiter les dégâts. Sans un mot, il retourne à son percolateur et revient avec un nouvel expresso. Je n’ai toujours pas refermé la mâchoire.
Je reprends la voiture pour traverser le village jusqu’à la maison d’Antoinette. Il faut que j’arrête de penser à «la maison d’Antoinette» parce que c’est aussi celle de Diane. Speaking of the Devil… La Raidissime est en train de balayer dans la cour. Elle lève la tête en me voyant arriver. Avant même que j’aie ouvert la bouche pour la saluer, elle édicte sa loi. Tu ne pourras pas voir Antoinette, elle est couchée. Elle se repose depuis que les policiers sont repartis. — Ils vous ont donné des informations sur l’enquête ? — Non. » Comme si je pouvais m’attendre à autre chose. Soudain, ça me saute aux yeux presque joyeusement : Diane n’est pas l’incarnation de Colomba mais celle de Cerbère, le chien qui garde les enfers.
When they built these towers they made sure our bedrooms faced the coast, a lighthouse keeper retires to his bed feeling his beacon settle on home and they want your beacon there, they don’t want you getting ideas about the sea beneath you, quieter and deeper than it’s safe to know. a keeper’s in bed, that’s when his memories grow bigger than he is and he needs the land, to be sure it’s there, the way a child listens for his father’s footsteps in the middle of the night. We’re all tied to the land.
Back in 1972 the three men living on the Maidan rock, Aurthur the PK (Principal Keeper), Bill his assistant and their junior, Vince the Young first time keeper, dissapear. Based on a true event Stonex tells us that all the clocks in the tower were stopped showing the same time and that the door was locked from the inside. The story oscillates between events in 1972 and events in the “present day”, 1992 as a writer of maritime fiction takes it on himself, by talking to the bereaved widows, to get to the roots of what happened back then. The opening quote helps to show something of the true loneliness that life, something that back then before the internet and cell phones, that over time could exercise on the keepers who could spend up to three months at a time on duty.
The tower life, of course, attracts men with a reason to live this life, from the PK who had never recovered from his only son’s drowning, to Vince hoping to avoid a life of crime with thisoffering a way out and from Aurthur who believes that living prolonged periods with two other people is “as good as it gets”:
Occasionally it strikes me how much time I spend with men i’d otherwise have nothing to do with. At home I don’t make friends easily, I don’t have the knack. People come and go there’s no time, can’t find a way in. Here it isn’t a choice, we learn to live together in a narrow column with no way out, men become friends, friends become brothers. For “Only Children” this is as good as it gets, when I was a boy I heard it as “Lonely Children”. I thought it was that through to when I was fourteen and saw the right thing printed on a medical pamphlet.
Through the women’s stories and their secrets, through Helen, Jenny and Michele, Stonex tells us of their grief, of their not knowing and why events drove them apart. Beginning by the backwards and forwards in time to let us see some of the pressures, from the shady Trident House that runs the lighthouses and gives no information on what might have happened, to the fact that the company provided housing so that even on land the keepers, and their wives lived next door to each other, sometimes passing long periods at home whilst their neighbour was away, she paints the picture, the background to those events.
In this slow moving, classy, well told whodunnit Stonex leads us on to her imagined final scenes in both 1972 and twenty years later. A story I would warmly recommend.
First Published in English as “The Lamplighters” in 2021 by Picador
Quai du Polar 2022: Books shortlisted for the readers prize, Book read Number 3
Olivier. Bordaçarre: Appartement 816 (L’Atalante)
I’m 1m71; I weigh roughly 75 kilos; I was born on the 2nd of November 1989 at 7.30 in the morning; I live at number 9 rue Emmanuel-Bronstin; I’m 41 years old; I wear size 41 shoes; my Sanipass number is 1891178283712 33; according to my bill from Ravi, I’ve eaten 81 125 gram tins of tuna (10.12 kgs) and 50 750 gram tins of chick peas (37.5 kgs) since the start of the Total General Isolation. That’s to say one tin of tuna every two days for six and a half months; one tin of chick peas every four days.
Didier Martin, simple accountant seems to be holding it all together, even if he is writing his diary in small print on the wall of his apartment where he lives with his wife Karin, his adolescent son Jérémy and his dog. He had to go through his diary to be sure of the facts, France is entering its 30th straight month of isolation for its inhabitants, the last six months have been IGT, Total General Isolation, that is to say Didier, his family and his dog have not been able to leave their apartment at all for the last six months. The detail in his diary entries concerning himself and his diet illustrated in the opening quote tells us something of the strain he is under and the following quote tells us of how his mind is telling him that isolation is normal, maybe even beneficial to fight against….loneliness.
You have to accept the evidence, living with your times is necessarily living without movement. Without flow we can do everything with a simple internet connection. It’s exactly what is happening with Rezo isn’t it? Aren’t we in touch with our friends, our families? We can see each other, talk to each other, exchange information, help each other get over problems. Thanks to the virus, digital connections have replaced all of our actions from everyday life and saved people from loneliness.***
Food is delivered by drones, which also ensure the rules are followed and waste is evacuated in plastic bags without human intervention. But as you can imagine the situation in a strain on interpersonal relations within the family, his son Jérémy is an asshole, his wife doesn’t always agree with him and his dog pisses and shits on the balcony floor that he has to clean up every time ( why only him you might ask):
I wouldn’t mind making other efforts, write inside our kitchen cupboard doors, for instance, or on the closet walls behind the shoes, but, when I propose something that goes a little in her sense looks at me silently and the walks off. Discussion is impossible. I asked her, then, once and for all (and Im writing it down in black and white today), not to shout any more. She’s free to express herself, she can criticise me as she wishes, I’m not totally opposed to dialogue, but without shouting. Without shouting. Otherwise. It just isn’t possible. We wont be able to carry on like that. The three of us live together in this apartment, we can’t do that without rules.***
Didier does some pretty normal things under the circumstances and evacuates the body parts in the plastic waste bags. At the end of the IGT it would seem that a large number of people in France are “missing”.
A book with a certain humour, the deliveries being taken over by a company named after the largest river in North America, Mississippi, for instance. A more interesting read than I had at first imagined but again this would not be my choice for the winner.
First Published in French as “Appartement 816″ in 2021 by L’Atalante.
*** My translation
The quotes as read in French before translation
Je mesure 1 mètre et 71 centimètres; je pèse 75 kilogrammes environ; je suis né le 2 novembre 1989 à 7 heures 30 minutes; j’habite au numéro 9 de la rue Emmanuel-Bronstin; j’ai 41 ans; je fais du 42 de pointure; mon numéro de SaniPass est le 1891178283712 33; d’après les factures récapitulatives du site Ravi, j’ai mangé 81 boîtes de thon de 125g (10,12 kg) et 50 boîtes de pois chiches de 750g (37,5 kg) depuis le début de l’Isolement Général Total. C’est-à-dire une boîte de thon tous les deux jours pendant six mois et demi une boîte de pois chiches tous les quatre jours.
Il faut forcément se rendre à l’évidence. Vivre avec son temps, c’est vivre désormais sans mouvement. Sans circulation. On peut tout faire grâce à une simple connexion Internet. C’est bien ce qui se passe au niveau de Rezo, non? Est-ce qu’on n’est pas en lien avec ses amis, sa famille? On peut se voir, se parler, échanger des informations, s’aider à surmonter un problème. Grâce au virus, le numérique a pris le relais sur l’ensemble des actions de la vie courante et sauve les gens de leur solitude.
Je veux bien faire d’autres efforts, écrire à l’intérieur des portes des placards de la cuisine, par exemple, ou sur les murs du cagibi derrière les chaussures, mais, quand je fais une proposition qui irait un peu dans son sens, Karine me regarde sans rien dire et elle s’en va. Quand je fais un pas en avant, elle me fauche. Comme elle l’a toujours fait. Elle s’en va. La discussion est impossible. Je lui ai demandé, donc, une bonne fois pour toutes (et je l’écris aujourd’hui noir sur blanc) de ne plus crier. Elle est libre de s’exprimer, peut tout à fait critiquer ce que je fais, je ne suis pas fermé au dialogue, mais sans crier. Sans crier. Sinon, ça ne va pas être possible. On ne va pas pouvoir continuer sur ce ton. On vit à trois dans cet appartement, cela ne peut pas se passer dans ces conditions.
Now this may be a “Normal” year In The Time of Covid. The ‘Quai du Polar’ is still programmed for the beginning of April in Lyon, Last year was postponed until the summer so let’s see whether this fair which concentrates on thrillers will go ahead as planned, for more info try the official website. official website.
So for two years running now and twelve books total read, the festival has chosen my second place book as their winner twice, so watch my blogs and keep a look out for the bookmaker’s favourite, my second choice! The following are the pre-selected books which I will read, found on the official website, see below.
Olivier Bordaçarre Appartement 816 (L’Atalante) 160 pages Max Izambard Marchands de mort subite (Rouergue) 352 pages Hervé Le Corre Traverser la nuit (Rivage) 320 pages Elsa Marpeau L’âme du fusil (Gallimard) 192 pages
Gabrielle Massat Trente grammes (Le Masque) 450 pages Michèle Pedinielli La patience de l’immortelle (L’Aube) 224 pages
“Booker Prize 2021: 6 Books Sure to be shortlisted for this prize. “The Fortune Men”: In order of reading book number 2.
Mahmood Mattan pushes through the crowd at the bar. « I said get me another coffee. ». Berlin catches his Trinidadian wife’s waist and steers her towards Mahmood. « Lou sort this trouble maker another coffee». Ranged along the bar are many of Tiger Bay’s Somali sailors. They look somewhere between gangsters and dandies in their cravates, pocket chains and trilby hats. Only Mahmood wears a homburg pulled down low over his gaunt face and sad eyes. He is a quiet man always appearing and disappearing silently at the fringes of the sailors or the gamblers or the thieves. Men pull their possessions closer when he is around and keep their eyes on his long elegant fingers.
Nadifa Mohamed takes us on a trip back in time, to Tiger Bay in the early fifties where she draws us a vibrant picture of this area around the docks in Cardiff, and in particular to the Somali sailors washed up on these shores in between ships, or in the case of Mahmood Mattan with wife and children. At the beginning of the book we meet Mattan in Berlin’s milk bar, with a short description which nonetheless gives us a detailed sketch of him as illustrated in the opening quote.
Why were the Somali sailors there in Tiger Bay? Why were sailors of all nationalities there in the early fifties? The answer is obvious but who were these people? It may be difficult to give them names but Nadifa Mohamed brings to life the vibrancy by naming the jobs they filled:
Passing the shops on Bute Street, he finds a few lights still on: at Zussen’s pawnbroker’s where many of his clothes are on hock, at the Cypriot barbershop where he has his hair trimmed and at Volacki’s where he used to buy seafaring kits but now just bags the occasional dress for Laura. The tall grand windows of Cory’s Rest are steamed up, with figures laughing and dancing behind the leaded glass. He peeks his head through the door to check if some of his regulars are there, but the West Indian faces around the snooker table are unfamiliar. He had once belonged to this army of workers pulled in from all over the world, dredged in to replace the thousands of mariners lost in the war: dockers, tallymen, kickers, stevedores, winch men, hatch men, samplers, grain porters, timber porters, tackle men, yard masters, teamers, dock watchmen, needle men, ferrymen, shunters, pilots, tugboatmen, foyboatmen, freshwater men, blacksmiths, jetty clerks, warehousemen, measurers, weighers, dredgermen, lumpers, launch men, lightermen, crane drivers, coal trimmers, and his own battalion, the stokers.
Then to help us understand that immigration isn’t a new thing but is age old, Berlin tells us stories of his own from the beginning of the century, working on the skyscrapers in New York or as an exhibit in the world fair in Germany.
But the story is about a sordid crime, the murder by blade of Violet Volacki the daughter of an Eastern European Jewish father, she runs a shop on Bute street, and also cashes seaman’s cheques. Violet lives with her sister and niece, and one night opens late for a person described as black and is found dead with her throat cut 20 minutes later.
Then begins the search for the killer, a Somali had been seen in Bute street by one witness, Mattan is known to the police for petty larceny and is questioned. Nadifa Mohamed gives us a very credible insight into Mattan’s life, his way of thinking and a possible reason for his not necessarily wanting to tell where he had been.
The story is based on a true life case and the language of his defense lawyer is an eye opener to the level of casual racism at the time.
Yet another excellent choice, a must for the short list!
First Published in English as “The Fortune Men” in 2021 by Viking.