I knew he was lieing. But I wanted to believe him. His voice had all the reassurance of a warrior who had suffered a terrible setback and was looking for revenge. And it would take the time it would take. He had long been locked in the room of lost chances. Life was a dangerous game. There were only a fews hours left for him to find the key to free himself.***
This book, my seventh read for the Prix du Roman de Rochefort 2021, a relatively short book with the narrator revisiting an events in his childhood as one of his parents neighbours who lived above them befriended the narrator who needed to leave the straightjacket of his home as he approached adolescence. His neighbour is a rough character who is supposed to have a job involving driving around the south west of France towards the end of the sixties but doesn’t actually seem to do much as he drives around with the boy in the car. The narrators description of him in the opening paragraph seems to sum him up well.
His view in his own family looking back is in a way like his view of the neighbour, the word “inexorablel seems to say that their fate is also fixed:
It wasn’t necessarily sad, or it doesn’t seem so to me these days when I see us so, and we resembled small characters from a silent movie, trying hard, to the beat of some infernal music, to repeat the mistakes without seeing them, led inexorably forward as if by a cruel joke they didn’t understand.***
He seems at one point to ask himself why he keeps mulling over these memories so many years later and the answer is in the precise words of his analysis.
Because, without a doubt, like an assassin, childhood always revisits the the scene of it’s crime.***
So what was the event that troubles him all these years later? Some thime before the police come to get the neighbour, whom he never sees again, he is taken hunting and the neighbour pushes him to shoot at a wild hare, he is retrospectively only partially taken in by the fact that his shot killed the hare, supposing that the neighbour fired in quick succesion to kill the hare. It is the carrying the hare back to their appartment block, not being able to bring it back to life and the moment that he realises that dearh is definitive that troubles him so much. This moment far more than the very public arrest of the neighbour.
A short troubling book, well written but which didn’t ring a bell for me.
First Published in french as “Le lièvre” in 2021, by Gallimard
*** my translation
The quotes as read in French before translation
Je savais qu’il mentait. Mais je voulais y croire. Sa voix avait l’assurance d’un guerrier qui aurait subi un revers terrible et promettrait de revenir se venger. Et cela prendrait le temps qu’il faudrait. Il avait depuis longtemps élu domicile dans la salle des chances perdues. La vie était un jeu dangereux. Il n’avait plus que quelques heures pour trouver la clé qui le libérerait.
Ce n’était pas forcément triste, ou ça ne l’est plus tout à fait à mes yeux aujourd’hui quand je nous revois ainsi, et que nous ressemblons alors aux petits personnages d’un film muet, appliqués sur une musique infernale à enchaîner les erreurs sans les voir, et entraînés inexorablement dans la mécanique d’un gag cruel qui leur échappe.
Parce que sans doute, comme l’assassin, l’enfance revient toujours sur les lieux de son crime.