Julia Deck ‘Private Property’

I knew about Annabelle’s hot pants. She had a whole collection, which she wore with high heels when she spotted a sucker at the agency. I’d also noticed to what extent hot pants make the person that wears them amusing, and just how much the listeners suddenly credit then with inimaginable wit.***

The Cardarecs are a middle class hipster Parisian couple, with middle class aspirations, to move from Paris, but not too far, to be able to benefit from more space, to get out doors a little but not to leave their Parisian lifestile behind. in this book read for the Roman de Rochefort.

He, Charles, a long term hypochondriac that she, the narrator, an architect, with their social consciences buy into a new eco-district in the suburbs, energy-neutral, low waste footprint etc. only to find that it doesn’t quite live up to the hype. Any small set back sends Charles scuttering for his bed. The walls of the houses are paper thin, and the self-sufficient energy system has been under-sized. The Cardarecs could have made a go of it in spite of all this had it not been for their neighbours, the Lecoq family.

In this short sharp concise writing style Julia Deck tells the story of the neighbours from hell, Annabelle from the opening quote, young thirty something and her husband Arnaud, partying loudly into the early hours and eventually annoying the whole neighbourhood. After Charles complains about them in an informal neighbour’s meeting the Lecoq family cat is found dead and cut in half down in the trench in the street meant to bring gas to their houses. Then Annabelle dissapears.

When her body shows up on waste ground Charles is suspected and arrested, Arnaud the husband had been out all night with Patrick Lemoine, a neighbour who avoids going into too much detail about their evening out and as the narrator tells us:

Ok, Lemoine had never been able to get it up, it was a miracle that he had managed to knock her up, and that twice. And what’s more he had doubly lied. It most definitely wasn’t a coincidence that he’d come across Arnaud Lecoq at the Voltigeur the evening Annabelle had dissapeared. They had arranged to meet there and to go on to a private club where they had accidently met some time before and found that they had something secret in common.***

First Published in French as “Propriété privé” by Les Éditions de Minuit in 2019
*** my translation

The quote as read in French before translation

Je connaissais les microshorts d’Annabelle. Elle en possédait toute une collection, qu’elle assortissait avec des talons compensés quand elle avait flairé le gogo à l’agence. J’avais également noté à quel point les microshorts confèrent de l’esprit à celle qui les portent, et combien leurs auditeurs les créditent soudain d’une verve insoupçonnée.

Oui, Lemoine avait toujours bandé mou, c’était un miracle qu’il l’ai engrossée par deux fois. Et puis il avait doublement menti. Ce n’était absolument pas une coïncidence s’il était tombé sur Arnaud Lecoq au Voltigeur le soir de la disparition d’Annabelle. Les deux hommes s’étaient donnés rendez-vous. Ils étaient convenus de se rendre ensemble dans un club privé où ils s’étaient croisés par hasard quelques temps plus tôt, se découvrant par la même occasion un point commun inavoué.

Julia Deck ‘Sigma’

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. 89B22E5D-3CCF-4198-BC85-B462A1FBB3B0But 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

Tanguy Viel ‘Article 353 of the code of criminal procedures’

—Article 353 of the code of criminal procedure: the law does not hold magistrates accountable for the means by which they come to a conclusion, nor does it describe the rules on which the full satisfaction of proof should depend;IMG_1076 the law requires them to question themselves in quiet withdrawal and to search their consciences sincerely for influence the evidence brought forward against the accused and the means of the defence has had on them. The law asks of them but one question, which encompasses the full weight of their responsibility: Do you have a firm belief?***

Tanguy Viel tells us here a universal story of gullibility where a crooked property developer, Antoine Lazenec appears in the working class far western French port of Brest. Here in an essentially poorer city in France, the lack of loose money has not prepared them for Lazenec. The events are preceded by the naval arsenal, the city’s largest employer, closing down and the employees getting lumped sum severance payments, loose cash in an otherwise frugal community.

The story is told by Kermeur, in an almost monologue to the magistrate, and who after being layed off by the Arsenal, was the gatekeeper of the “Chateau”, a beautiful municipally owned property on a cliff top overlooking the bay and at the same time the property that was to be developed by Lazenec and leads to the final act of the magistrate questioning the events in the light of Artticle 353 of the code of criminal procedure shown in the opening quote.

The story opens with Kermeur in a small boat, a Merry Fisher, the very type of boat Kermeur had dreamed of bying for himself, well off of the coast, throwing Lazenec overboard to certain death and calmly sailing back to port. Kermeur later describes to the magistrate the effrontery  of Lazenec:

—From here I’d say it alost looks like a real chateau. Yes, that’s right, he replied. It’s almost a shame to demolish it. Demolish? I said. And whilst I was still taking in his answer, at that same time he had begun to walk back towards the quays , whilst I was trying to tell him that I hadn’t understood that from the model, it had seemed to me quite the opposite, the chateau…Yes, but what can you do, he said, the project is evolving, and you’ll see, Kermeur, it’ll look a lot better like that.***

Lazenec is a type of character that since the banking crisis of 2007-2008, we have become accustomed to. Lazenec has no shame, not only does he never begin the actual building work but he continues as time goes on to sign up more people from the peninsula as investors, I mean he must be for real? As the swindle becomes too obvious to ignore, the town mayor, Le Goff, realising he has severely indebted the commun in the investments is the first to act:

—I think you could still here it the following friday, the bullet, under the black umbrellas surrounding the grave, ricocheting off of the walls of the bell tower for at least three days bouncing off of the swing of the death knell before now whistling down the alleys of the cemetery***

The judge asks Kermeur why he and the other people who were cheated didn’t group together to take him to court, but of course nobody wanted to admit that they had been so easily cheated. The strength of Viel’s writing is to describe the events surrounding the disintegration of the lives touched by Lazenec leading to the question asked of Kermeur by his son:

Do you intend winding up like Le Goff?

And of course the magistrate’s final reflection in the light of the article from the code of criminal procedure.

First Published in French as “Article 353 du code Pénal” in 2016 by Les Editions de Minuit.
*** My translation

Vincent Almendros ‘Un Été’

This highly recommended book is from my French Lit Targets for 2016,image

This short book is published by Les Editions de Minuit, and as Emma from The Book Around the Corner recently pointed out to me they specialise in experimental and modernist fiction.

This is an intimist story which takes place on a very small sail boat in the Mediterranean, limited to four characters that are introduced in the first few pages, the narrator, the narrators brother and owner of the boat, Jean as well as his companion Jeannette and finally the narrators friend Lone.

We are lead immediately to feel the unease between the narrator and their brother as they are to meet in Naples (if you feel I’m skating around the identity of the narrator it is because I am)

‘As my cheek nears his, darkened by a thick furry beard, I make it known to my brother that there are two Castles in Naples.
I know, he says.
You didn’t tell me.
No, I told you the castel dell’Ovo, the other is the castel Nuovo.
They’re very similar, I said.
It doesn’t matter, he said’***

Or a bit later as Jean continues to avoid conversation and assumes that everything should be obvious

I felt the sun heating my forehead and asked my brother, who was still below deck, if he had a hat he could lend me. You don’t have one? No, I said’***

Jeanne is contrasted to Jean

My brother seemed nervous, Jeanne on the other hand seemed to have everything under control***

We are also slowly lead to believe that the relationship between the narrator and Jeanne may be more complex than it would at first seem, for instance after Jeanne asks the narrator to put some sun tan oil on her back

I could feel her beauty spots under my fingers. I slowly got used to them again, like a blind man reading Braille.***

Clearly Lone is the odd one out, she doesn’t belong, first of all she is not French as are the others and she does not share whatever past they share and it is obvious she will not share whatever future they will share.

I will take you no further into this story, rush out and buy it (in French) or find someone to translate it, it deserves it!

First published in French as Un Été by Les Éditions de Minuit in 2015
***My translation