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