Martin Suter ‘A Perfect Friend’


“The scents of Jasmin, rose, lily of the valley, ylang-ylang, amber and vanilla penetrated the darkness. The left half of his lips felt something soft. A mouth? Fabio jerked his eyes open.img_0029Before him, so close that he couldn’t focus on it was a woman’s face.
“Norina?”
The face pulled back. Now he could make it out.
High cheekbones, big blue eyes, a small mouth with full lips, short blond hair. Mid twenties.
“Hello Fabio”, she said smiling. Bravely, it seemed to Fabio.
“Hello”, said Fabio. He had never seen the woman before.***


In this book, read for German Literature month, Fabio wakes from a coma with post traumatic memory loss, as the doctor tells him, six days after incurring a severe head injury for which he has no memory. Things begin to get complicated when a woman he doesn’t know comes to visit him, as illustrated in the opening quote. He quickly comes to the realisation that he can no longer remember fifty days of his life, and in these fifty days he slowly comes to understand that his life has been turned upside down, he has left his job and his girl friend, Norina, and taken up with a new set of friends, as he confesses to his memory specialist:


“Have you already once had a case like me?”…
“All cases are different.”….
“but not so completely. Before, I’d written about people like Fredi Keller. And then I’m going all over these bling-bling clubs in the city with him. I live with a lady who is fully engaged in the struggle against exploitation of women in the sex business. And then I become a regular in a strip club. I make fun out of the lying press releases that arrive at my desk everyday. And then I get involved with one of these women that writes them. I’ve become the exact opposite of myself.***


Fabio is visited by his closest friend Lucas, whom he remembers and who works at the same newspaper as Fabio, Lucas, by ommission, neither tells Fabio that he had left his job at the newspaper before his accident nor that he had left his girlfriend Norina, he also omits to tell him that he himself is now living with Norina. Fabio leaves the hospital with his new girl friend Marlen, is a stranger to him, and who also doesn’t tell him he has lost his job. So after his first visit to his memory specialist who tells him he should slowly begin to live his life in a settled manner in order to regain his missing memory, he goes in to work where he find someone else installed at his workplace. He then learns of the last subjects he had been working on, that he had published an article about the suicide of a researcher who had thrown himself in front of a train. Fabio also learns from his bosses secretary that he had been working on a secret story and that in the time span lost from his memory he had changed entirely from the Fabio he had been to this new Fabio. On a personal basis, Fabio cannot understand why Norina will not answer his calls, until he sees Lucas entering her appartment.

The scene is now set as Fabio tries to retrace the secret story he had been working on, discovering that someone had deleted his electronic data and his backups, and that that person could only be Lucas.

The intrigue he is chasing is linked to the date the book was published, Prions and Suter’s home country, choclate from Switzerland and of course corruption. Could somebody change so entirely in such a short time? What was Lucas’ role in this story? Is Fabio the person he remembers himself to be or the person preople think he has become? Who is the person he will be from now on? For this and many other questions watch the film in French or read the book in German or French, No English translation available.

First Published in German as “Der Perfekter Freund” by Diogenes Verlag in 2002
Translated into French by Olivier Mannoni and published as “L’Ami Parfait” in 2003 by Seuil.
Film in French directed by Antoine de Caunes and released in 2006
*** my translation

The quotes as read in German before translation

In die Dunkleheit Drang der Duft von Jasmin, Rose, Maiglöckchen, Ylang-Ylang, Amber und Vanille. Die linke Hälfte seiner Lippen spürte etwas Weiches. Einen Mund? Fabio schlug die Augen auf. Vor ihm, so dicht, daß er es nicht fokussieren konnte, war das Gesicht einer Frau.
“Norina?”
Das Gesicht wich zurück. Jetzt konnte er es erkennen.
Hohe Backenknochen, große blaue Augen, kleiner Mund mit vollen Lippen, blondes kurzes Haar. Mitte Zwanzig.
“Hallo Fabio”, sagt sie und lächelt. Tapfer, wie es Fabio schien.
“Hallo”, sagt Fabio. Er hatte die Frau noch nie gesehen.

Hatten Sie schon einmal einen Fall wie mich?…
“Alle Fälle sind verschieden.”…..
“Aber nicht so radikal. Gegen Leute wie Fredi Keller Habe Ich früher geschrieben. Und dann ziehe ich mit ihm durch die Schickimicki-Lokale der Stadt. Ich lebe mit einer Frau zusammen, die sich gegen die Ausbeutung de Frauen durch das Sexgewerbe engagiert. Und dann werde ich zum Stammgast in einem Striplokal. Ich mache mich Lustig über dir verlogenen Presseinformationen, die auf meinem Schreibtisch landen. Und dann lasse ich mich mit einer dieser Tanten ein, die sie schreiben. Ich habe mich ins pure Gegenteil meiner selbst verwandelt.”

Sarah Chiche ‘The Obscure’


I know you, he said in perfect french with a hint of an accent which let me know he was a German speaker. You’re the woman who, yesterday afternoon in the Volksgarten, threw herself on the man who had just slapped a child.***


Sarah is married to Paul, an intellectual and writer whose theme of study is the approaching apocalypse, wars, global warming, growing population and strain on resources, and she is a clinical psychologist and psychoanalyst and they live in Paris. As the book, read for the Roman de Rochefort begins, she has come to Vienna to write about the conditions with which migrants are treated in the refugee camps and it is quickly clear that she is emotionally emerged in and drained by her visit. As she visits a gallery, a tall distinguished looking man talks to her about having seen her the previous day as illustrated in the opening quote.

Although happily married to Paul, she quickly begins an all consuming relationship with Richard K, a renowned musician and German speaker, a language banned from her home life as she was a child, and quickly the relationship brings out the dark side, boiling beneath the surface, of Sarah. Who are we, how are we affected by our younger life and the lives of our parents and grandparents. How much empathy can a woman have for a mother that systematically beat her, as her mother says to her:


I want to thank you…
Thank me? But why?
Because you lived through things that a child of your age should not normally have to live through. You heard things a child shouldn’t have to hear. You saw things that scared you. You were, of all of us, the most courageous because your heart is pure.***


Sarah’s father died as she was young, Sarah’s grand father had been interned in Buchenwald where he had survived and seen and lived things that altered his perspective on life, which then later included incest amongst other things. We learn that Sarah’s great grandmother and her grand mother were interned in Saint Anne’s a notorious mental health clinic, as was her mother, the very hospital in which Sarah now works. As Sarah keeps her continued relationship with Richard K a secret from her family and as she battles with her past and her worries that she too could follow in their footsteps she also tells us of the fight within the hospital with the Freudians, essentially over compassion:


For years I’d explained, in articles and in reading notes, why the scientific, intellectual, clinical and therapeutic prestige of psychoanalysis had irredeemably waned…. we were taught, in a fascinating mixture of complacency and ignorance but also highly cultured, that autism was a psychosis resulting from a bad relationship with the mother and therefore, if a certain child was autistic it was in all probability because his mother was very cold towards him…., in spite of all of the learned studies, which already at that time, had very clearly identified the mutations on the genes responsible for the communication between nerve cells and shown that difficulties in the autistic spectrum had a genetic component and that hormones such as melatonin and ocytocin played a non negligeable role.***


This is the second book in my reviews that refers to the Winterreise, the first being Eins I’m Andern By Monica Schwitter, the verse referenced here is a beautiful verse, about carrying on with life and not lamenting come what may:


Fliegt der Schnee mir ins Gesicht,
schüttl’ ich ihn herunter.
Wenn mein Herz im Busen spricht,
sing’ ich hell und munter.
Höre nicht, was es mir sagt,
habe keine Ohren;
fühle nicht, was es mir klagt,
Klagen ist für Toren.
Lustig in die Welt hinein
gegen Wind und Wetter!
Will kein Gott auf Erden sein,
sind wir selber Götter!


This was not an easy book to follow, as I read it over three weeks I lost the thread repeatedly, between her mother Ève, her grandmother (Ève?)Lynne, and Her great grandmother Cecile, and the story being told by several of the women.

First Published in French as “Les Enténébrés” in 2019 by Les Éditions Du Seuil.
*** my translation

The poem translated into both French and English taken from the internet follows

Que m’aveugle la neige,
Je la secoue d’un geste,
Que s’épanche mon cœur
Et je chante à tue-tête.
Jamais je ne l’écoute,
Je fais la sourde oreille,
Et j’ignore ses plaintes,
Seuls se plaignent les sots.
Courons gaiement le monde
Contre vents et marées,
S’il n’est de dieux sur terre,
Nous serons dieu nous-mêmes.

The snow flies in my face,
I shake it off.
When my heart cries out in my breast,
I sing brightly and cheerfully.
I do not hear what it says,
I have no ears,
I do not feel what it laments,
Lamenting is for fools.
Merrily stride into the world
Against all wind and weather!
If there is no God on earth,
We are gods ourselves!

The quotes as read in French before translation

Je vous reconnais, dit-il dans un français parfait avec une pointe d’accent qui me fait comprendre qu’il est germanophone. Vous êtes la femme qui, hier après-midi, dans le Volksgarten, s’est jetée sur un homme qui venait de gifler un enfant.

Je voudrais te remercier, lui dis-je.
Me remercier? Mais pourquoi?
Parce que tu as traversé des choses qu’un enfant de ton âge ne doit normalement pas traverser. Tu as entendu des choses qu’un enfant ne devrait pas entendre.Tu as vu des choses qui t’ont fait peur. Tu as été de nous tous là plus courageuse,parce que ton cœur est pur.

pendant des années j’avais expliqué, dans des articles, dans des notes de lecture, pourquoi le prestige scientifique, intellectuel, clinique et thérapeutique de la psychanalyse s’était irrémédiablement étiolé….on nous enseignait, dans un fascinant mélange de suffisance et d’ignorance mais aussi de haute culture, que l’autisme était bien une psychose résultant d’une mauvaise relation avec la mère et donc, si tel enfant était autiste, c’était parce que très probablement sa mère était trop froide…..,au mépris de toutes les études savantes, qui a l’époque déjà, avaient très clairement identifié des mutations sur des gènes impliqués dans les communications entre cellules nerveuses et montré que les troubles du spectre autistique avaient une composante génétique et que les hormones comme la mélatonine et l’ocytocine y jouaient un rôle non négligeable.

Edouard Louis ‘Who Killed My Father’


When we ask the American intellectual Ruth Gilmore what the word racism means to her, she replies that racism is the exposition of certain populations to a premature death.img_1381
This definition also works for male domination, the hatred of homosexuality, or of transgenders, class domination and all phenomena of social and political oppression.***


In this short book of less than 100 pages, read for the “Roman de Rochefort” prize, Edouard Louis revisits one of the many themes of his book examining his own childhood in Picardy “The End of Eddy“. In this initial work Eddy’s father was a product of his upbringing and life, basically promulgating the creed of machoism, alcohol to the detriment of self improvement and woe betide anyone including his family who did not conform. Here Edouard Louis revisits his father, remembering as best as he can his every interaction with this father and explaining politically who his father was, how he became who he was, and his evolution since that date. The book opens telling us clearly in which direction it will take us, illustrated in the opening quote.

After reassessing his relationship with his father, openly trying to put the good moments in perspective with the bad, including his fathers playful moments such as driving his car at dangerous speeds to annoy his wife whilst winking at Eddy in the mirror as opposed to the story of his hiding the christmas presents in the car and having a hit and run driver crush the car setting him into a wild rage, Edouard Louis visits his father who he has not seen for some time and we discover a premature old and unwell man:


The problems began in the factory where you worked…..one afternoon we received a call from the factory telling us that a weight had fallen on you. Your back had been crushed, squashed, they told us you would be unable to walk for several years.***


Edouard Louis’ father is then exposed to a premature death due to class domination, where he perpetuated his own fathers class and due to social and political oppression, and here Edourd Louis examines the real effect on his father and his father’s condition of this oppression, using his father to represent his class, the style of this “pamphlet”, naming the politicians and the effects of their decisions, is illustrated here:


In 2009 Nicolas Sarkozy’s government and his accomplice Martin Hirsch replaced the RMI, a minimum payed by the state to people without work, by the RSA. You had received the RMI ever since you had been unable to work: the change from the RMI to the RSA was “to incite the return to employment” as the government put it. The truth of the matter is that from then on you were constantly harased by the state to get back to work, in spite of your disastrous state of health, in spite of what the factory had done to you.***


His father who had been totally opposed to any political activity, in part due to fear of the police and the judicial system, as Eddy was growing up, finishes by asking him if he is still politically active, and we understand that time and his father have moved on as he assents that it is good that he is still active. In the relative absence of wide political discussion, sure there are politicians and journalists, Edouard Louis’ is a voice with a wide readership adding his deeply rooted thoughts to the debate.

First Published in French as “Qui a tué mon père” in 2018 by Editions du Seuil.
To be published in English in 2019 by New Directions Publishing Corporation.
*** My translation

.

Denis Guedj ‘The Parrot’s Theorem’


The combination of Roman disinterest for things of the mind and the Christian hostility to knowledge not dependant on God or his saints had tragic consequences for the survival of the sciences. The first to suffer the effects was Hypathie, the first great female mathematician in history…7D6756F0-5E15-43C9-A0F7-3F02B50ADF03
One day in 415 AD, the population, prepared over a long period of time by the Patriarch of Alexandria, rushed her charriot, pulled her to the ground, stripped her and dragged her to a sanctuary. She was tortured using razor sharp oyster shells before being burnt alive….
Lea looked towards him, she was pale Mr. Ruche blamed himself for giving too much unnecessary detail.
“A single female mathematician in the whole of antiquity and she’s tortured and burnt to death!”
And in total seriousness, she muttered:
“And we wonder why there aren’t more women studying maths.”***


Denis Guedj was a French novelist and a professor of the History of Science at Paris VIII University and wrote a number of books to try to bring maths to adults. In his Parrot’s Theorem, Guedj sets a murder mystery in a framework to present the history of mathematics from its early beginnings with the Greek mathematicians up to the 1990’s and the demonstration of Fermat’s  Last Theorem.

Pierre Ruche is a retired librarian, in his eighties and confined to a wheelchair living in his converted garage in Paris and he has given over his house to Perrette
And her three children that PIerre hasn’t really got to know since they’ve been living next to him. The story begins with two seemingly unconnected events, Firstly Pierre receives an unexpected letter from the Amazon adressed to him using the name πr, from an ald frind Grosrouvre that Pierre hadn’t seen since the war and learn that the two Had been well known students at the Sorbonne together:


Mr Ruche was reading philosophy; Grosrouvre, maths. While there, both began to write. Ruche published a much-admired essay on being; Grosrouvre wrote a highly acclaimed thesis on the number zero. They were inseparable –other students jokingly called them ‘Being and Nothingness’. When Sartre published his essay some years later, Mr Ruche suspected he had stolen the name, but he couldn’t prove it.


The second event takes place when Max, Perrette’s youngest son, who is deaf, saves a rare Parrot from two gangsters and brings it back to the house.

Grosrouvre sends Pierre Ruche his rare mathematical library before he is found dead in his burned library in Manaus, in trying to solve the mystery of why Grosrouvre should be killed, by whom and why he should send his rare library from Manaus to Paris we embark on a voyage of discovery of the history of mathematics, the initial quote about Rome being typical of the treatment, and pierre Ruche discovers the close links between mathematics and philosophy as well as getting to know the family he lives next to. The centuries of the advancement of mathematics in Bagdad were unknown to me, in the importance or in the scale as the following quote concerning the Beit al Hikma (the House of Knowledge) shows:


—The importance of the house of knowledge came from its translators. There were dozens who came from all over, working on manuscripts coming equally from everywhere. The exceptional diversity of the languages from which the translation took place made up a learned Babel: Greek, Sogdian, Sanskrit, Latin, Hebrew, Aramaic, Syriac, Copt…..
In the huge calligraphy workshops, armies of scribes worked nonstop. The works, written in Arabic now, began to fill the the bookshelves of the House of Knowledge. The number of copies increased! Everything was ready so that through these works, newly available, the knowledge collected from elsewhere should spread throughout the immense Arabic empire.***


If you are interested in the history of mathematics, this is a light introduction, and what is the probability of the parrot and Grosrouvre being connected? well mathematically speaking highly improbable but not impossible.

First published in French as ‘Le Théorème du Perroquet’ by Seuil in 1998
Translated into English by Franck Wynne as “The Parrot’s Theorem” and published by St Martin’s Press in 2000
*** My translation

Eric Faye ‘Eclipses Japonaises’


—During the first lessons, they wanted to hear her talk about her earliest childhood…they insisted on her teaching them nursery rhymes….in total 5D3DD7A7-8259-45DB-A603-3D2209016298seriousness they repeated the songs after her until they knew them by heart, they drank in her childhood. Had she stumbled into a lunatic asylum?…one day looking at their uniforms, Naoko thought that maybe she was teaching killers nursery rhymes***


Éric Faye brings us here in Japanese Disapearances*** A novel based on the true story of state kidnapping by North Korea of a number of Japanese citizens that went unknown for 25 years or more as in the 1970’s and early 80’s almost incredibly, small groups of North Koreans surprised isolated young Japanese near the coast, popped sacks over their heads and rushed them onto boats. Since nobody imagined this state of affairs, they were often assumed drowned or having run away from home and the isolated incidents were not connected.

Faye tells us the stories of some of these people with romanced names, here for instance Naoko Tanabe who was kidnapped when she was 13 years old in 1977 near her home in Niigata or of Setsuko Okada kidnapped at 20 in 1978 from the island of Sado. No clear reason for these kidnappings seem obvious, other than that they could. Through these two illustrations we quickly understand the situation of total hopelessness in which they find themselves, isolated from the population, living through the continual North Korean doctrination, mostly unaware of other cases of kidnapping, forced to change their names and to police everything they say with no hope of leaving, hence the quote from Dante’s Inferno at the beginning of the book:


—Abandon all hope you who enter here


We learn that Naoke, still at a young age is asked to teach North Korean military to act and to seem Japanese as in the opening quote, yes, it’s not a country where they could just go to Japan to learn this. One of Naoke’s  « students » who is captured alive after bombing à Korean Air flight killing all of the passengers and crew tells the investigators of Naoke, but this information is kept secret thus neither her family or other families suspect anything for two more decades.

The North Koreans did not just kidnap Japanese and some had fates similar to  Setsuko Okada, who was cook and then married to an American deserter, Jim Selkirk in the book, who disappeared from the DMZ between the two Koreas in 1966.

We learn of the unlikely way a journalist puts together the story and the civil pressures of the families of these victims on the Japanese government to negotiate with (and of course to pay) North Korea to recuperate some of these victims. And of course after so many decades some had died and some did not come back.

The interest lies in the truth behind the book.

First published in French as ‘Éclipses Japonaises’ by Éditions Du Seuil in 2016
***My translation

Paolo Giordano ‘The Human Body’

—In the years following the mission, each of the guys set out to make his life unrecognizable, until the memories of that other life, that earlier existence,img_1064 were bathed in a false, artificial light and they themselves became convinced that none of what took place had actually happened, or at least not to them.

Paolo Giordano’s The Human Body was written using his experience as an embedded journalist in an Italian peace mission in Afghanistan. The title loses its double meaning in the translation being both a body and a military unit in the original Italian, this story investigates a military unit by following a number of individuals through the senselessness and boredom of their mission, their ill preparedness for the intense stress caused by a mission outside of their base that goes terribly wrong and how this incident transforms them, illustrated by the opening quote.

In particular we meet the squad leader René, a career soldier respected by his men and who when he is not on mission is a Gigolo with a string of middle aged paying customers, the loud mouthed Cederna and his young acolyte, the “virgin” Ietri, as well as Mitrano who is bullied by Cederna, Zampieri the only woman in the unit who has continually to prove herself and Torsu, who from the mission outset has health problems. When they arrive in Afghanistan they are joined by Egitto the garrison Doctor has decided to stay on for another mission, Paolo Giordano talks us through everyday bored military life as here in a discussion between Cederna and Ietri

—The embarrassing truth is that Ietri has never been with a woman, not in the sense that he considers complete. No one in the platoon knows this and it would be a disaster if they were to find out. The only one who knows is Cederna; he told him about it himself one evening at the pub when they were both smashed and in the mood for confiding. “Complete? You mean to say you’ve never fucked?” “Well, not . . . fully.” “A goddamn little virgin! Hey, I have a new name for you: verginella…. Listen up now—it’s important. The tool down there is like a rifle. A 5.56, with a metal stock and laser sighting.” Cederna shoulders an invisible weapon and aims it at his friend. “If you don’t remember to oil the barrel from time to time, it will end up jamming.” Ietri looks down at his mug of beer. He takes too big a swig, begins to cough. Jammed. He’s a guy who’s jammed. “Even Mitrano manages to shoot his wad every now and then,” Cederna says. “He pays.”

For their peacekeeping mission they are stationed in an inhospitable landscape, their base camp is on the top of a hill, isolated from the country they are there to help in order to provide its own safety:

—The truth is, as in all of the operations since the start of the conflict, the clearing of the area has only been partial, the secure zone extends for a radius of 2km around the base, some dangerous pockets of guérillas remain within this zone and outside of the zone it’s hell…***

After several moral sapping isolated months on the hill top, peacekeeping, they are forced to leave their base in convoy to escort some Afghan  lorry drivers who have had their lorries taken from them through the inhospitable zone which surrounds their hill. Paolo Giordano conveys to us just how easy a target they actually are, up to and including the moments of the tragedy.

A study of futility, the smallness of our individual lives and the impossibility of the peacekeeping mission in this inhospitable territory.

First Published in Italian as “Il corpo umamo” in 2012 by Arnoldo Mondadori.
Translated into French by Nathalie Bauer as ‘Le corps humain’ and published by Seuil in 2013
Translated into English by Anne Milano Appel as “The Human body”and published by Viking Penguin in 2014
*** My translation

Andreï Makine ‘L’Archipel d’une autre Vie’

—At night, from here on we saw the fire lit by the fugitive.normally he lit three, several metres from each other which prevented a successful attack.img_1061 It would have been easy to catch him sleeping, but next to which fire? A night attack against an armed man was too risky. And our orders were strict: he had to be kept alive to allow him to be punished in an exemplary fashion to terrorise the other prisoners..***

Andreï Makine takes us on a journey through the Taïga with a diverse group of Soviet era conscripts in the pursuit of a fugitive  which at the slow speed of an awakening brings the central character, Pavel Gartsev, to see the times he lived in, to lead him to question himself and then finally leads him in the continued and extreme pursuit of an ideal on the archipelago of the title, the Chantar islands off of the eastern coast of the Soviet Union.

—In my youth I often thought back to the hermits  of the Chantars. At one point their exile seemed incomprehensible, even frightening. To cut oneself of from society, to shut oneself off entirely in the ice, on a small island surrounded by a  raging ocean! To refuse the spectacle of life, its emotions, its rivalry! I was then at the age where I was blinded by diversity and intoxicated by the number of different postures. Where changing roles gives the illusion of freedom. Where multiplying yourself through thousands of relationships is interpreted as having a rich life.***

The story concerns a group of soviet citizens in 1953, in the final months of Stalin’s life, taking part in a survival exercise in the Taïga in the event of an American nuclear attack. Five of them are seconded to pursue, apprehend and bring back an escaped prisoner from a soviet camp. In theory a simple task for five well equipped Soviet soldiers against a poor weakened prisoner. Makine takes us down the well worn road of totalitarianism, the nominal army chief and the real chief, his political commissar, the ambitious soldier sucking up to the commissar and the soldier who has himself spent time in the Gulag before being totally cleared. Nothing new here, it is however entirely believable.

As the chase is drawn out, with the prisoner proving himself able to live in the Taïga and the soldiers, extenuated and slowly dropping out of the chase due to injuries, the remaining pursuers discover that the prisoner, so skilfully evading them is a woman:

—The fact that the fugitive was a woman completely changed our outlook. Before, we felt a certain compassion for this barefooted fugitive. He was what could happen to any one of us in these unpredictable and terrible times in which we lived. But to be faced with a woman changed everything for us. She had humiliated, even diminished us. We were the real victims! Tossed around in this endless Taïga. Our honour had been questioned. Diminished by a girl who could shoot better than us, walked bravely, pushed back our attacks keeping her composure. On top of this when she could have killed us, she had chosen not to!***

Following this discovery, they try much harder to capture her, talking about all of the the things they dream to do to her in order to regain their lost masculinity. It is at this point that Gartsev slowly begins to question what they are doing. The Soviet machine is unforgiving and if they do not bring her back then helicopters and troops will be sent after her which explains her choice of the most remote uninhabited point of the USSR as her destination:

—The words of Pavel came back to me with their calm certainty: follow day after day, a woman that has no knowledge of you as you have no knowledge of her destination, to live only for the unending journey, not to ask anything of the other. For a short moment the exciting madness of this dream Intoxicated me***

The story is told by a narrator that had met Gartsev in the Taïga and came back many years later looking for him, this part of the story was of no interest to me. An interesting book but not one of Makine’s best

First Published in French as “L’Archipel d’une autre Vie” in 2016 by Seuil
*** My translation