cover image Crawl Space

Crawl Space

Edie Meidav, . . Farrar, Straus & Giroux, $25 (445pp) ISBN 978-0-374-13075-6

Meidav embeds the reader in the mind of a narcissistic, self-loathing, obsessive, vengeful narrator—a French Nazi collaborator—whose oddly compelling voice is the achievement of this complex novel (after The Far Field ). As prefect of the small town of Finier during WWII, Emile Poulquet zealously helped the Nazis compile lists of Jews for deportation to concentration camps. In 1999, at the age of 84 and after decades as a fugitive, Poulquet eludes conviction in a Paris trial—the intervening years and reconstructive facial surgery make him unidentifiable by witnesses. He then returns to Finier to exact revenge on the object of his obsession, Arianne Fauret, a resistance widow whom he considers a lifelong tormentor. His mad scheme is to make Arianne—who now directs a foundation to reclaim war memory—the executor of his last will and testament, thereby forcing her to accept his version of personal and historical events. Meidav's narrative jumps from Poulquet's wartime years to the more convoluted story of his modern-day return to Finier, when he falls in with a band of misfit teenage squatters, and events come to a head around a wartime memorial event. With a tale both chilling and comical, Meidav considers the struggle to define history. (Aug.)