cover image Mise-En-Scene


Claude Ollier. Dalkey Archive Press, $20 (240pp) ISBN 978-0-916583-26-2

A French engineer's journey into uncharted Moroccan mountains forms the action of this important exemplar of the nouveau roman, awarded the Prix Medicis in 1958. As the title indicates, Lassalle's missionfinding a road site to reach a mineis played out in the sinister ""theater'' of colonial mistrust and violence. Fatigued by migraines, sore throats and bruises, Lassalle is first escorted by the French military who rule in North Africa, and later by two Algerian guides, the blue-eyed Serjeant Ba Iken and the mute boy Ichou. In the sullen heat, the sense of menace thickens: a young woman, Jamila, has been stabbed to death by her husband. Her image keeps recurring to Lassalle, as he confuses her with a living girl, Yamina. The authorities seem as cynically indifferent to the crime as they do to the disappearance only days before of another engineer, Lassalle's predecessor, Lessing. Was he murdered? Was his death linked to Jamila's? As Lassalle confronts the natives and negotiates the terrain, struggling to match endless trails and gullies to the crisscrossings on his maps, his feelings of alienation and anxiety intensify to produce a powerfully hallucinatory novel. (May)