cover image The Power of Flies

The Power of Flies

Lydie Salvayre, , trans. from the French by Jane Kuntz. . Dalkey Archive, $12.95 (186pp) ISBN 978-1-56478-420-9

Salvayre’s fifth novel to be translated into English is a tightly introspective series of first-person confessions by an arrogant murder convict whose life was transformed by reading Blaise Pascal. By turns angry, tricky and despairing, the narrator offers a disjointed narrative about his life leading up to the murder of his father. He begins by recalling the absurdities of his work as a guide at Pascal’s abbey at Port-Royal, and how his reading of Pascal began to unlock memories of the horrific dynamic between his parents. His parents met at the Argèles camp for Spanish Civil War refugees; his mother, at 16, a half-starved rebel from Catalonia, was seduced by his father, a Communist under General Lister, and she became pregnant. Life under her tyrannical husband robbed the narrator’s now-dead mother of her joie de vivre, and the narrator concludes that his mother’s death actually began the moment she met her husband. Gradually, the narrator’s hatred for his father takes on an all-devouring “power of flies.” The novel seethes in a classically dark, French way. (Nov.)